The Bigger Lie

In excoriating Romney’s campaign for its disgusting, mendacious ads and attack lines claiming Obama has re-created no-strings welfare, I probably haven’t been clear enough that this is part of a much bigger picture Team Mitt is trying to paint. WaPo’s Greg Sargent nails it here:

The original Romney theory of the race was similar to the one animating the AFP ad. We were told for months that Romney could win by making this race nothing more than a referendum on the economy and on Obama’s stewardship of it, which was such a disaster that all Romney had to do was paint him in as a nice guy in over his head and he’d win.

But the Romney campaign has veered sharply away from this approach. Today’s ad is only the latest example of the new tack, which is all about stoking an old-school politics of resentment by painting Obama as someone who harbors disdain towards the hard work of ordinary Americans and redistributionist designs on their hard-won wealth. This has lately been everywhere: The “didn’t build that” distortions; the ads featuring hard working Americans alongside claims Obama wants to send “welfare checks” to people who don’t work; the enlisting of Newt Gingrich to amplify the welfare assault; and, now, the new ad suggesting Obama wants to raid old folks’ health insurance and channel it into a “massive new government program that’s not for you.”

This last point is worth underlining. The sudden new attacks on bogus “Medicare cuts” (which in any event, were included in Paul Ryan’s budget as well) are generally being interpreted as aimed at blunting Democratic assaults on Ryan’s treatment of Medicare, and that’s partly the case. But if it was just a matter of a “counter-Mediscare,” Team Romney wouldn’t be putting so much emphasis of where that money went: to ObamaCare, which benefits those people. Building resentment towards a supposed broad-based redistribution of money from older and whiter people to younger and darker people is the common aim, and if it requires a lot of lying, who cares, right? It’s Obama’s secret Alinskyite plan, even if he isn’t actually carrying it out.

But it gets even worse, as Jamelle Bouie notes today: even as it’s playing blatant racial politics, the Romney campaign has the gall to accuse its opponents of racial appeals in its aggrieved reaction to Joe Biden’s “chains” reference (which was in fact a clumsy effort to invert Ryan’s talk about “unshackling” the economy).

“Well, there’s going to be folks across the country that will try and take that as some kind of code word that is going to suggest that the Republicans are trying to be racial in their programs,” said former New Hampshire governor John Sununu. Yesterday evening, while campaigning in Ohio, Romney referenced Biden’s remarks, attacking the Obama campaign for its “divisive” campaign….

Romney’s complaints about “anger” and “divisiveness”…come less than two days after he has renewed his attempt to split white voters from Obama with tired tropes about the undeserving poor. And when you look at the whole of his general-election campaign—which includes regular attacks on Obama’s fictional “apology tour,” and routine lies about his job-creation record—there’s no way in which Romney is in a position to take the high road.

Looks to me like the Romney campaign is once again taking a page from the Rove playbook and accusing his opponent of exactly his own sins. If nothing else, it enables the media to retreat with a relieved sigh into the false-equivalency meme and just report that both sides are accusing each other of racially divisive tactics. And it makes those who respond positively to Romney’s own racial appeals feel justified: those people always play the “race card,” after all.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.