Propaganda Factors that Boosted Mitt’s Chances (Part 2)

Benghazi consulate

Factor # 3: Obama Derangement Syndrome

Rule of thumb: to ensure that large numbers of people swallow a rumor, no matter how wacky, just insert the word “Obama” into it. From birth certificates to death panels to socialized medicine to Islamic Nazism to FEMA concentration camps, nothing is too idiotic for people to believe if it attacks the current U.S. president. But of course none of it could possibly have anything to do with racism. So don’t you even suggest such a thing.

But in addition to the usual rumors that we’ve already discussed in the post The Biggest, Baddest, Brassiest Lies About Barack Obama (and a Few Dishonorable Mentions), the stage of world events dropped a new gift into the laps of the Obama Haters just a few weeks before election day: the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. Now we all know what happens when there is a terrorist attack against Americans: Americans put aside their differences and unite behind their commander-in-chief.

No, wait. That was during the Bush years.  On his watch there were no  fewer than 7 — count them, SEVEN — deadly attacks on U.S. consulates and embassies. No big deal, eh? But that was then, and this is now; and the new way of the world is to exploit such an occasion to the hilt for political partisanship and fresh smears against the cat in The Oval Office.

First, there was a major brouhaha about Obama failing to call the incident a terrorist attack immediately. That’s right: “conservatives” who love to kvetch about the “word police” associated with “political correctness” were chomping at the bit to impeach the president over a single word — not because he used it, but because he didn’t.

Except that, um, he did. The day after the attack, he delivered a speech about it from The Rose Garden, in which he said:

“No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.  Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America…”

Hmmm… The purpose of this speech was to make a statement about the attack in Benghazi. So you don’t think it’s possible that maybe he meant the words acts of terror to apply to that event? Well, if not, there was another speech a day later, in which he said:

“So what I want all of you to know is that we are going to bring those who killed our fellow Americans to justice. I want people around the world to hear me: To all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished.”

So for those who want to make a major issue out of his terminology, there you have it. Not good enough for Mitt Romney and many others, however, who insist that the administration didn’t officially and explicitly label it as terrorism until 14 days later, which would prove… well, something, I’m sure.

And after all, there was also speculation that an anti-Islam video might have helped inspire the timing; and if that’s the case, it couldn’t possibly also be a planned act of terror, could it? Apparently not, at least not in right-wing fantasyland. (In fact, some of the attackers themselves commented that the video was the catalyst for their actions.) To top it off, the president’s officials stated that the administration was still investigating the incident — and heaven forbid that a president actually should do his homework.

But the silliness didn’t end there. Led by Fox ‘News” which seemed determined to dissolve any lingering trace of doubt about its utter lack of scruples, right-wing extremists launched the meme that there was a “cover-up”  of Benghazi, even if they didn’t quite make it clear just what was being covered up or why, and spread the outrageous lies that the administration was slow to respond, had refused back-up to personnel there (back-up actually arrived almost immediately), and “abandoned Americans to die”. They were determined to make a scandal out of the tragedy, to paint it as yet another in the president’s series of supposed Watergates.  (At least one source reports that security had been scaled down that evening at the request of the late Ambassador Stevens himself, who was having a tryst with his boyfriend. If Obama is “covering up” anything, it could be that, out of respect for Mr. Stevens.)

It’s especially galling to see Republicans try to lynch the president for his supposed laxity in security when they themselves have been gutting the funding for State Department security. As Dana Milbank notes in The Washington Post:

For fiscal 2013, the GOP-controlled House proposed spending $1.934 billion for the State Department’s Worldwide Security Protection program — well below the $2.15 billion requested by the Obama administration. House Republicans cut the administration’s request for embassy security funding by $128 million in fiscal 2011 and $331 million in fiscal 2012. (Negotiations with the Democrat-controlled Senate restored about $88 million of the administration’s request.) Last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Republicans’ proposed cuts to her department would be “detrimental to America’s national security” — a charge Republicans rejected.

Playing the “Liberal Bias” Card

800px-Orson_Scott_Card_at_BYU_Symposium_20080216_closeup

And it’s especially disconcerting to see noted science fiction/ fantasy writer Orson Scott Card, for whom I’d heretofore had a great deal of respect and admiration, commit himself to this nuthouse, excoriating the president in the vilest terms imaginable — including, natch, plenty of Hitler references. Card is, like Mitt Romney, a Mormon; and I suppose it’s understandable that such ideological kinship might jaundice his judgment and lead him to conclude that Romney is “a decent, intelligent, moderate, honest man of proven ability”. (You may pause here to catch your breath before resuming.) But that hardly accounts for or excuses his delusions about President Obama, whose response to Sandy was, he affirms, at least as inept as Bush’s response to Katrina. No, seriously.

One suspects that Mr. Card has kept his head in the fantasy realm so much that he’s taken up permanent residence. In his alternate universe (where Kenneth Starr is a noble and intrepid muckraker who was doing the media’s job for them) the librulmedia conspired with Obama to cover up The Truth About Benghazi and get him reelected; and Fox “News” is the last bastion of honest and conscientious mainstream journalism. Meanwhile, here in our own universe, Fox’s coverage of Benghazi was, like its coverage of everything else, an orgy of smears, misinformation, irresponsible conspiratorial speculation, and wholesale fabrication. The network was instrumental in torpedoing the nomination of Susan Rice for Secretary of State, crucifying her for stating — CORRECTLY — that U.S. intelligence suspected — CORRECTLY — the offensive video was a catalyst. Fox and others even tried to link the Benghazi “scandal” to the sex life of Gen. David Petraeus. I kid you not.

