The New York Timeseditorialized today, "It's bad enough to be wrong on the policy. It takes an especially dishonest candidate to simply turn up the volume on a lie and keep repeating it." What's more, the Toledo Bladechastised Romney today for "conducting an exercise in deception about auto-industry issues that is remarkable even by the standards of his campaign."
And for its part, the Obama campaign unveiled this new ad this afternoon, noting that Romney's 11th-hour push is based on a fraudulent foundation.
There's a larger significance to spots like these. At the surface, Obama uses messages like these to stay on the offensive while keeping one his strongest issues -- the rescue of the American auto industry -- in the spotlight.
But I also continue to believe the Obama campaign is invested in making "trust" a closing theme of the election, and by getting caught lying so blatantly, Romney is making the president's job easier.
The irony is, as recently as August, General Motors and Chrysler desperately wanted to be left out of the 2012 political debate. Indeed, both manufacturers, saved from collapse by President Obama's policy, didn't even want the candidates making campaign stops at their plants.
But Mitt Romney didn't leave them with much of a choice. He forced the companies to intervene.
Yesterday, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne felt it necessary to tell his employees that Romney's lying. Soon after, General Motors did the same thing.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has broadened his attack on President Barack Obama's auto industry restructuring, implying that General Motors used the aid to hire more workers in China than in the U.S. [...]
"We've clearly entered some parallel universe during these last few days," GM spokesman Greg Martin said. "No amount of campaign politics at its cynical worst will diminish our record of creating jobs in the U.S. and repatriating profits back to this country."
Look, I understand why Romney's lying. When the American auto industry was on the brink of collapse, President Obama stepped up with a rescue plan, and Romney insisted the plan would fail. Romney was wrong; Obama was right. In states like Ohio and Michigan, few issues matter more -- hundreds of thousands of jobs were on the line.
Romney has run out of ways to explain his failure, so he's lashing out with demonstrable falsehoods. The Republican knows the claims aren't true, and he's aware of the fact that knowledgeable people realize he's lying, but Romney assumes regular folks are fools, and won't know the difference. If he wins, the ends will justify the means.
Maybe he's running for president of Chutzpah Town.
In any case, it appears Chrysler, which was rescued as part of President Obama's policy, is getting annoyed with Romney's false claims.
Chrysler Group LLC CEO Sergio Marchionne rejected an assertion from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney that Chrysler is planning on moving Jeep production to China.
"I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China," Marchionne said in an email to employees Tuesday, a copy of which was obtained by The Detroit News.
In fact, he said the company will continue to expand Jeep manufacturing in this country.
"Jeep is one of our truly global brands with uniquely American roots. This will never change. So much so that we committed that the iconic Wrangler nameplate, currently produced in our Toledo, Ohio, plant, will never see full production outside the United States," Marchionne said. "Jeep assembly lines will remain in operation in the United States and will constitute the backbone of the brand. It is inaccurate to suggest anything different."
Marchionne's efforts were apparently necessary because panicked auto workers heard Romney's falsehoods and feared for their jobs.
Incidentally, if Marchionne's name sounds familiar, last year, the Chrysler chief was asked about Romney's position that the industry could have bounced back relying solely on private funds. "Whoever told you that is smoking illegal material," he responded. "That market had become absolutely dysfunctional in 2008 and 2009. There were attempts made by a variety of people to find strategic alliances with other car makers on a global scale and the government stepped in, as the actor of last resort. It had to do it because the consequences would have been just too large to deal with."
Mitt Romney took a gamble. Fearing defeat in Ohio, the Republican said Chrysler was poised to move Jeep production to China, a claim with no foundation in reality. After getting caught lying, Romney doubled down, turning the same bogus claim into a television ad.
Democrats are eager to make Romney pay for the bad bet. Consider Vice President Biden's remarks in Ohio yesterday.
Biden noted of Romney's mendacity, "I've served with eight presidents; I have never seen this in my public life.... Ladies and gentlemen, have they no shame? Romney will say anything, absolutely anything, to win, it seems. But he can't run from the truth."
