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When Lies Are Elevated to a Campaign Strategy

| September 2, 2012

romney and ryan will never let fact-checkers get in the way of a good lie.

They’ll never let fact-checkers get in the way of a good lie.

While visiting American troops in Korea in 1966, Lyndon Johnson told them in a presumably bonding moment that his great-great grandfather had died at the Alamo. It was a lie. The historian Doris Kearns Goodwin asked him why he’d said it. “God damn it,” Johnson replied, “why must all those journalists be such sticklers for detail? Why, they’d hold you to an accurate description of the first time you ever made love, expecting you to remember the color of the room and the shape of the windows. That’s exactly what happened here. The fact is that my great-great grandfather died at the Battle of San Jacinto, not at the Alamo.” That, too, was a lie. Johnson’s ancestor, Goodwin wrote, was a real estate trader. He died at home. In bed.

pierre tristam column flaglerlive But we’ve been going down this presidential Pinocchio for as long as there’s been presidents. Between Richard Nixon’s Watergates, Ronald Reagan’s Iran-Contra contortions, Bill Clinton’s affairs with the verb “is” and George W. Bush’s weapons of mass inventions—to name a bare few—the lies of presidents could re-carve Rushmore by audacity alone.

Click On:

They had one excuse. They hoped, often with good reason, that they wouldn’t be found out. When people with eminent titles speak, and when they wrap their speeches in patriotic blather, journalists are better stenographers than fact-checkers.

But even lazy journalists have no excuse anymore. Between the Tampa Bay Times’s, the Annenberg Center’s, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker, and other organization’s similar efforts, immediate and sterling fact-checking is now part of the information landscape. It’s no more difficult to access for any reader than the weather, so voters, too, have no excuse for being misinformed.

That’s how we found out that the Obama campaign lied when it ran ads suggesting that Mitt Romney opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest (Romney does not) or that, according to a pro-Obama group’s ad, Romney was somehow responsible for the death of a steelworker’s wife for lack of insurance (there was no connection). It’s also how we found out almost immediately that Romney lied, repeatedly, when he claimed verbally and in ads that Obama was ending the work requirement in welfare (he’s not). It’s how we found out that Paul Ryan, his vice-presidential pick, lied serially and obscenely in his acceptance speech. No need to go through the list. Just follow this link.

The Republican National Convention’s first day was entirely themed around a glaring lie: that Obama had accused business owners of not having built their own businesses, when all he’d done was remind us of the vast support system, much of it government’s, that makes success possible in the United States. Still, the lie stuck and is now a campaign theme, because for all the fact-checking a mouse click away, it takes voters’ willingness to click away from their partisan prejudices. Prejudice by definition defies evidence. The presidential candidates know it, stoking prejudice to the rhythm of their electoral metronome.

And the press, that pandering mollusk, gives lies a pass by immunizing them in euphemisms. The Associated Press called Ryan’s lies “factual shortcuts.” The New York Times had an equally forgiving headline that further diluted the charge with a stab at balance—“Campaigns Play Loose With Truth”—even though the article showed lies to be disproportionately the product of the Romney-Ryan campaign. Reuters didn’t even bother including a fact-checking link to its reporting on Ryan’s or Romney’s speeches at the convention.

Doubtless the Democrats won’t be veracity’s patron saints in Charlotte this week. But what Republicans showed us from Tampa last week is that the age of mere spin, born with CNN of the 24-hour news cycle at the dawn of the Reagan era, is over. The age of outright lies is now upon us, ironically coinciding with the democratization of fact-checking, if not its denigration: “We’re not going let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” Neil Newhouse, a Romney campaign aide, said at a breakfast discussion during the Republican convention.

Let’s not blame only the candidates. Politicians would circumvent God if necessary, as Hamlet reminds us. But it takes voters’ complicity to let them circumvent facts. So far, the Romney-Ryan campaign is coasting on the blindfolds of accomplices.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here, or follow him on Twitter.

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43 Responses for “When Lies Are Elevated to a Campaign Strategy”

  1. Camelot says:

    All the “fact checking” leans to the left. Where are the reputable sources who investigate the facts I.e., Brookings, Cato, and Heritage?

