The politics of making things up

There’s nothing wrong with expressing disagreement. But if you have to make up a completely bogus position to assign to your opponent, that looks to me a lot like desperation.

For example, a lot of Republicans are falsely claiming that the Obama administration is trying to prevent military personnel from voting. In fact, the Obama administration is trying to get Ohio to reinstate early voting the weekend before the election. The early voting sites are actually going to be open before the election anyway, but only military personnel and their families will be allowed to use them. (As long as the places are open anyway, why not everybody? It might have something to do with the fact that the restriction was passed by Republicans, and many military personnel tend to vote Republican.) The administration argues that as long as the voting sites are going to be open for some, they should be open for everybody — not just the military but also firefighters, police officers, doctors, nurses, and others whose jobs or unpredictable work schedules or other things might interfere with voting on election day.

Another outright lie is that Obama is doing away with the requirement that welfare recipients look for a job. In fact, the Obama administration has responded to a request from two Republican governors for waivers granting them additional flexibility on the red tape, but the waivers will require number of job placements be increased by 20 percent. (Incidentally, a number of governors, Democrats and Republicans, have made similar requests in the past, including Mitt Romney himself when he was governor of Massachusetts.) The Romney campaign’s false claims about the policy have been debunked by among others Ron Haskins, a Republican who helped write the welfare reform law in the 1990s.

And the dishonest attacks don’t stop there. As I previously mentioned in a post back on July 18, Republicans have grossly misrepresented something Obamas said in a mid-July speech in Virginia, the key part of which was this:

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. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.

Mitt Romney and his friends at Fox News pounced on one sentence in the middle of this that could be distorted to sound as if he was saying something different, specifically this one: “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.”

Following is clip from Jon Stewart that (after a silly start) has fun pointing (yet another) transparent bit of dishonest editing from Fox News, but then goes on to make an excellent and entirely serious point about the difference between discussing real differences of opinion and outright lying about what your opponent thinks. If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, skip ahead to 3 minutes 55 seconds in, and stick around to see Obama’s comments interleaved with something Romney said in response, showing them to be saying almost exactly the same thing:

We’re fortunate to have Jon Stewart and his staff of writers and editors, and as I’m hardly the first to say, it makes you wonder why other more serious news media can’t do the same thing.

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