A Crossroads GPS pattern emerges

It’s ironic that Karl Rove has been whining for months about President Obama’s re-election strategy. To hear Rove tell it, Obama won’t highlight his accomplishments, but rather, will run a relentlessly negative campaign, built on smears and distortions.

I believe there’s a field of study that refers to this as “projection.”

Rove’s attack operation, Crossroads GPS, has invested quite a bit of money of late in several new ads. The first spot blatantly lied to make it seem as if former President Bill Clinton disagrees with President Obama on tax policy. The second featured obviously bogus claims to smear Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts.

And the third, as Greg Sargent reports today, targets former Gov. Tim Kaine (D), running in a very competitive U.S. Senate race in Virginia.

The thrust of the ad — which is backed by a $600,000 buy — is that Kaine can’t be trusted to manage fiscal affairs. To buttress that case, the spot makes a series of claims about his tenure as Governor of Virginia and about his support for Obama’s stimulus.

For instance, the ad suggests that the stimulus spent $39 million on “office upgrades for politicians.” That sounds terribly wasteful! But this claim has already been thoroughly debunked — the last time Crossroads made it, in an ad in 2010. PolitiFact looked at the assertion and noted it was based on a project to renovate the Kansas State Capital, but concluded the money is not direct funding; instead it comes from a stimulus bond program to help local governments save money on capital projects. Politifact pronounced the claim “mostly false” — nearly a year ago. Crossroads is now airing it again anyway.

The new ad also claims that under Governor Kaine, Virginia ran “a big deficit.” But the Associated Press politely pointed out that the ad made this assertion “erroneously,” noting that the state constitution forbids finishing a “fiscal year with insufficient funds.”

Taken together, Crossroads has clearly put together a deliberately deceptive ad. Rove’s outfit hopes to fool voters with garbage, assuming they won’t know the difference.

It comes a year after Crossroads raised millions in secret donations to blanket the airwaves with other dishonest attack ads.

Now, I can appreciate why this seems like the ultimate in dog-bites-man stories. “Karl Rove’s loathsome operation? Lying in attack ads? You don’t say.”

But as Greg put it, “At risk of sounding terribly earnest, I’m going to continue to insist that it kind of matters that Crossroads GPS … is again blanketing airwaves across the country with millions of dollars in ads containing demonstrable falsehoods and distortions.”

And I’m going to join him in insisting the same thing. Crossroads GPS is lying. They’re getting caught, which only seems to encourage them to lie some more. Rove and his cohorts are going to raise an enormous amount of money from secret sources, and will use that money to try to buy an election cycle for Republicans, based on nothing but deception.

Mark Kleiman wrote a line several years ago that always stuck with me: “In politics, lying is cheating.”

That’s true, and it speaks to the character of those behind the Crossroads operation. The next question is what the political world will do about it. Will stations stop airing ads proven to be wrong? Will the political world start to consider “Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS” and “professional liars” to be synonyms?