    Heritage, who is more conservative, did do their research on the Welfare Reform in regards to the Obama administration claims they were trying to make it easier for citizens in need . However, what the Obama administration did, without Congress approval, allows states to weaken or wave work requirements when applying for welfare. Essentially over turning what the Clinton administration, with the pressure of the Republican Congress put in place in 96′. According to Heritage, “the law is clear that section 407 work requirements are mandatory and cannot be waved.”

    Though I’ve looked up to the moment of this writing, I have found no research on this topic from Brookings, who is a little more liberal than Heritage. Neither I have I seen anything from Cato, who are libertarians, and I must say I am disappointed, since getting all the facts help one to make a wise decision or come to a reasonable conclusion.

    Regardless if Heritage, Brookings, or Cato do the research they are formed to do, it doesn’t take a scholar to see the damage this current administration has done over the past 3 years. America cannot afford financially to support this current administration. Like any other business, if the CEO isn’t doing their job to the standards of the company, they are let go and the search for a new CEO is on.

    Folks, just look around in your own towns and cities, the evidence of a failed adminstration is everywhere.


    • mcstowy says:

      If fact-checking leans left, it’s because reality has a liberal bias.

      Do you mean the Cato that’s owned by the Kock brothers? That’s where you look for the “truth?”


  2. Dorothea says:


    Fact-checking is traditionally done by the press. But I did look around and noted that this administration brought us back from the brink of a collapsed econmy, two unfunded wars, an unfunded Medicare Part D, collapse of the auto industry, near collapse of the banks, brought us all the possibility of health insurance, and killed Osama Bin Laden. Barack Obama is the President of the United States, not a CEO, God or a miracle worker. Just think how much more he could have done had the Republicans in Congress had not blocked his every move.


    • Johnny Taxpayer says:

      Yea, he would have been a great President if only he had control of both houses of Congress for say, 2 years or so. Oh wait.


      • Dorothea says:

        @Johnny Taxpayer:

        As I have frequently pointed out it takes 60 votes to pass a bill in the Senate, not a simple majority. So, no, Obama did not have control of both houses at any time during his tenure.


    • Jim R says:


      Here is your hero’s latest triumph.
      “brought us back from two unfunded wars ” is that a joke?
      He has advanced the neocon agenda beyond what even Bush dared do, He is bombing six or seven countries, killing innocent civilians and violating international law, and principle six of the Nuremberg tribunal.
      None of this matters to Democrats , It’s what Chris Hedges calls Moral Disengagement.


      • Dorothea says:

        @Jim R.
        I didn’t say Obama brought us back from two unfunded wars, but back from the brink of a collapsed economy, the result of two unfunded wars, etc.


  3. Karma says:

    If people want to do their own fact checking, I would encourage you to drive through the industrial park on Hargrove rd of US 1 and see how many empty building are there. Check out other cities industrial parks and see same. This country is in real trouble and the last 4 years have not helped. I heard someone once say that 8% unemployment would become the norm for this country and that people would except it because of government entitlement. When was the last time unemployment was under 8% in Flagler county? But then again, I guess many of you accept it. You want 4 more years of the same.


  4. Louise says:

    “We make it possible.” the new slogan for Obama!

    Here are some examples.

    1. Higher gas prices
    2. More people on disability than jobs created
    3. More than 6 trillion in new debt
    4. Weaker dollar
    5. More regulations to strangle small business.
    6. More lies
    7. Bailout companies that shut down here and open up overseas
    8. Give taxpayer money to a brutal Islamist regime it helped create!

    Yes we can! GET RID of OBAMA….YOU are FIRED!!!!!!!!


  5. Johnny Taxpayer says:

    The author claims Republicans are taking Mr. Obama’s words out of context, but are they?

    ” that Obama had accused business owners of not having built their own businesses, ”

    Let’s look at the FULL context of Obama’s remarks. Directly from the politifact website:

    “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.”