Since Card makes such a point of comparing the media’s treatment of Obama to that of George W. Bush, we might remind ourselves, in case anyone forgot, that exactly 11 years before the Libya massacre, there was another terrorist attack against Americans – not on the other side of the world, but right on American soil. It didn’t kill 4 Americans, but a mere 3000 or so. And Bush, a Republican (which made him, according to Card and  many others, an object of media scorn) was in office then. His administration, unlike Obama’s, had received some very explicit warnings about the impending strike, but brushed them aside.

Now we must note here that most of the criticism of how Obama handled Benghazi (and even some of the criticism about how Bush handled 9-11) can be attributed to a perception bias that is sometimes called creeping determinism. Which is a fancy way of saying that when we’re armed with hindsight, past events often seem much more predictable than they actually were when we were armed only with foresight. Even so, one might make a case that Bush’s lack of preparation was impeachably negligent, depending on how much “noise” (i.e., similar warnings that proved false) he’d had to filter out.

His handling of the attack after the fact was unmistakably less than stellar. When informed that a major terrorist strike against the U.S. was in progress, he didn’t do a goddamn thing for at least half an hour except pose for photos while Americans were roasting alive in Manhattan. His eventual “response” was to continue being chummy with Saudi Arabia (a brutal dictatorship that supplied 15 of the 19 hijackers, thank you very much) and instead launch an invasion (justified by fraudulent “evidence”) of another country that was ruled by one of bin Laden’s enemies. This action has resulted to date in the deaths of thousands of additional Americans, as well as untold thousands – quite possibly millions – of  Iraqi civilians. Not to mention a price tag in the billions. And if you want to talk about lies and cover-ups, the Bush administration lied at least 230 times about the conflict, and changed its story about the motive for invading at least 30 times.

Yet you never heard about any of this from the mainstream librulmedia until Michael Moore shone such a bright spotlight on it that some of them must have felt too embarrassed not to give it at least a cursory mention. There was little probing into the Bush family’s longstanding close relationship with the Saudi royal family, and it scarcely was deemed worth mentioning that both the Bush family and the bin Laden family had strong ties to The Carlyle Group, a significant U.S. Defense contractor. (But fear not, a few years later the same media cartel would go apeshit over Barack Obama’s passing acquaintance in the past with “terrorist” William Ayers.) The attitude of the mainstream media toward Bush was best summed up in the words of Dan Rather:

“Wherever he wants me to line up, tell me where.”

And line up they did, praising his brilliant “leadership” in a time of crisis, and his “courage” and “strength” and “resolve” in waging his “War on Terror” that probably encouraged more terror. Under the media’s prodding, Dubya was handed a second term, and achieved the highest presidential approval rating in the nation’s history — despite his having seized the office through nepotism, cronyism and election tampering.

Liberal bias, anyone?

Propaganda Factors that Boosted Mitt’s Chances (Part 1)

Fair and Balanced Fox Reacts to Obama’s Victory

Don’t look now, but the media deceived you: the 2012 presidential election wasn’t really as close as they wanted you to believe. Nonetheless, it did for a brief time become competitive, and for a fleeting moment it even appeared possible that Mitt Romney had a chance to be elected President of the United States.  If that prospect scares the living crap out of you, you’re not alone. I can’t think of anything that a Romney presidency wouldn’t have made worse, and I can think of many things that it would have made much worse. What caused this near catastrophe? One word: propaganda. One of the most intensive, nastiest, multi-pronged propaganda campaigns in history.

When you look at what he was up against,  President Obama’s reelection was truly miraculous.  The Republicans failed to unseat him; and yet their campaign of deceit was, in a way, quite successful just because it made the race so close. Essentially, the GOP has two options now: (a) conclude that their tactics didn’t work, and play like grown-ups in the future, or (b) conclude that they just didn’t go far enough, and be even nastier next time around. I’d bet the deed to the oil field on the latter.

Let’s take a look at some specific propaganda factors that likely played a key role in making this election a race instead of a slam dunk.

Factor # 1: Partisan Sabotage

From day one of Obama’s term, many Republicans and other assorted right-wingers were focused on one goal: to make certain he didn’t get reelected. To accomplish this, Republicans in Congress did their best to make certain he failed at everything he attempted so they could portray him as a failure come election season; and it didn’t matter to them that this meant thwarting his plans to boost the economy and put Americans back to work.  They were willing to sacrifice millions of American citizens for their own political capital.

Okay, okay. You’re gonna respond that when it comes to obstructionism, “both sides do it”. Unfortunately, the numbers don’t support that canard. While Democrats supported Bush’s major initiatives about 43 percent of the time on average, Republicans have supported Obama’s major initiatives only about 3 percent of the time on average.

And note that there is a difference between opposition and obstruction. It’s essentially the difference between not liking something a president proposes and not liking the president no matter what he proposes. You’d expect that one party would oppose the other’s objectives about half the time; that’s the whole purpose of having different parties — they’re supposed to balance each other out, and result in a more (nearly) perfect union. At least that’s theoretically how it was supposed to work in those days of yore before the GOP was seized by power-obsessed, no-compromise ideologues.

There’s also a difference between run-of-the-mill obstruction and sabotage. The latter is what happens when you have one party conspiring to block everything a president does in order to make him look bad and get unelected.  And for an added touch of chutzpah, they nominated one of the conspirators as the vice presidential candidate.

It seems strange to recall in my high school civics class making a presentation in which I urged my fellow students and future voters to “vote for the candidate and not the party”. That may have been sound advice at the time, but I can no longer recommend that anyone ever support a Republican in a national election — not just because the core of the GOP has devolved into a cult of Medieval ideology, tin-hat paranoia and vituperative scapegoating; and not just because it practices the most venomous and dishonest propaganda imaginable. But also because it resorts to juvenile stonewalling for political gain. Had this particular assault succeeded, it would have set a very dangerous precedent indeed.

