Strategic Lying as Political Art
If you listen to Randi Rhodes, you know she is still livid over Romney being declared the “winner” in last week’s – we’ll call it a “debate” for the nonce.
Alas, though, the reason he won is that poll numbers have moved in his favor. Whether that bounce is robust remains to be seen. But it did gain Romney some sort of advantage, at least in the near term.
Randi’s objection is that Romney lied, repeatedly, and about almost everything. In the process, he flatly repudiated some of the major planks in his platform – the destruction of Medicare as we know it, the $5 Trillion dollar tax cut, the reduction of tax share paid by high income people, and an insurance plan not covering pre-existing conditions stand out in that regard. And these are but a few of the 27 debate lies that can easily be recognized and refuted.
Indeed, the one rare moment of lucid candor came when he eagerly, gleefully announced that he would send Big Bird to the unemployment line in order to avoid borrowing money from China. Big NPR whoop! To put this in perspective, for CY 2012, the Federal Government, via the Corp. for Public Broadcasting, is contributing $26.65 million in support of PBS, or 0.0007% of total Federal expenditures ($3.77 Trillion) for 2012. In fact, the entire Federal contribution to CPB is $445.2 million, or 0.0118% of total expenditures. That’s sure going to help balance $5 Trillion in tax cuts over ten years. (CPB data from Wikipedia, current expenditure data from the St. Louis Fed.) Romney isn’t lying about our creditor position with China, but he was certainly misleading. According to Fox News (!) “China, it turns out, holds less than 8 percent of the money our government has borrowed over the years.”
OK, I get where Randi is coming from – to have a totally unprincipled opportunist in charge of running the world’s greatest super power is not a recipe for any kind of enduring success, either for the U.S.A. specifically, or for the world at large. There are many historical examples one could cite, but we really needn’t go back any further than the “compassionate conservatism” of unprosecuted war criminal and would-be social security privatizer George W. Bush to make the point.
But what Randi refuses to acknowledge is that what we witnessed last week was not a debate, by any recognizable definition of the term. Lying will get you disqualified in a real debate – right? This was political theater – and what is theater but staged fiction?
And there is nothing unusual here. I’ve been saying for years that all Republicans do is lie, and then lie about their lies. (I might have gotten that phrase from Randi – the memory is foggy.) Here is a four-year-old exposé of some of Romney’s shape shifting. (H/T to Dave Brockington at LGM.)
A more insidious kind of lie is simply denying reality, as characterized by birtherism, New Deal and global warming denialism, and Friday’s epidemic of conspiracy theories surrounding the latest favorable jobs report. But I digress.
Here is my point. Brad Delong points us to a 1984 Fay Joyce article in the N. Y. Times uncovered by Michael Moore. It turns out that lying during a debate is a time honored Republican strategy. Even 28 years ago, when there was some chance of the main stream media doing actual journalism, they were confident in their lying strategy.
The Republicans are unabashed in their discussion of their ability to use the television medium. “You can say anything you want during a debate and 80 million people hear it,” observed Peter Teeley, press secretary to Vice President Bush. If reporters then document that a candidate spoke untruthfully, ”so what?”
”Maybe 200 people read it or 2,000 or 20,000,” he said.
Now, they have honed it into an art form. And it’s worth remembering the one reason that always accounts for every person’s lie: their agenda is not compatible with the truth.
You are using “lie” erroneously. Most of what that lady says are “lies” are “debateable”, which is what this was: a debate. Only one guy showed up though.
You are defending an empty suit.
It’s easy to debate successfully if your audience is befuddled, and if you have sufficient gall.
I’m reminded of “The Man Who Was Thursday.”
“…Then he tried to blast my claims intellectually. I countered that by a very simple dodge. Whenever he said something that nobody but he could understand, I replied with something which I could not even understand myself. ‘I don’t fancy,’ he said, ‘that you could have worked out the principle that evolution is only negation, since there inheres in it the introduction of lacuna, which are an essential of differentiation.’ I replied quite scornfully, ‘You read all that up in Pinckwerts; the notion that involution functioned eugenically was exposed long ago by Glumpe.’ It is unnecessary for me to say that there never were such people as Pinckwerts and Glumpe. But the people all round (rather to my surprise) seemed to remember them quite well, and the Professor, finding that the learned and mysterious method left him rather at the mercy of an enemy slightly deficient in scruples, fell back upon a more popular form of wit. ‘I see,’ he sneered, ‘you prevail like the false pig in Aesop.’ ‘And you fail,’ I answered, smiling, ‘like the hedgehog in Montaigne.’ Need I say that there is no hedgehog in Montaigne? ‘Your claptrap comes off,’ he said; ‘so would your beard.’ I had no intelligent answer to this, which was quite true and rather witty. But I laughed heartily, answered, ‘Like the Pantheist’s boots,’ at random, and turned on my heel with all the honours of victory. The real Professor was thrown out, but not with violence, though one man tried very patiently to pull off his nose. He is now, I believe, received everywhere in Europe as a delightful impostor. His apparent earnestness and anger, you see, make him all the more entertaining.” “
thanks for that.
now i have to go back and see what Chesterton really said.
Thanks, Dale. It’s a direct quote, pulled out of the Gutenberg stores.
That is actually quite pathetic.
I listed four specific lies. These are not debatable. They are examples of Romney stating the opposite of his recorded policy position.
Also, if you actually read my post with some level of comprehension, you would realize that I am not defending anything. What I have here is close to 700 words of targeted attack.
What you have done, in typical regressive fashion, is once again negate reality. That is the insidious lie.
You are deep in an impenetrable bubble where ideology rules and facts and data mean nothing.
Hey Sammy: Try lying about this one. You’d be in good company – S&P swung for the fences on the same BS about a year ago.
Courtesy Dave Dayen @ FDL.
“Lie” means to knowingly say something that is objectively untrue. The “four lies” you listed are not lies:
1) “the destruction of Medicare as we know it.” This is a subjective, not an objective, statement
2) “the reduction of taxes paid by rich people”
3) The $5T tax cut
Also involve projections into the future which may or may not be untrue.
4) “insurance plan not covering pre-existing conditions” This may have been an honest, not knowing, mistake.
If you want to see real examples of “lying” check out the Benghazi investigation.
“Lie” means to knowingly say something that is objectively untrue.
Hey, you’re off to a good start.
1) Denied replacement of Medicare with a voucher system. Lie
2) 20% across the board tax cut. This does include the rich, you know. Lie.
3) Objective calculations made on #2. You can quibble about the details, but $5 trillion is a reasonable estimate based on current knowledge. He said “not of that magnitude.” I heard it with my own ears. Lie.
Plus, there is no way to balance the budget by closing loopholes. This is what Bill Clinton calls “arithmetic.”
4) So he doesn’t know what his own platform is?!? That might actually explain a lot. But why give a known liar the benefit of the doubt when it involves making stuff up on the fly? Looks like a lie to me.
5) Don’t change the subject – another classic regressive ploy.
Look at the video and you’ll see Romney espousing positions he had repudiated by 2008. The man has no definable position on any issue, and will say whatever he thinks his audience wants to hear. In the process he tells lie after lie.
Sorry, you have exactly zero legs to stand on.
Who knows maybe politics really have entered some kind of post-subjective-reality phase where disinformation is accepted as a given.
Now that everybody’s in on it we can just pick the one whose lies are prettiest! Finally the english majors get their due!
thanks. i was trying to be funny.
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