    In full context Mr. Obama believes that the Government has created an infrastructure (who paid for that again?) that by itself allows small businesses to be successful. That it is not because the small business owner works harder than others, and it’s not because he/she is any smarter than others, it’s simply the Government put this great infrastructure in place, and therefore anyone could start a successful small business. Or to sum all that up in Mr. Obama’s own words, “If you’ve got a small business, you didn’t build that”. But then again it is not at all surprising that Mr. Obama would have this view, because he’s never worked in any type of business, not alone a small one. My 8 year old daughter has more of an appreciation for what it takes to run a successful small business than this President because she sees what her mother and I go through on a daily basis. Mr. Obama has never seen that, never experienced that, and doesn’t have the first clue of what it takes to open up shop, find customers, make a payroll, and hopefully at the end of the day have enough left over that it was worth your while to open up in the first place.
    I said it 4 years ago, and it holds even truer now. Mr. Obama was not then, and is not now qualified to run a 7-11. There is absolutely nothing in his professional working experience or his education that points to any ability whatsoever to run the smallest of small businesses, yet we entrusted him to run the largest economy in the world. 4 years later the economy is no better than it was then, and yet some seem surprised, or blame the republicans because they control half of 1 of 3 branches of government for the past 18 months.
    As Clint Eastwood said the other night, when it’s not working out, it’s time to let him go and find somebody else. This is not working out. He tried his $1 trillion stimulus, he tried his several $trillion Obamacare, he tried his auto bailout by killing bond holders and turning over ownership to the Government and the UAW (how’s GM doing again?), contrary to the popular talking point that house republicans in 18 months in power have blocked everything, (even though he had full control of congress for 2 years) he’s gotten virtually every major piece of legislation that he wanted passed, it hasn’t worked out. It’s time to let him go and try somebody else.


  6. Ben Blakely says:

    Pierre Tristam is a raving socialist. He is incapable of writing any newsworthy copy and MUST BE FIRED.

    If he is so much in love with the failed principals of socialism, then let him go to work for his glorious leader and liar/failure in chief.
    GET LOST Pierre. You are toxic and offensive here.


    • Dorothea says:

      @Ben Blakely

      You who extolled the virtues of the Tea Party and claimed the memberships’ understanding of the Constitution in another comment, now want to fire Pierre Tristam because you disagree with with his politics? You better get back to reading the First Amendment of the Constituion.

      However, the thought of Pierre Tristam firing himself does make me laugh. Kind of like Cllint Eastwood’s empty chair speech where Eastwood says, “What do you want me to tell Romney?” Eastwood asked the empty chair. “I can’t tell him to do that to himself … “


  7. Magicone says:

    OBAMA……One Big Ass Mistake America………..These super Pacs are ruining our democracy regardless of your party. Obama needs another 4 years, because in this economy he won’t be able to find a job. Lets put him on unemployment in November. He has been campaigning for the past year instead of staying in D.C. and dealing with what needs to be dealt with.


  8. Jim R says:

    What exactly is Socialism in your opinion? We could use a little socialism to control the vulture capitalism that has wrecked our Democracy. The propaganda efforts of the elites that control the political system have been successful beyond their wildest dreams, convincing millions that them having all the wealth is the way it should be, and sharing some of that wealth with the rest of us is socialism.what B.S.
    Pierre is sharing his house with us, do you think asking him to move is a little unmannerly


  9. Vulture says:

    Definition of ‘Vulture Capitalist’
    1. A slang word for a venture capitalist who deprives an inventor of control over their own innovations and most of the money they should have made from the invention.

    2. A venture capitalist who invests in floundering firms in the hopes that they will turn around.

    Anyone who would blame an investor for this current mess must be in an OBAMAFANTASY parallel universe oblique to reason and sanity.


    • Jim R says:

      It’s Vulture Capitalism not venture. Vulture as in something that feeds on a rotting carcass, that rotting carcass is the workers and middle class of America. They created the rotting carcass with globalism and Free Trade deals and the corporate imperative of the bottom line above all else.


  10. jespo says:

    How easy is it to forget, or pretend to forget, that this country was run for eight years by George Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove; that it was their policys and decisions that started this massive ball of crap rolling downhill? How can Republicans, Neocons, and Tea Party Nationalists look Americans in the eye and state that President Obama and his administration is responsible for the entire dismal state of this country? Where were these men at the recent RNC? Why would they not invite their latest President to the convention? It’s because they’re embarassed by him, know he’s responsible for starting this mess, and want to distance themselves so badly that they would rather drag out on stage a dribbling muttering pop icon of toughness and have him speak to a chair like some doddering old fool for laughs. How despicable.