Factor # 2: The Bully Pulpit

It has become quite common — a virtual epidemic — for “conservative” churches to use their influence for political proselytizing, thumbing their noses at the IRS guidelines for tax-exempt organizations to which they’ve agreed to adhere. They know they can get away with this abuse of privilege because the government won’t dare crack down on them, lest they howl about “religious persecution” and elicit outraged sympathy among the ill-informed.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of supposedly subtle exhortations such as “I’m not going to tell you how to vote, but vote your conscience”, wink wink. But quite often, ministers are direct conduits for the most insane and hateful of anti-Obama (read:anti-Democratic) rants: he’s the Anti-Christ, he’s a communist/socialist/fascist, he’s destroying the country and the constitution, etc., etc., etc.  Some preachers even tell their congregations that they’ll “go to hell” for electing a non-Republican. Yes, seriously.

This alliance between political “conservatives” and religious “conservatives” is a bizarre one indeed — among other things, it unites followers of a guy who urged taking care of the poor with followers of guys who say that taking care of the poor encourages indolence, while taking care of the rich encourages industriousness. But it is nonetheless a very powerful alliance, an alliance that is arguably much more effective than the sum of its incongruous parts.

When political arrogance mates with religious arrogance, the offspring is a whole new breed of super-arrogance, resulting in an overwhelming sense of (to use a word that right-wingers love to pronounce with a snarl) entitlement. These people believe they have an inviolable right to have their way. They were quite unprepared for the possibility that their boy might lose, because they really and truly believed that they had God counting the ballots for them. (Even Mitt Romney reportedly was so assured of victory that he didn’t even prepare a concession speech — but he definitely did prepare a transition website for his administration.) When defeat did come, they took it as a sign that Americans had abandoned God (and/or vice versa) and that the End Days are near, just as they have been for a couple of millennia now.

But churches aren’t the only bully pulpits in operation. It also has become a common practice for businesses to pressure their employees into voting Republican, even by issuing thinly veiled threats of termination if they don’t. Again, this is sometimes just a matter of a supposedly subtle hint. But in the case of Bob Murray, Ohio-based CEO of Murray Energy, it was a bit more blunt: he apparently forced his employees to miss work without pay in order to attend a Romney rally, and also pressured them to make donations to the Romney campaign.

After the election, he promptly made good on his threats by firing 156 workers, after uttering a typically arrogant “prayer” asking God to deliver America from its evil ways in supporting Obama’s reelection. Nor is he the only tycoon to take out his political frustrations on employees at the bottom rung. There’s a budding epidemic of that as well.

One sad byproduct of this right-wing arrogance, bullying and acrimony has been the destruction of many personal relations between friends and relatives who have differing political convictions. I have heard of many instances in which Obama supporters have had angry right-wingers sever all ties with them — or have themselves been compelled to sever ties with right-wingers who were being unbearably nasty toward them. So if you voted for Obama, you might want to keep it to yourself if you prize your associations with certain Obama haters. You know who they are. They’re the same ones who called you to gloat after the 2004 election.

The Great “Voter Fraud” Scam

This may have escaped your notice, but the U.S. is currently in the midst of a presidential campaign season. If you’ve hard anything about it at all, you’ve probably heard a great deal about voter fraud. And if you’ve heard anything about voter fraud, you’ve heard that it’s Democratic voters who do it, and that they do it in multitudes, and that it frequently produces stolen elections. And if you’ve heard all of this, you’ve heard the sound of a huge barge load of bullshit being dumped on your head.

How big a problem is voter fraud? Mother Jones notes that UFO sightings are more common. And that’s not just an expression; it’s literally true. In fact, there are far, far more UFO sightings than cases of voter fraud: Mother Jones’ numbers for the period from 2000 to 2010 are: 47,000 UFO sightings compared to 13 cases of  verified voter fraud. It would make more sense for the media to focus on preventing that kind of alien from voting.

News21 comes up with a slightly different but compatible total for the same period: 10 instances of “substantiated in-person” voter fraud confirmed out of 2068 alleged cases. Whatever the exact figure, everyone who examines the facts closely enough arrives at the same conclusion: voter fraud is extremely rare, hardly a drop in the ocean. Yet the hype about it is a tsunami.

Mother Jones also observes that:

A 2005 report by the American Center for Voting Rights claimed there were more than 100 cases of voter fraud involving 300,000 votes in 2004. A review of the charges turned up only 185 votes that were even potentially fraudulent.

Note that word potentially. And that:

Last December, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus declared that Wisconsin is “absolutely riddled with voter fraud.” In fact, the state’s voter fraud rate in 2004 was 0.0002 percent—just 7 votes.

The Brennan Center for Justice conducted an analysis of purported voter fraud and found that:

Many vivid anecdotes of purported voter fraud have been proven false or do not demonstrate fraud. Although there are a few scattered instances of real voter fraud, many of the vivid anecdotes cited in accounts of voter fraud have been proven false or vastly overstated. In Missouri in 2000, for example, the Secretary of State claimed that 79 voters were registered with addresses at vacant lots, but subsequent investigation revealed that the lots in question actually housed valid and legitimate residences. Similarly, a 1995 investigation into votes allegedly cast in Baltimore by deceased voters and those with disenfranchising felony convictions revealed that the voters in question were both alive and felony-free.

The thing is, those “vivid anecdotes” make the headlines, over and over and over again, while the inevitable debunking of them does not.  Consequently, the astronomically overinflated stories of voter fraud stay implanted on the impressionable public brain much more vibrantly and permanently than the facts. It’s the old thing about a lie being halfway around the world before the truth even gets its shoes on.

