Default Drive Mendacity

In a display of chutzpah that would be remarkable coming from just about anywhere else, the Romney campaign, caught making a completely erroneous charge about Jeep moving jobs from Ohio to China, has–yes, I know it’s an overused term, but it’s the most accurate available–doubled down with a claim that would shame an actual weasel. The Cleveland Plain Dealer provides a succinct account:

Last week, Romney recklessly told a large audience in Defiance that he’d read that Chrysler’s Italian owners — that would be Fiat, which has controlled the American automaker since 2009 — were planning to move all Jeep production to China. The Republican presidential nominee’s statement predictably drew groans in Northwest Ohio, where the auto industry is critical to prosperity. He pledged to keep American jobs in America, if elected.

But apparently Romney had been reading a blogger who misunderstood reports that Chrysler was looking to again make some Jeeps in China for that expanding market. The news is a sign of Chrysler’s health, not of some sinister intentions by its management. The company is investing $500 million and hiring 1,100 workers at its Toledo Jeep plant. The day Romney misspoke, Chrysler announced plans to add 1,100 employees in Detroit, too. A company spokesman called any suggestion that Chrysler is abandoning its U.S. plants “a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats.”

Ah, but not for a presidential candidate who needs a wedge in auto-dependent Ohio. Romney is now running an ad that reinforces the erroneous perception he laid out in Defiance, but in language that is technically true: “Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China.”

In one sentence, Romney presses hot buttons about bankruptcy — though he, too, favored that route, albeit without direct federal investment — foreigners and outsourcing. It’s a masterpiece of misdirection.

And Team Mitt isn’t being the least bit defensive about it, as Greg Sargent reports:

Mitt Romney’s new television ad suggesting that the auto bailout will result in American jeep jobs getting shipped to China has been widely pilloried by news organizations, both nationally and in Ohio. The Romney campaign’s response: It is expanding the ad campaign.

A Dem source familiar with ad buy info tells me that the Romney campaign has now put a version of the spot on the radio in Toledo, Ohio — the site of a Jeep plant. The buy is roughly $100,000, the source says.

The move seems to confirm that the Romney campaign is making the Jeep-to-China falsehood central to its final push to turn things around in the state.

Wow. The news here isn’t that the Romney campaign is flouting its mendacity (that’s been the case for many months): it’s that having been caught in what might have been rationalized as an error (producing maybe a two-day story), its first impulse was to make it the centerpiece of its Ohio effort.

And these are the people we are supposed to believe when they profess that a President Romney is just dying to work with Democrats on bipartisan solutions to the country’s problems!

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.