Defending the indefensible

Updated
 

Just two weeks ago, Mitt Romney suggested attack ads rejected by “the various fact-checkers” shouldn’t be on the air. Yesterday, the Republican added a caveat: when “the various fact-checkers” denounce his ads, they should be ignored as biased liberals.

To briefly recap, President Obama didn’t weaken the work requirement in welfare law; Romney has lied nearly every day for two weeks, including more than once yesterday, saying the opposite of the truth. Literally every independent fact-checker that’s looked at the claim has reached the same conclusion: Romney’s smear has no basis in fact.

Yesterday, asked why he keeps repeating a claim disconnected from this plane of reality, Romney told the Des Moines Register he has no use for independent journalists who examine the issue “in the way they think is most consistent with their own views.”

Yesterday, Romney campaign chairman John Sununu went a little further.

The full transcript of Sununu’s interview with Wolf Blitzer is online, and I’ll gladly give credit to the CNN host for pressing the Republican to defend his obvious falsehood. In fact, Blitzer literally read “the precise language from the Health and Human Services memo outlining what the states who seek this flexibility” can do.

And yet, the Romney campaign surrogate stuck to the lie anyway.

My favorite part came when Sununu explained what it would take for Team Romney to stop lying.

BLITZER: [E]very major fact checking organization out there says he has not – has not gutted, has not gutted by any means the work requirements.

SUNUNU: All they need to do is have HHS send out a hard letter making sure that the only things that will qualify under the work requirement is hard training and the – and the cooperative programs with employers and define it in such a way that what was allowed before is all that’s allowed in the future…. That’s all that’s required.

Really, that’s all that’s required? Because that “hard letter” already exists – the Obama administration published it (pdf) two months ago.

In it, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, “Our goal is to accelerate job placement by moving more Americans from welfare to work, and no policy which undercuts that goal or waters down work requirements will be considered.”

There is no ambiguity.

Romney and his team know this, but they keep telling the same racially charged lie – five videos, including three broadcast ads, in just two weeks – because they just don’t give a damn. Confronted with reality, they’re not embarrassed or ashamed; they just stick to the lie, assuming voters won’t know the difference.

It’s the era of post-truth politics, and Romney wants to test what he can get away with.

* Postscript: A quick word about independent fact-checkers. To hear Romney tell it, they’re reliable when they agree with him, and biased liberals when they disagree with him.

That’s ridiculous. If he wants to argue that these fact-checkers aren’t always great at their jobs, he’ll get no argument from me. Indeed, I’ve expressed deep concerns with PolitiFact’s poor work on more than a few occasions. If Romney wants to say, “I’ve seen the reports, and let me tell you why they’re mistaken,” I’d be all ears.

But that’s not the case he’s making. Romney’s argument is that independent fact-checkers are to be taken seriously, so long as they agree with him. It’s intellectually lazy and unserious, and speaks volumes about his commitment to honesty.

Welfare, John Sununu, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama

Defending the indefensible

Updated