Pardon me while I dig up ACORN.

Take the intensive smear campaign against ACORN. One poll revealed that 26 percent of all Americans and 52 percent of Republicans believed the community activist organization “stole” the 2008 election for Obama. More astoundingly, a poll taken last year indicated that 25 percent of Republicans believed it also would steal the 2012 election — even though the organization already was defunct for more than one year!

Smashing ACORN had long been a goal of right-wing activists for a very good reason: it had a long history of registering the “wrong” kind of voters (i.e., those who vote Democratic), which apparently is the most egregious offense of all. A young would-be muckraker named James O’Keefe helped the cause tremendously with his fraudulently edited videos about ACORN.

Professor Peter Dreier of Occidental College studied the media coverage of ACORN and reported among other things that:

Although ACORN is involved in many community activities around the country, including efforts to improve housing, wages, access to credit, and public education, the dominant story frame about ACORN was “voter fraud.” The “voter fraud” frame appeared in 55% of the 647 news stories about the community organization in 15 mainstream news organizations during 2007 and 2008. The news media stories about ACORN were overwhelmingly negative, reporting allegations by Republicans and conservatives.

The media also failed to distinguish allegations of voter registration problems from allegations of actual voting irregularities. They also failed to distinguish between allegations of wrongdoing and actual wrongdoing. For example:

82.8% of the stories about ACORN’s alleged involvement in voter fraud failed to mention that actual voter fraud is very rare (only 17.2% did mention it)

80.3% of the stories about ACORN’s alleged involvement in voter fraud failed to mention that ACORN was reporting registration irregularities to authorities, as required to do by law.

85.1% of the stories about ACORN’s alleged involvement in voter fraud failed to note that ACORN was acting to stop incidents of registration problems by its (mostly temporary) employees when it became aware of these problems.

95.8% of the stories about ACORN’s alleged involvement in voter fraud failed to provide deeper context, especially efforts by Republican Party officials to use allegations of “voter fraud” to dampen voting by low‐income and minority Americans, including the firing of U.S. Attorneys who refused to cooperate with the politicization of voter fraud accusations – firings that ultimately led to the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

So, to summarize the case against ACORN: the real fraud was not voter fraud, but registration fraud. It was not committed by ACORN,  but against ACORN by (a few of) its workers. They were not trying to stuff the ballot box, but to stuff their own pockets. ACORN did, as claimed by its critics, turn in many phony names — because it was required to do so by law. ACORN itself flagged these for scrutiny; and ironically, if not for its efforts to prevent voter fraud, it might not have been accused of voter fraud. Thorough investigation cleared the organization of any wrongdoing.  Yet few media reports noted these facts. Must be that old “liberal bias” in the media at work again, eh? Indeed, by the time the truth about the “scandal” surfaced, the damage already had been done by O’Keefe, Breitbart, and the other usual suspects.

Give him an inch…

O’Keefe, by the way, is still releasing fraudulently edited videos that purport to show Democratic voter fraud. In his most recent, he solemnly proclaims in the intro that he is about to reveal proof of voter fraud that many deny even exists. Ah, Jimmy boy, a brazen double lie is hardly an auspicious beginning for what is intended to be an earth-shaking expose. Your latest little heavily doctored cinematic jewel only proves that you still know how to be dishonest, manipulative and self-serving. And it appears that plague of “liberal” malfeasance you’ve devoted your life to exposing is in fact so rare that you have to manufacture it with entrapment and deceptive editing. Secretly film a Democrat dumb enough to humor (while also gently discouraging) what appears to be a persistent wacko intent on cheating,  then slice and dice the footage to perfection and, presto, you have a new masterpiece, certain to bring you more limelight, that “proves” one Democrat is dishonest and therefore they all must be.  And it isn’t that people are claiming fraud never happens. They’re just claiming that it’s a tiny gnat of a problem that does not in any way justify the parade of steamrollers being dispatched to squash it, in the form of intrusive legislation concocted by the champions of “limited government”.

Sure, voter fraud sometimes happens. As a former poll worker myself, I can assure you that it’s extremely difficult to pull off, but it still does occur occasionally. Sometimes the culprits are even high-profile individuals like this gang:

The evidence is overwhelming that each of these characters committed in-person voter fraud. Yet the media and the right-wing hacks don’t seem to be too interested in investigating. Wonder why? (Hint: check their party affiliation.) Clearly yet another case of “liberal bias” in the media. These are just a few of the apparent and confirmed cases of voter fraud committed by Republicans that somehow consistently slide under the radar of the librulmedia. By the way, none of these apparently fraudulent acts would have been prevented by the voter ID laws that Republicans are touting as the panacea.

Paltry affliction, potent medicine

Yet more than 30 states have passed tougher new voter ID laws. Why? Well, to answer that question, perhaps  you only have to look at who is behind them: namely, Republicans and other assorted right-wingers. Always. In every case. Al Franken, now a senator from Minnesota, once commented to the effect that Democrats try to win elections by getting people to vote, while Republicans try to win by preventing people from voting. Ah, come off it Al; surely all these voter ID laws aren’t just an effort to win at any cost, are they?

Hmmm…. Go back to 2000.  Months before the election, a purge of voters who were allegedly ex-felons falsely eliminated thousands of likely Gore voters who were perfectly qualified to cast ballots. (Some of these alleged felons were listed as having committed their alleged crimes on some date in the future!)  Bush’s official margin of “victory” in the state was 537. The purge was orchestrated by the state’s governor, who just happened to be Bush’s brother, and its secretary of state, who just happened to be the local chair of his campaign. All just coincidence, I’m sure. But that fraudulent purge coincidentally paid enormous dividends to the GOP, who professed to have executed it in order to  prevent fraud.

