As the national media today confronts the avalanche of lies served up last night by Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan, there is some evidence that the Romney campaign might be pushing the lie envelope a little too far. As an industry, the political media appears to be pushing back a bit against the lies — more than we have seen in the past.
It will be interesting to see how the Romney-Ryan campaign responds. So far, they seem nonplussed.
As widely reported, Romney pollster Neil Newhouse, when asked about the near-unanimous fact-check condemnation of the campaign’s false charge regarding Welfare work waivers, said earlier this week, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.”
In other words, we don’t care about the truth.
Chuck Todd, meanwhile, is reporting this evening that the Romney campaign is generally unconcerned about today’s uproar over the dishonesty of Ryan’s speech. According to Todd, as the Romney campaign sees it, media criticism doesn’t matter because the media’s credibility is extremely low, and the public perceives the media as partisan and biased in any event.
Todd is also saying, however, that the campaign is pushing back a bit on the Janesville plant lie. Apparently, that particular lie, blaming Obama for something that occurred before he took office, might be a bit much, even for Mitt Romney.
But that pushback consists of their arguing that the Janesville lie is true, not stepping back from their assertions.
(more on the flip)
Indeed, I just saw Wolf Blitzer on CNN interviewing Ryan himself, who wasn’t giving an inch on any of this, including the Janesville BS. To his credit, Wolf confronted Ryan, but in defending his lies, Ryan just hit Wolf with more lying. No way could Wolf keep up.
In short, as long as Romney and Ryan are willing to pile lie upon lie, and as long as they are unconcerned about the shame of being called out as liars by fact-checker after fact-checker, the media won’t be able to stop this. It is really breathtaking.
Still, the fact is that mainstream journalists tend to be herd animals, and the larger the herd becomes the more comfortable more journalists will be joining the herd.
In this regard (as well as many others, obviously), tonight’s Romney speech will be the tell about what the campaign really thinks about this veracity issue. If Romney’s speech is as factually challenged as Ryan’s speech, the journalist herd will almost certainly grow tomorrow, and at some point potentially reach a critical mass that could become problematic and prevent Romney and Ryan from making their case to the independent voters Romney will need to win this election.
If, on the other hand, Romney’s speech stays away from the lies his campaign has been promoting, and Romney is still able to deliver a successful speech (i.e., delivering an effective critique of the Obama Administration and a rationale for his own election), then the lying issue will go away.
Romney’s problem, of course, is that he has so far been unable to make the case either against Obama or for himself without lying.
More specifically, the key Romney lies to look for are whether he repeats the discredited charges that Obama is “robbing” $716 billion from Medicare, and that Obama has “ended” work rules for welfare. If Romney fails to mention these things, it means they are nervous about possible blowback.
If Romney doubles down on the lying strategy, however, it signals he believes he is losing the election, and will need to resort to dishonesty and race-baiting in order to win ugly.
The early excepts of the acceptance speech released this evening by the Romney campaign seem to stay away from the lies, but it is only a short excerpt, and it remains to be seen whether Romney himself is defiant in the face of the fact-checkers.