Yesterday, the Sunday morning talk shows were filled with Democrats touting their new excuse (they always have excuses) for President Obama’s inability to engage during last week’s debate: Mitt Romney lied. Governor Romney’s brazen misstatements, they said, left the president so overwhelmed with disbelief that he found himself all but speechless.
If you are like me, this defense leaves you nearly speechless.
After all, Mr. Obama’s Denver performance was not measurably off past standards. His voice was strong, his arguments clear, his delivery smooth with hardly a stumbled word or a grammatical flaw. So far as he went into data, he appeared well briefed. The only difference from the past was that this time, unlike any other time since he stepped on the national stage, he faced an opponent equally articulate and better informed.
Still, rather than acknowledging a bad night and moving on, for the past week we have heard Democratic excuses ranging from a) the president was weary carrying the weight of the world to z) the mile-high city’s air was too thin. Finally they settled on the “lie” line.
Not that it was new. All year one of their tactics has been to shout “lies” whenever a Republicans speaks, no matter the speaker, subject or substance. The most notable example of this stratagem came during Paul Ryan’s speech accepting the GOP vice presidential nomination, when a senior Democrat tweeted something like “this is all lies.” Immediately the MSMosphere had its story and continued to run with it for days following. Meanwhile, when conservative bloggers and journalists finally nailed down the specifics on which Mr. Ryan was supposedly dissembling, every statement turned out to be clearly, unambiguously true. But, hey, it worked once. Why not try it again? So “Ryan lied” became “Romney lied.” Once more at least some in the poodle press performed tricks on command.
No poodle has been faster to sit, roll over or jump flips than New York Times columnist and economist turned ideologue Paul Krugman. Yesterday on ABC’s This Week, Dr. Krugman was especially aggressive in charging that Romney lied in the debate, in particular cutting off Republicans whenever one tried to make the simple point that despite Friday’s jobs report, the president’s economic strategy was still, in terms of employment and growth, a failure.
Perhaps to reinforce this televised defense, Dr. Krugman posted on his blog today a chart titled “All employees: Total Nonfarm (PAYEMS)” (see here: http://tinyurl.com/23qv5r ; scroll down). The chart tracks total U.S. Employment from later 2007 to the present. It shows that the number of people in the U.S. with jobs is higher today than at its pre-recession peak. Krugman’s source is the research department of the St. Louis Fed. I went to the St. Louis Fed’s website this morning. I found another chart, also titled “All Employees: Total nonfarm (PAYEMS)” (see here: http://tinyurl.com/8fccc7j ). And I got a surprise.
The Fed’s posting presents data from the 1930s to the present. Otherwise the two are identical, except for one detail. Where the Krugman chart shows employment today up from the pre-recession peak, the St. Louis Fed chart shows it significantly down. Did Dr. Krugman lie or was he simply mistaken?
My point is bigger than Paul Krugman. Again and again this year, Obama surrogates and media supporters have insisted that the Romney camp was dishonestly representing this or that fact or position, only to be refuted within hours or days.
The tweet during the Ryan RNC speech is the best-known example, but hardly the only one.
In her speech at the Democratic convention, to discredit Governor Romney’s contention that he will champion Israel’s security, Debbie Wasserman Shultz said, “We know and I’ve heard no less than [Israeli] Ambassador Michael Oren say this, that what the Republicans are doing is dangerous for Israel.” In response, the ambassador has released this statement: “I categorically deny that I ever characterized Republican policies as harmful to Israel.”
Then there was the White House Communications director’s tweeted charge that Republicans were lying about Mr. Obama returning the Churchill bust to the British Embassy at the start of his presidency – only to retract the accusations hours later in the face of an avalanche Internet documentation to the contrary.
In short, even as they level the charge of “lies”, the administration and its allies are careless (at best) with facts and the truth. They are intent not on winning the national debate but on “disqualifying” (as the current phrase has it) the Romney-Ryan ticket — not a pretty strategy, nor an honorable one.
The question now is, will it work?