Ten states have passed voter ID laws that place a disproportionate burden — in terms of money, time, and access — upon minorities and low income citizens who — whaddaya know — vote overwhelmingly Democratic. In all ten of these states, both the legislatures and the governorships are in the hands of — whaddaya know — Republicans.  All just coincidence, no doubt.

Pennsylvania passed a new voter ID law that, before it was halted by a judge, would have disenfranchised more than 750,000 voters. The vast majority of them would have been Democratic voters. Just coincidence, to be sure.  In speaking of the law, the state’s House Majority Leader, Mike Turzai, commented that it “is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania”.  He was just joking, wasn’t he?

In Nevada, a registration worker was told that he wouldn’t be paid for signing up Democrats. This appears to be part of a growing national strategy by Republicans, often involving fake “surveys” to screen out Democrats.  In Virginia, a man who was caught tossing bags of completed voter registration forms into a dumpster turned out to be (surprise) working for the GOP. All just coincidence, absolutely.

In Arizona, voter registration cards in Spanish were mailed out with the wrong election date listed. In Ohio, mailers in one county listed both the wrong date and the wrong place. Republicans were behind both mailings. Just coincidence, naturally. In Arizona, it happened in Maricopa county, which has produced legislation aimed at discriminating against Hispanics under the pretext of fighting illegal immigration. Hispanics are much more likely to vote for Obama. Just one coincidence after another.

Additionally, there are widespread problems with electronic voting machines, which — except for the occasional very minor glitches that temporarily benefit Democrats before they are caught and corrected — have a consistent habit of counting more Republican votes than Democratic, sometimes very suspiciously so. The companies that supply these machines are all owned by individuals who are very active in supporting GOP candidates. Gotta be mere coincidence. Before the 2004 election, in which Diebold’s voting machines were quite instrumental, its Ohio-based chief executive, Wally O’Dell, declared, ”I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.” Coincidentally, he did deliver, and Ohio was the pivotal state. Coincidentally, it very well could be again this year. (A rumor that Mitt Romney’s son owns voting machines in Ohio is false, though there are coincidentally some interesting connections.)

In short, if the media wanted to cover highly suspicious election irregularities that could make the difference — and indeed already have made a difference in at least on presidential election — they would have plenty of stories to cover. Trouble is, these stories all suggest vote suppression, tampering and other underhanded shenanigans on the part of Republicans, which doesn’t quite fit the narrative of Democrats stealing elections by getting too many people to vote. So instead we have a media obsession with scattered instances of possible fraud that have never had an impact on an election’s outcome. As usual, the right-wing propagandists have done their job extremely well.

The Biggest, Baddest, Brassiest Lies About Barack Obama (and a few Dishonorable Mentions)

Are we going to defend this Constitution that we celebrated tonight, or are we going to watch it be eroded by a Commander-in-Chief who disrespects this Constitution, doesn’t believe in free enterprise, doesn’t believe in life and families.”  — Rep. Steve King (R-IA)

Having declared that the current crop of Republicans is perhaps the most mendacious gaggle of politicians in U.S. history, we ought to back that up with more specifics. Fortunately, that isn’t hard to do. Most of the GOP’s lies and distortions are directed toward President Obama, who is surely the most disrespected and defamed president — if not the most disrespected and defamed person — in history. [This was written before Hillary Clinton overtook him for that distinction in 2016.]

You’ve no doubt heard many of the lies and wacky rumors already. They’re constantly batted about by the batty media, and you surely have friends and relatives who cut and paste them onto Facebook. Every day, all day long. But many of the golliwhoppers also have been incorporated into their act by the Romney-Ryan Revue. Indeed at the first so-called debate, Mitt Romney attained the extraordinary feat of cramming 27 stretchers into 38 minutes. For which he was promptly and universally acclaimed the winner — at least among Americans. That spin didn’t necessarily echo across the pond.  (Current TV’s Jennifer Granholm has an interesting commentary comparing Romney’s lies to Obama’s lies and discussing the common “conservative” strategy of working the refs. On the other hand, you could conclude, as Time did, that Obama’s lies are worse because they’re more accurate. Seriously.)

Virtually all politicians lie and spin, and virtually all politicians are the target of lies and spin. But the falsehoods about the current U.S. president qualify as a whole new life form. A good indicator is the Snopes tally. At last count, after less than 4 years he’s been in office, Snopes has listed 253 Obama rumors, the overwhelming majority of which are false. (The true ones often involve what other people have said and done in regard to Obama rather than what he’s said or done. Snopes verified, for example, the Internet story about a 95-year-old veteran writing Obama a disparaging letter. But that letter just regurgitated some of the misinformation and disinformation about the president, thus reinforcing the observation that he’s being severely and unjustly maligned.) And while I really get tired of having to defend him, it’s virtually impossible to survey contemporary propaganda without defending him.

The lies about Obama are of three basic types. First, there are the loony lies, such as you might hear at a rally of Tea Partiers vowing to “take back” their country from the other 98 percent. Or at a public appearance by Steve King. These include the following:

The Loony Lies

He’s a Muslim.

He’s a socialist.

He’s a Kenyan (and he admitted his birth certificate is a fake).

Death panels.

Socialized medicine.

Government takeover of medicine.

He wants to take away your guns.

He wants to outlaw fishing.

He can’t talk without a teleprompter.

He faked the death of bin Laden.

He’s had all his records sealed.

etc., etc., etc.

These already have been given far more attention than they ever deserved, so we’re not going to bother commenting on them here.

Then there are what we might call the General Myths. These are broader and more subjective, but just as false:

The General Myths

He’s arrogant and self-serving.

He assumes credit for things he didn’t do, and passes blame for things he did do.

He’s fiercely partisan and won’t work with the opposition party.

