Mitt Romney took a gamble. Fearing defeat in Ohio, the Republican said Chrysler was poised to move Jeep production to China, a claim with no foundation in reality. After getting caught lying, Romney doubled down, turning the same bogus claim into a television ad.
Democrats are eager to make Romney pay for the bad bet. Consider Vice President Biden’s remarks in Ohio yesterday.
Biden noted of Romney’s mendacity, “I’ve served with eight presidents; I have never seen this in my public life…. Ladies and gentlemen, have they no shame? Romney will say anything, absolutely anything, to win, it seems. But he can’t run from the truth.”
It’s not just the president’s re-election campaign; news organizations that have been largely prepared to tolerate Romney’s falsehoods seem troubled by the Republican’s 11th-hour deception. Greg Sargent pulled together a series of press reports published today in the major Ohio dailies, all of which focused on Romney getting caught lying, including a very tough Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial: “Ohio voters know who stepped up when the auto industry was at the abyss – and it wasn’t Romney.”
Greg added, “This is hardly a comprehensive look at the local coverage, but it does suggest the possibility that Romney’s Jeep-to-China gamble may be backfiring.”
I’d just add that, at an institutional level, this is more or less how American elections are supposed to work.
The reason national candidates have traditionally been reluctant to lie with Romney-like frequency is that there was a disincentive – there were likely to get caught, and the resulting fallout wasn’t worth the risk.
And the reason Romney lies with Romney-like frequency is because he believes we’ve entered a post-truth era and the disincentive has disappeared – he can repeat falsehoods with impunity without fear of consequences. If he faces genuine pushback on the Jeep/Chrysler/China falsehood, and voters are made aware of the fact that the candidate is spewing nonsense because he doesn’t trust them enough to be honest with them, it would be a step towards restoring a degree of equilibrium to the damaged discourse.