August 29, 2012
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TAMPA, FLA. -- On the opening day of its national convention, the Republican Party refrained from putting its full crazy on display in favor of unleashing a mere torrent of mendacity.
Not that there wasn't a heavy quotient of weirdness.
A white man sang a full complement of R&B songs to a nearly all-white audience of delegates. (Thank you, G.E. Smith Band.) Old people danced comically to the strains of 3 Doors Down
The Ron Paul people accused the G.O.P. of "detaining" the Virginia delegation
in order to keep one of its leaders, Morton Blackwell, from participating in a rules committee meeting that ultimately stripped Paul of many of his delegates on the heels of a rules change that conferred a kingly sort of power on the party's nominee.
Following Ann Romney's speech, which she said was "about love," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie yelled at Republicans that respect was more important than love, and they seemed to love him for it.
Former U.S. senator Rick Santorum, presidential nominee Romney's closest rival during the primary season, admired the hands of his grandfather's corpse, and then shook hands with the American dream, finding it to have a strong grip
But another bit of hand-dancing was more than strange: a bevvy of lies and deceptions that defined the evening were epitomized in a set of videos
called "These Hands," which featured deceptively edited audio of President Barack Obama's ineloquent attempt to explain the role of government in paving the way for successful businesses, and cinematic depictions of noble small-business owners who were mighty mad at the president.
The theme was reinforced by speakers throughout the program, including Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, as well as Governors Nikki Haley, S.C.; Brian Sandoval, Nev., and Mary Fallin, Okla.
The videos dramatized the evening's theme: "We Built It." But wait, there's more. Here are the top six lies or deceptions fed to the American voter on Day One of the 2012 Republican National Convention.
1. The "You didn't build that" deception. By now, Obama's rhetorical trip-up on the campaign trail is the stuff of legend, because in the construction of a series of sentences, Obama left an opening for Romney and his allies to suggest that the president meant something entirely different from what he said. At a campaign stop in Roanoke, Va., Obama said that a business owner's success requires government investment in infrastructure such as roads and bridges. "If you've got a business, you didn't build that," he said -- meaning, quite clearly, the roads and bridges. Republicans, however, pulled the quote from its context and ran with it. And Romney is determined to carry that ball to the finish line.
Never mind that even mainstream media have repeatedly refuted the meaning falsely imparted to the president by Romney and company. As of Tuesday night, the Obama quote was altered even further in the "Hands" videos to make it seem that he was shaking his brown finger in the face of lighter-skinned business owners: the audio track takes the words, "Let me tell you" from earlier in the speech, and sets them just ahead of the out-of-context quote to make it sound like this:
"Let me tell you, if you've got a business, you didn't build that."
Here's the actual quote in its entirety, with the Romney edit in bold:
"There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me, because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t -- look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something – there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business. you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.
2. The welfare lie. The Department of Health and Human Services recently announced that it would consider providing waivers to states from the implementation of welfare-to-work requirement in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program if the states could demonstrate that they had a more effective means of helping welfare recipients find work. Romney has seized upon this announcement to claim that Obama is "gutting welfare reform" and eliminating the TANF work requirement -- a blatant lie that has been reported as such by many news outlets.
If facts actually mattered to the Republican Party, and truth-telling actually mattered to Romney, that would have put an end to the promulgation of the lie. But when a lie feeds a false but effective narrative about a black president and welfare, Romney and his allies apparently can't bear to give it up.
Several convention speakers took up the theme, most notably Rick Santorum, who said:
"And this summer [Obama] showed us once again he believes in government handouts and dependency by waiving the work requirement for welfare."
Artur Davis, the former Alabama Democrat turned Virginia Republican, put it this way:
Bill Clinton took on his base and made welfare a thing you had to work for; this current crowd guts the welfare work requirement in the dead of night.
Davis' part in promoting the lie is especially sweet for the G.O.P. Because he's African American, he provides a certain amount of insulation from charges of racism, despite the obvious racial dog-whistle to those voters who see welfare as a black thing.
3. The "dependency" lie. The Republicans have found a useful corollary to the welfare lie in their invention of a Democratic dependency doctrine, which sells the false idea that Democrats deliberately seek to make people dependent on government benefits as a means of winning votes. It flows from the Republicans' emerging producerist narrative, which was a staple of the racist rants of President Andrew Jackson -- the idea that the world is inhabited by "makers" and "takers," with the "takers" characterized as anybody outside of one's own constituency.
The most juvenile articulation of this steaming pile of prevarication was delivered by radio host and former actress Janine Turner, who followed up a Ben Franklin quote with this:
Patrick Henry said, "Give me liberty or give me death." Today Obama enables an entitlement society that says, "Give me liberty and gimme, gimme!"
Why? Because Democrats depend on dependence.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose entire political career is a creation of the Koch brothers' Americans For Prosperity enterprise, chimed in with this description of the outcome of progressives' attempts to recall
him from the governor's mansion after he gutted labor protections for public employees and slashed the education budget:
On June 5th, voters in my swing state were asked to decide if they wanted elected officials who measure success by how many people are dependent on the government, if they wanted leaders who believe success is measured by how many people are not dependent on the government, because they control their own destiny in the private sector.
4. The immigration lie.
Back in the primary campaign, Romney encouraged undocumented immigrants to " self-deport
." And after Obama announced that his administration would no longer deport undocumented immigrants who, as children, were brought to the United States by their parents, the Republican right cried foul. But that didn't stop Ted Cruz, the Tea Party-backed candidate for U.S. Senate from Texas, from claiming, in a head-smacking moment, that the Obama campaign was "going to try to divide America" by "tell[ing] Hispanics that we're not welcome here..."
5. The government takeover lie. It's an oldie but goody, the notion that any new program or regulation amounts to a "government takeover" of some aspect of the economy. Ted Cruz, who may easily take the evening's prize for packing the highest number of falsehoods into three sentences, appeared to claim that the Affordable Care Act and the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Board amounted to "government takeovers of healthcare, of financial services and many aspects of our economy."
6. The regulations lie. Another favorite myth of Romney and the Republicans is that Obama has burdened business with an unprecedented level of new regulation when, in fact, the George W. Bush administration issued more final rules in its first three years than has the Obama administration over the same length of time. Nonetheless, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, N.H., claimed that "Under this Administration, the regulations are up and job creation is down."
7. The good guy lie. But perhaps the most blatant lie promulgated on the opening night of the Republican National Convention was uttered by Ann Romney, wife of the presidential nominee, who told the assembled delegates and the millions of voters watching the convention from their living rooms that her husband is a "good and decent man."
Until the day that goodness and decency comes packaged in lies and deception, that may be the most dangerous lie of all.