He’s unduly secretive.

He’s suppressing liberty and constitutional rights.

He’s a slacker who hasn’t accomplished anything.

etc., etc., etc.

It’s certainly possible to discredit claims like these, but to do so conclusively would require a great deal more space than we’d want to devote to it here — particularly since it would entail more an examination of politics than of propaganda. So we’ll give them a pass as well. (But in regard to the myth that his presidency has been a failure, here’s a list of 200 of the president’s accomplishments for starters.)

We’re also going to bypass the spin campaigns around certain events such as the attempts to make corruption-ridden scandals out of Fast and Furious and Solyndra,  — or even, for crying out loud, the terrorist attack in Libya. What we’re focusing on instead are the Brassy Lies: those that are (1) specific, (2) quickly disproved, (3) nonetheless realistic sounding enough that sane and reasonable people might fall for them if they didn’t know better, and (4) particularly audacious because of who is spreading them.  And they deal with matters of some consequence, as opposed to just daffy rumors about the president canceling the National Day of Prayer or giving the First Pooch his own plane. If you’re curious about rumors of that sort, see Snopes.

The Brassy Lies

Lie # 1: “You didn’t build that”.

This one is based on words the president actually uttered, but the GOPers have wrenched them out of context and totally distorted their meaning: from “We’re all in this together” to “You have no control over your own achievements”.  (Compare “Redistribution of Wealth”.) The funny thing is, whenever they trot out an entrepreneurial success story that’s intended to contradict the president’s words, it always does exactly the opposite.

Lie # 2: The “apology” tour.

President Obama is, beyond a doubt, far more diplomatic and humble, and far less jingoistic than his predecessor. But contrary to persistent right-wing claims, he’s never once apologized for America.

Lie # 3: He’s a promise breaker.

It’s becoming standard procedure among the GOP in this Age of Rove to forgo troubling the public so much with actual issues and just frame their Democratic opponents with a one-word or two-word epithet. With Al Gore it was liar (even though they couldn’t produce a single lie he’d actually told). With John Kerry, it was flip-flopper (based on a single instance in which he really didn’t flip-flop, but his words — discussing a stance he’d taken based on fraudulent intel provided by the guy he was running against — were brilliantly edited by Team Rove). Now, they’ve at least graduated to two words — unless you also hyphenate promise-breaker. But they’re still just as disingenuous.

One could make a strong case that in fact this president has had a better than average track record as promise keeper, particularly given the amount of time he’s been in office. But there’s even more to the story.

On the night of his inauguration, when most of the nation was celebrating this momentous milestone, a group of Republicans held a secret meeting to lay out a strategy for thwarting his every move. Bear in mind that this was before he’d done a single thing as chief executive that anyone might object to. Among this group was a certain Wisconsin congressman named Paul Ryan. Another attendee summed up the focus of the meeting this way:

If you act like you’re the minority, you’re going to stay in the minority. We’ve gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign.

At a time when the country was sunk in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and bin Laden was still at large, they admitted that their number one priority was making Obama a “one-term president” — even if it meant stalling the economic recovery to make him look bad, keeping workers unemployed so they could pin a high unemployment figure on him.  Their vendetta has reached such South Park playground proportions that they voted down a veterans’ jobs bill the president supported — with the four of them who helped write it actually voting against their own bill!

Obama probably was guilty of being naive when he doled out campaign promises on the assumption that he would obtain at least minimal cooperation from the elephant herd. But given the level of intense and persistent sabotage he encountered instead, his level of achievement has been nothing short of miraculous.

When Tea Partiers parrot the line that he is a promise breaker, they probably just don’t know any better. When Republican politicians do it, they definitely do know better. Because they know damn well that they’re the ones who engineered the logjam. And they did it entirely for political power, using the American public as pawns. (Note: Republicans counter this with a claim that the GOP-controlled House has introduced several jobs bills that have not passed the Democratic-controlled Senate. Which just goes to show they know how to be creative in their terminology. Number one on the list of “jobs bills” is one that would reduce regulation of pesticides.)

Lie # 4. He “gutted” Medicare.

Or robbed it. Or slashed it. Or raided its trust fund. Whatever the verbiage used, the claim is essentially the same: that the president reduced the funding for Medicare benefits by $716 billion. He didn’t. But the Affordable Care Act is estimated to reduce Medicare costs  by that amount — which, far from gutting it, should make it healthier.

This lie deserves a special Brass Balls Award for three reasons: (1) Republicans themselves always claim to represent waste-cutting and fiscal responsibility; (2) Republicans themselves have never been — how shall we put this — particularly supportive of Medicare; and (3) Paul Ryan’s budget called for the same cuts, and it was heavily supported by congressional Republicans.

Lie # 5: He sued to prevent early voting in Ohio by the military.

Quite the opposite. He sued to allow early voting by all Ohio voters, including military personnel. Republicans wanted to restrict this privilege to military only. So to bolster their cause, they concocted this widely believed lie.

Lie # 6:  He’s outspent any president in the past 60 years.

Nope. Thus far, federal spending under Obama has shown the lowest increase of any president since Eisenhower (excluding Ford) in actual dollars. Adjusted for inflation, it’s shown the second lowest, and in fact actually constitutes a decrease.

Lie # 7. He’s amassed an unprecedented national debt.

There are several incarnations of this theme: he’s built up more debt than any other president; he doubled the debt in his first year; and (gotta love this one) he increased the debt more than all previous presidents combined. None of which is in the same galaxy as the truth. When Obama was inaugurated, the total debt stood at 10.6 trillion.  At the end of his first year, it had increased to 12.3 trillion, and it currently stands at about 16 trillion. When all else fails, try grade school arithmetic, folks.

