The Power of a Pure Lie

Just so you know that I’m not the only political observer who’s outraged by the Romney’s campaign’s continued fanning of racial flames via a flat-out lie about Obama’s record on welfare, TNR’s Alec MacGillis watched Romney deliver the lie himself to an all-white audience of Ohio coal miners, and reported his dismay that it drew big applause:

After the speech, several in the audience told me that their favorite part had been Romney’s calling out Obama for weakening welfare work requirements. Yes, one of the more depressing parts of the job of being a political reporter is watching an audience fully absorb a blatant and knowing lie. Which is, of course, what this is.

MacGillis, however, isn’t surprised the Romney, Ryan and their admakers are giving the lie the widest possible distribution, because they’re getting away with it. It is arguably the centerpiece of their entire campaign at the moment, yet the MSM is largely ignoring it, and/or cynically shrugging at its mendacity:

Romney just keeps using it, at stop after stop, in ad after ad. How can this be possible? Well, maybe because very few of my colleagues in the press seem all that troubled by it. Unless I’ve missed it, none of the national papers or networks or Buzzfeeders have done a comprehensive report on Romney’s persistence in playing the welfare card. It’s as if it was enough to have the factcheckers offer their initial scolding, but after that, hey, anything goes. I saw no mention in dispatches from yesterday of Romney’s successful use of the welfare line in Beallsville — instead, the stories were dominated by Romney’s declaration of outrage, later in the day, over Obama’s campaign of “anger and hate.”

I’d have to guess the amazingly persistent pushback from conservatives against the idea that any of them could possibly ever be guilty of an appeal to racism has, ironically, created a large zone of safety for racially motivated attack lines, even if they are based on lies. The Romney/Ryan campaign is sure as hell exploiting it, and in a just world campaign beat reporters would be covering Romney like he’s George Wallace come right back to life until he cuts this crap out.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.