    I’m not a big fan of Obama or his policys, but I’m also not a negro fearing, bible loving, nostalgia yearning, regulation hating, woman despising xenophobic homophobe who wishes to bring my country back to an imaginary place sometime in the past. “Take America back!” Take America back? What a ridiculous thing to say, as if the country went somewhere. ‘THEY” run it now, eh? Who is drawing lines in the sand? Who is being obstructionist? Who is not coming to the table? Who is pouting in the corner like a child? Who doesn’t come close to being the party to run this country when you refuse to own up your party’s involvement in the problem? Authority entails responsibility, and responsibility demands culpability. If you can’t own that, you don’t have what it takes to have authority and be a leader, let alone my President.


  11. Who's next says:

    The country has been running a deficit and accumulating debt since Lyndon Johnson. The Federal Reserve has robbed all of us while we watched them print money just a little faster than the government could borrow it……how does it feel??? U R cheated……Those people you listed didn’t help the situation and neither did OBAMA……


  12. Magicone says:

    Obamas new slogan should be “Bend Over Forward America I am not done yet”


  13. RightIsRight says:

    I always say, “follow the money” to understand people’s motivation and how they will portray their opponents.

    Why do liberals want more government dependency? Because they either depend on government handouts or they have a job administering the government handouts. Why are colleges and universities left leaning? Because the government has ensured a huge stream of funds from students that can borrow thousands in unsecured debt. Why do lawyers tend to support democrats? Because more laws will equate to a bigger demand for their services. Why do conservatives want less government? Because they rely on the private sector for their livelihood and want private wealth to stay there instead of in the abyss of government waste and dependency. Why does Pierre write liberal articles? Because liberal policies have put this country on path of destruction that make for interesting reading.


  14. Dorothea says:


    You might be surprised to find that many of us have beliefs that are not based on a money trail, but based on what we happen to believe is the correct and most beneficial direction for our country. Your cynicism aside, I don’t believe for a second that Pierre leans either left or right because it makes interesting reading for the Archie Bunker Brigade or the left, but because that’s what he believes.


  15. Anonymous says:

    Democracy, I see this term bandied about to describe the United States of America’s form of government. We are not nor have ever been a Democracy. The United States of America is a Federated Republic; look it up if you do not believe me. In a Democracy everyone votes on everything, such as in Ancient Greece which by the way failed because when people have access to the money guess what they vote themselves more money by granting more gifts to themselves. A Republic is a form of government in which people vote for representatives to voice their desires and wants upon the government stage. Does this sound familiar? A Federation is a division of power structure within the governmental bodies which consists of the National leadership with more localized divisions below it. Though the National leadership holds sway over the whole and makes policies which affect the all at a national level the lower bodies of government have control over their respected responsibilities. Again does this sound familiar? We are NOT a Democracy! Furthermore read the constitution all of its articles in the original format then read the newer updated version and see the difference. Many say the Constitution is a living document, heard this a lot during the Clinton administration when he was trying to subvert many of its articles to pass bills that violated its mandate. This document is the only reason we as a nation are so great, it gave us the freedom to excel as individuals, to fail as individuals and rejoice in our freedoms and accomplishments as a group. LONG LIVE THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!


    • forwardthinker says:

      Dorothea.. thank you for your grip on the facts.. Perhaps it has been forgotten by the ravers above, that it was stated right out in the open by one of the top members of the house, said right after President Obama was elected.. ” Our main objective is to do whatever it takes to prevent a re-election in 2012. Well they have been true to their word.. at the expense of all of us. Their opposition to The Jobs Act bill was disgraceful. Romneycare was introduced and is still working, long before so called Obamacare was mandated. I hope all you ravers about the “truth” have a couple of swiss bank accounts or at least something put away in the Caymans … because if your man gets in.. you are going to have to do some tapping.


    • Jim R says:

      Right, it is a republic based on Democratic principles that every citizen has a vote and say so in how the Govt is run. We do it through the representatives we elect. It just no longer matters who we vote for because the system has been corrupted by $


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