We should also note that there’s a big difference between saying that these increases have occurred on Obama’s watch and saying that he actually caused them. Much of the debt is attributable to the horrendous economy and the two wars he inherited. Furthermore, we should note that the rate of increase has actually slowed.

Lie # 8. He bailed out the banks.

Despite the fact that nearly half of Americans believe otherwise, President Obama did not initiate the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). That would be George W. Bush.

Lie # 9: He’s eliminating welfare work requirements.

The president’s plan overhauls welfare guidelines, largely for the purpose of cutting through red tape, but it certainly does not  eliminate work requirements, nor does it, to use another popular Romney soundbite, “gut welfare reform”. Furthermore, at the time he took office, only 29 percent of welfare recipients were required to work.

Lie # 10:  He’s demonstrated his tyranny with over 900 executive orders, an unprecedented number.

Wrong on two counts. First, 900 is hardly unprecedented.  Theodore Roosevelt issued 1081, Franklin Roosevelt 3522, Harry Truman 907, Calvin Coolidge 1203 and Herbert Hoover 968. Second, President Obama thus far has issued only 138 — which actually gives him the LOWEST total since Chester Arthur!  (At the present rate, there’s a slight chance that after two terms he’ll end up with the second-lowest total.) Moreover, most of the executive orders being attributed to President Obama in those Facebook posts were actually issued by other presidents, often long ago.

Lie # 11:  He’s failed to support Israel.

That’s what Romney and company say. But it ain’t exactly what Israel says.

This is by no means an exhaustive list; it barely scratches the surface. It’s just meant to be a representative sampling. Nobody possibly could keep up with all of the lies. In addition to the falsehoods about Obama himself, there is a substantial body of mythology about nearly everything he’s ever done, including being born. A particularly ripe field for folklore is the Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare”. Didja hear that it’s gonna call for 16,500 armed IRS agents to enforce it?

The smears against the president, however, are part of a broader and more disturbing trend; showing disrespect for the man — and by extension for the office he holds and the nation he represents — has become something of a national pastime.  Until he came along, it would have been unthinkable for fellow elected officials to publicly make the kind of statements Steve King made, or to accuse the president of collaborating with the enemy, or destroying America, or to interrupt his speech to call him a liar. Now, such occurrences are routine.

It’s tempting to dismiss it as racism, and no doubt that’s a factor in some cases. But it’s not the whole story. I just wish I could say that there is something, anything about Barack H. Obama in particular that would prompt such irrational and all-consuming hatred; and that once they get rid of this commie/fascist/Muslim/atheist/terrorist/Kenyan who wants to (shudder) make medicine and marriage available to everyone, things will go back to “normal”.

But the truth, I fear, is worse: this is the new normal for right-wing fanatics. This is how they will behave toward any Democrat, from now until Doomsday. Why shouldn’t they? It works. Sure, the president almost certainly will be reelected in spite of the propaganda. But the race apparently will be much closer than it should have been.  Obama Derangement Syndrome has not been contained among the loony fringe; it’s spread to a lot of other people as well. After all, Ron Paul is the one who contributed the colorful touch that those 16,500 phantom IRS agents would be “armed”. And he ain’t exactly a crackpot, is he? Oh. But still.

There are plenty of intelligent and sensible people, including some who voted for Obama in 2008, who swallow the bullshit. According to one Harris poll, 40 % of Americans (and 67% of Republicans) believe that President Obama is a socialist; 38% (61% of Republicans) believe he wants to “take away our guns”; 32% (57 % of Republicans) believe he is a Muslim; 20% (38% of Republicans) believe he is “doing many of the things that Hitler did”; 25% (45% of Republicans) believe he is foreign-born. Those are all a lot more than the Tea Party’s 2%.

With that kind of success, it would be naive to expect that there’ll ever be any turning back.

(Go here for a good debunking of 5 more Obama falsehoods, including those about golf, vacations, taxes and Arlington National Cemetery.)

Fact-Free Politics

Politicians as a rule are not known for being terribly honest and above-board, at least not since Lincoln went theatrical, but this year the Republican Party has made a furious effort to out-Guinness every other dishonest political campaign in history.

Now it hardly surprises anyone when a political campaign attacks the record of the opposition, or even when it indulges in a little spin and distortion to do so.  That’s what political campaigns do. That’s what conventions do. But the best the GOP could come up with this year was an actor debating an empty chair — and losing.  Other than that, their campaign surely will be remembered for its bold, unprecedented, ark-floating deluge level of mendacity.

When it comes to propaganda, Democrats are at kindergarten level, while the GOP has amassed a stack of doctorates. And this season, even by its usual standards,  the elephant parade has shattered the meter and blown the ceiling off.

Tweedledee But Tweedledumber

Many will “defend” the type of dishonesty the GOP has displayed by pointing out that Democrats lie too. Well, sure.  None of us will ever forget “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”. But there’s a big difference between making a friend of fibbing and make a foe of fact.

To hear Republicans tell it, it was a major lie for The First Lady to characterize her husband’s grandmother as a “bank secretary”, as she eventually worked her way up to vice president.  (Whoa! Really broke Pinocchio’s nose on that one, didn’t she?) And then there’s the Democrats’ claim that the Obama administration has created 4.5 million jobs. That figure is indeed a bit misleading, because it’s not a net sum for his entire term. They started the meter after the horrendous economic downturn he inherited had bottomed out. So it does qualify as spin, but it’s by no means an outright lie.

It is an outright lie, however, to say that Obama is a Muslim. Or that he’s Kenyan. Or that he’s a socialist. Or that he “hates America”. Or that he “apologized” for America. Or that he has raised your taxes (unless you’re among the ultra-wealthy). Or that he wants to eliminate the work requirements for welfare. Or that he’s increased the deficit to an exceptional degree. Or that he wants to eliminate early voting for military personnel. Or that he bailed out the banks.  Or that he promised unemployment below 8 percent.

