The Audacity of Mendacity

It shouldn’t come as that great surprise that Paul Ryan so systematically hid his own views, values, influences and agenda in his big intro to the casual voter last night. This is the hidden-hand convention of a political party that knows its agenda isn’t popular, but will do anything to put itself in a position to rapidly and ruthlessly implement it.

Now it’s clear by now that when its mendacity is revealed, the Romney campaign has a simple tactic: deny, deny, deny, and count on media clulessness and fear of looking “partisan” to muddy the waters or consign the dirty deed to background noise.

It was interesting to me, then, to read a long, pointed article by Ron Fournier at National Journal accusing Romney ops of lying in order to appeal to racial grievances and then lying about the lying, right through their expensively capped teeth.

Fournier, you see, is nobody’s idea of a “liberal media” figure. If anything, he’s been strongly suspected (particularly by my predecessor Brother Benen) of leaning the other way. Here’s part of what he had to say about the welfare ads:

Before explaining why these tactics work (and why Romney’s team knows, or should know, they are playing the race card), let’s quickly deal with this fact: The ad is wrong. As countless impartial fact-checkers have noted, the Obama administration memo cited by the Romney team actually gives states flexibility to find better ways of getting welfare recipients into jobs.

Why ignore fact-checkers? First, internal GOP polling and focus groups offer convincing evidence that the welfare ad is hurting Obama. Second, the welfare issue, generally speaking, triggers anger in white blue-collar voters that is easily directed toward Democrats. This information comes from senior GOP strategists who have worked both for President Bush and Romney. They spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution….

Furthermore, a senior GOP pollster said he has shared with the Romney camp surveys showing that white working-class voters who backed Obama in 2008 have moved to Romney in recent weeks “almost certainly because of the welfare ad. We’re talking a (percentage) point or two, but that could be significant….”

Romney and his advisors stand by an ad they know is wrong – or, at the very least, they are carelessly ignoring the facts. That ad is exploiting the worst instincts of white voters – as predicted and substantiated by the Republican Party’s own polling.

That leaves one inescapable conclusion: The Romney campaign is either recklessly ignorant of the facts, some of which they possess – or it is lying about why (and how) it is playing the race card.

I know some readers might think Fournier is actively abetting the GOP’s lies because he doesn’t finish the syllogism and point a trembling finger at his old friends in the Romney campaign and shout “Unclean! Unclean!” That ain’t happening. But Ron’s gone about as far as the conventions of the MSM allow in calling them out. The question is whether anyone notices or cares.

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.