‘Welcome to post-truth politics’

Paul Krugman, in his column today, highlights a series of blatant lies from Mitt Romney, and notes that the Republican presidential candidate “seems confident that he will pay no price for making stuff up.”

It’s what happens when we enter an era of “post-truth politics.”

Why does Mr. Romney think he can get away with this kind of thing? Well, he has already gotten away with a series of equally fraudulent attacks. In fact, he has based pretty much his whole campaign around a strategy of attacking Mr. Obama for doing things that the president hasn’t done and believing things he doesn’t believe. […]

But won’t there be some blowback? Won’t Mr. Romney pay a price for running a campaign based entirely on falsehoods? He obviously thinks not, and I’m afraid he may be right.

Oh, Mr. Romney will probably be called on some falsehoods. But, if past experience is any guide, most of the news media will feel as though their reporting must be “balanced,” which means that every time they point out that a Republican lied they have to match it with a comparable accusation against a Democrat — even if what the Democrat said was actually true or, at worst, a minor misstatement.

Krugman concludes by predicting that Romney will face “no real penalty for running an utterly fraudulent campaign,” which will only encourage more dishonesty.

As regular readers might imagine, I strongly agree with all of this. The only point I’d add is that it’s ultimately going to be up to reporters and major news organizations to decide whether a campaign built on deliberate deception is allowed to thrive.

We talked earlier, for example, about Romney lying about President Obama’s record on job creation. It was a rather casual lie, but it was a demonstrably false claim about the nation’s most important issue. The former governor made the claim in an interview with Time‘s Mark Halperin, who not only chose to let the lie slide, but passed along Romney’s bogus argument to the public with no scrutiny or fact-checking at all.

Whether Halperin didn’t know he was being lied to or simply didn’t care is unclear. But the larger point remains the same: media professionals (a) have to know the basics so they can have some idea when candidates are trying to mislead them; and (b) have a responsibility to call out blatant dishonesty when they see it.

As Greg Sargent put it earlier today, “Look, Romney is going to make the claims that Obama didn’t create any jobs, and that he made the economy worse, countless times between now and next fall. They will be central to his entire campaign rationale. Can we please start pressing him to justify it when he says this stuff?”

That need not be a rhetorical question.

The alternative is a further descent into “post-truth politics,” with a negligent media enabling liars every step of the way.