Thursday September 13, 2012

PITTSFIELD

The Republican presidential team of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, according to a myriad of media fact-checkers, are lying in their campaign speeches and ads. But so have some political ads by President Obama and his supporters.

Such happenings are not news in today’s political campaigns. But what is newsworthy is the audacity of mendacity by this Republican duo and their supporters who unlike their Democratic counterparts continue with their lies in the face of their statements being shown to be plainly untrue.

Thomas Jefferson was concerned about the insidious effect of such lying, especially by political leaders. He wrote that there was "no vice so mean, so pitiful, so contemptible, and he who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual." Voters do not have to wait to see whether Romney and Ryan, if elected to their respective offices, might fall into this habit because they already have demonstrated this propensity in the current presidential campaign.

One of their habitual lies concerns the federal welfare-to-work policy. The facts are that several governors in the past, including Republicans, asked the Obama administration for a waiver from this law. The president granted such waivers, but only if the state proposals were likely to do a better job of increasing employment among welfare recipients. These facts was twisted into a lie by the Romney campaign in an ad claiming that Obama "gutted" the welfare law by eliminating the requirement of work. In a USA Today interview, Romney falsely claimed this change in the law by Obama was intended to "shore up his base." Media fact checkers declared this ad as obviously false. The ad continued to run.

Neil Newhouse, a Romney pollster, said that "we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers." Speaking about this ad, Newt Gingrich told CNN interviewer Anderson Cooper that "We have no proof today, but I would say to you under Obama’s ideology it is absolutely true that he would be comfortable sending a lot of people checks for doing nothing." Such lying has become a habit in this campaign by this team of Republicans.

They continue to falsely claim that Obama, in the words of Ryan, is engaged in "the biggest power play of all in Obamacare . . . at the expense of the elderly," by funneling away $716 billion from Medicare. Romney continued to echo this. He even resorted to an elementary school-like presentation to write that dollar figure under Obama’s name on a slate and none under his name to represent he was not cutting Medicare. The fact is that Ryan’s budget does this for deficit reduction which directly affects elderly benefits under Medicare. Obama’s cuts to the contrary do not directly affect Medicare recipients, but instead reduce the cost of the charges of service providers.

Some of these fact-checkers award Pinocchios to these candidates for their lies. Ryan has a very large nose that is still growing based on his continued lying.

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He falsely claimed that Obama mislead and broke a promise to the residents of Ryan’s home town that a General Motors plant there threatened with closure could be saved. Obama made no such promise to keep the plant open because it was closed under President Bush weeks before he took office and well before his auto industry bailout program. Ryan also had the chutzpah, former President Clinton called it "brass," to claim that Obama did nothing with the recommendations of the bipartisan debt commission when Ryan, a member of that commission, voted to prevent those recommendations from being actually voted on by Congress.

But perhaps the most compelling piece of evidence that Ryan is in the habit of lying is his recent false claim about something that had nothing to do with politics. It was about the trivial matter of his time in running a marathon race. Because of his self- proclaimed physical fitness workouts, he was asked by a radio talk show host if he ever ran a marathon race. Ryan said he ran a marathon in under 3 hours.

Runner’s World magazine decided to check on this because such a time is well beyond the average. The magazine reported that Ryan instead ran one marathon with a time over four hours which puts him in the average category. Jeff Pearlman, a self-described runner for 32 years, in an article for CNN wrote that a four-hour marathon runner saying that he ran under three hours would be the same as a baseball player with a .220 average talking about a .310 average. He concluded that Ryan "flat-out" lied and was "full of it."

Ironically, Republican politicians have been clamoring for a return to the values of the founding fathers which I presume includes the value personified by the symbolic story of George Washington and the cherry tree. It is a wise message associated with our first president for future presidents to heed, namely, that it is wrong to tell a lie. A continuing failure by Romney and Ryan to heed this message coupled with their continuing failure to furnish details for their proposed policies is a losing strategy against and otherwise vulnerable incumbent.

Robert "Frank" Jakubowicz, a Pittsfield lawyer, is a regular Eagle contributor.