Yet these and many others have been repeated as fact by the GOP contenders and their allies; some of them have even been articulated from the convention podium —  from which Romney even threw a bone to the dopey fact-shunning cult that increasingly makes up the backbone of his party by taking a dig at the president’s expressed concern over global warming.  And in doing so, incidentally, he misquoted the president yet again.

Building Deception

You had an inkling the GOP was going to pile up the elephant manure sky-high when it adopted as the de facto slogan of the convention (if not the entire campaign) a deliberate misinterpretation of a quote from the president.  “You didn’t build that” has become the new “I invented the Internet” (a statement never made by another politician who was also the target of a massive no-holds-barred gotcha operation.)

Well, the president was indeed guilty of using a misplaced antecedent, which conclusively proves that he’s human (and that, contrary to another persistent right-wing myth, he isn’t hooked up intravenously to a teleprompter). But it’s a minor syntactical slip, not a major misstatement of ideology; the meaning is still clear enough to anyone who bothers to read the statement in its entirety.

But Romney’s Rangers aren’t interested in getting his real drift. They want something they can twist as grotesquely as possible and slap him in the face with — and hit the public over the head with — as often as possible.

Nor is the willful misrepresentation of Obama’s intent the only dishonest thing about the “We Built It” meme; the Republicans also tried to portray themselves as Randian superbeings who have achieved stunning success without benefiting from government programs or the efforts of other people in general — never mind that this contradicts Mitt Romney’s own previous comments, almost identical to President Obama’s, on that subject. They did this posturing in a government-owned convention facility built with tax dollars. The convention itself was financed with the aid of $18 million in taxes, and the Republican Party received $50 million in government grants for convention security.

They were meeting in Tampa to nominate a presidential candidate who has amassed a fortune with a helping hand from government subsidies and grants, and a vice presidential candidate whose family for several generations actually was involved in building those roads the president spoke of…under government contract.  The convention also featured a prominent speech from Delaware business owner (and Republican political candidate) Sher Valenzuela, touting the virtues of independent enterprise, free of all government influence, that Obama allegedly loathes and wants to squelch. Not only has Valenzuela accepted some $17 million in government funds, she has urged other small business owners to do likewise.

Meanwhile, in nearby Louisiana, GOP governor Bobby Jindal also joined in the “conservative” mantra of “government evil — give me money”,  complaining because the Obama administration supposedly didn’t deliver enough in government handouts (as these folks like to call them when somebody else gets them) with the onslaught of Hurricane Isaac — even though the administration in fact followed all appropriate protocols, earning praise from the state’s two senators (one a Republican) and corresponding almost exactly to the response George W. Bush gave to Hurricane Gustav — without complaint from Jindal. Obama is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

Lying on Auto Pilot

One of the more egregious and head-scratching comments from the candidates came from V.P. nominee Paul Ryan, speaking at the convention about an automobile factory in Wisconsin:

Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said, ‘I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.’ That’s what he said in 2008.Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.

He’s clearly suggesting that the plant’s closure was due to the president’s failure to deliver on a “promise” he never made, even though the decision to shutter the facility was made before Obama was even elected. (And Ryan has made similar claims about this on at least one previous occasion.) Hey, if  Obama can travel back in time 50 years to plant a phony birth announcement in a Hawaii newspaper, he certainly can rescue an auto plant retroactively.

When he was called on this later, he defended himself by saying:

What I was saying is, the president ought to be held to account for his broken promises. After our plant was shut down, he said he would lead efforts to retool plants like the Janesville Plant. It’s still idle. My point was not to lay blame on a plant shutdown, but this is yet another example of the president’s broken promises.

Oh. So it really wasn’t (then) Senator Obama’s fault, but it’s still an example of his “broken promises”. Got it. But wait a minute. Surely Ryan isn’t suggesting that the prez should offer some kind of government assistance to private industry. Whatever happened to “We built it on our own, by god, without any stinkin’ guvmint”? What Ryan wants you to believe, in other words, is that his statement was actually intended to undermine the leitmotiv of his entire party’s convention. Ryan, by the way, also requested funds for his district made available by the Affordable Care Act (you know, “Obamacare”), which he has vowed to demolish.  Obama is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. And damned if these people even know the difference.

But it isn’t just that Republicans are spinning lies and distortions and hypocrisies in record numbers; they’ve also developed an arrogant rejection of fact, and an utter disdain if not downright loathing for anyone who tries to set the record straight. Responding to one of the Romney camp’s lies, one of his pollsters said “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” And their actions indicate that they very much mean it.

And they have plenty of media defenders who will stand up for their right to ignore facts. A certain perennially flatulent talk show host whose name rhymes with lush, in commenting on the criticism of Ryan’s convention speech, referred to the “bogus fact-checkers”  and “drive-by media”.  Breitbart.com (the man is gone but his brilliant legacy lives on) declared, under the heading “Era of Media Fact Checkers Intimidating Republicans is Over” that “It’s official; the term ‘fact checker’ is now a punchline.” Anyone who challenges GOP whoppers is obviously “shilling for Obama” — never mind that the same fact-checkers critique statements made by Democrats.

Even the more mainstream media (you know, the “drive-by” gang) tends to use weasel words in challenging the falsehoods: “perceived inaccuracies”, “factual shortcuts”, “questionable claims”, “some say”, “according to the fact checkers”, etc.

Welcome to the brave new world envisioned by Republicans where reality is negotiable and facts are disposable. One shudders to contemplate a Romney administration as contemptuous of truth as his campaign has been.