Rachel Maddow has treated Mitt Romney’s constant, unapologetic, serial lying about virtually everything having to do with himself, the economy, his campaign, and the Obama administration. She thinks that Romney’s campaign is new in the quantity of lying and in the fact that they feel no need even to correct their claims when their lying is exposed. I beg to differ. I think the lies here are almost identical in type and quantity to the lies told by the George W. Bush’s campaigns.
For example, Maddow cites a quotation from Romney surrogate Karl Rove in which he claims that Obama’s decision on sending in Seal Team 6 ™ was completely ordinary and quotes Bill Clinton saying, “It was the call I would have made,” about it. Rove left off the crucial phrase, that directly contradicted the meaning he was attributing to Clinton, “I hope that it was the call I would have made"[emphasis added]. Obviously, Clinton’s actual sentence had a completely different meaning to the one Rove claimed. Rove’s lie is similar to the previous Romney campaign commercial lie in which Obama is heard saying, “If we talk about the economy, we will lose,” when in fact Obama was saying in 2008 that the McCain campaign was saying, “If we [the McCain campaign] talk about the economy, we will lose.” Clearly, taking quotes out of context to change their meaning is a standard operating procedure of the Romney campaign.
However, Maddow is suffering a bit of amnesia. These out-of-context quotes were a staple of Bush campaigns past. Here are but two examples. The first is the Bush campaign taking a quote out of context to make it appear that he had received an endorsement from the New York Times (not something that would help in the current Republican primary campaign, of course).
Bush advertising fliers touted a New York Times endorsement, quoting the Times as saying: “He has a clear and compelling idea in his mind of where he wants to take the nation.” [One should be immediately skeptical because the Times would never use such a linguistic barbarism.] The
The second example is a variety of strawman. On the campaign trail after a debate with John Kerry, Bush quoted Kerry as saying that our military actions needed to pass a ‘global test’, and this test, Bush asserted, meant that France would have veto power over our use of the military. Needless to say, Kerry meant that this ‘global test’ would mean only that we should have such compelling reasons to act militarily that we could make our case to the world and demonstrate the necessity of military action. In fact, the direct preceding sentence from Kerry was, 'I will never cede America's security to any institution or any other country.' Clearly, Bush’s campaign had prepared him to take out of context so that he could make it appear that his opponent meant the exact negation of what he had said.
So, the Romney-Rove playbook is not something new in politics but something a few years old renewed. I almost feel a certain nostalgia for this kind of lying, coming as it does after claims that Obama ‘pals around with terrorists’ or tries to implement ‘death panels’ in his health care law to let him kill old people. Whereas Rove’s lies are complete negations of the claims made by his opponents, Sarah Palin's (and other recent right-wing) lies force us to occupy, temporarily at least, to live in the twisted fantasy realm that might be considered the right-wing mind just to try to discover why they even say these things. The Rove-Romney lies are almost quaint in their straightforward mendacity rather than bats#$t insanity.
It’s possible that the national media are even less likely to contradict Romney’s lies than they were to contradict Bush’s, but I'm not sure this is true. I remember the laments during the Gore campaign about how Rove got to look like a genius because no one in the media ever seemed to call him on his lies. And, honestly, when the media were, on their own accord, busily attributing claims to Gore that he had never made, they rarely spent time checking Bush's campaigns claims about their opponents.