It's not just the president's re-election campaign; news organizations that have been largely prepared to tolerate Romney's falsehoods seem troubled by the Republican's 11th-hour deception. Greg Sargent pulled together a series of press reports published today in the major Ohio dailies, all of which focused on Romney getting caught lying, including a very tough Cleveland Plain Dealereditorial: "Ohio voters know who stepped up when the auto industry was at the abyss -- and it wasn't Romney."
Greg added, "This is hardly a comprehensive look at the local coverage, but it does suggest the possibility that Romney's Jeep-to-China gamble may be backfiring."
I'd just add that, at an institutional level, this is more or less how American elections are supposed to work.
The reason national candidates have traditionally been reluctant to lie with Romney-like frequency is that there was a disincentive -- there were likely to get caught, and the resulting fallout wasn't worth the risk.
And the reason Romney lies with Romney-like frequency is because he believes we've entered a post-truth era and the disincentive has disappeared -- he can repeat falsehoods with impunity without fear of consequences. If he faces genuine pushback on the Jeep/Chrysler/China falsehood, and voters are made aware of the fact that the candidate is spewing nonsense because he doesn't trust them enough to be honest with them, it would be a step towards restoring a degree of equilibrium to the damaged discourse.
We talked earlier about Mitt Romney getting caught repeating a blatant untruth last week -- he falsely claimed Jeep may be moving "all production to China" -- then in an astounding display of chutzpah, turning that falsehood into a television ad.
This afternoon, the Obama released its response ad, targeting Romney's "dishonesty."
For those who can't watch clips online, a voiceover tells viewers:
"When the auto industry faced collapse, Mitt Romney turned his back. Even the conservative Detroit News criticized Romney for his 'wrong-headedness' on the bailout. And now, after Romney's false claim of Jeep outsourcing to China, Chrysler itself has refuted Romney's lie. The truth? Jeep is adding jobs in Ohio."
"Mitt Romney on Ohio jobs? Wrong then, dishonest now."
As for Team Romney, its obviously misleading commercial is airing in at least two Ohio markets, though as Sam Stein noted, the campaign is choosing not to mount "a substantive defense of the ad's content." They've been exposed making fraudulent claims, but they don't seem to give a damn.
Indeed, Romney aides are avoiding the most offensive lies in their ad, while also dodging the easy stuff -- asked about the stated claim that Romney "plan to help the auto industry," the campaign could offer nothing to support the claim.
Late last week, Mitt Romney ran into a little trouble on one of his biggest vulnerabilities. Campaigning in Ohio, the Republican said he'd seen a story that Jeep may be moving "all production to China." Romney wasn't telling the truth, as Chrysler itself made clear.
When most candidates get caught telling a falsehood like this, they have decide how best to minimize the damage, possibly with an apology. Romney, however, plays by his own set of rules -- he turned the falsehood into a television ad airing in Ohio.
Everything about Romney's ad is deceptive, and he surely knows it. Jonathan Cohn tears the ad to shreds, but I'd just add a few related observations.
Note, for example, the way in which the ad weaves together clear falsehoods and claims that are technically accurate but wildly misleading. Romney has "a plan" to help the auto industry? If he does, he's hiding it well. Romney is supported by the Detroit News? The paper endorsed him, but called Romney's approach to the auto rescue "wrong-headed."
As for China, the ad leaves voters with the impression that Chrysler is moving operations abroad, which is plainly false. The company is going to build Jeeps in China for Chinese consumers, but American jobs are staying in America. Indeed, Chrysler is adding to the domestic workforce so it can -- you guessed it -- build more Jeeps here in the U.S.
Asked to defend the transparently deceptive ad, the Romney campaign referred Sam Stein to the Bloomberg News article the candidate referenced last week. But as everyone, including Romney and his aides, now knows, that's the right's interpretation of the article is wrong. But therein lies the trick: the Republican campaign just doesn't care.
Even for Mitt Romney, this level of mendacity borders on nauseating.
It's important, on a substantive level, for the public to understand that Romney is trying to mislead them about the underlying policy, but it's also important to appreciate the larger context: Romney simply doesn't respect voters enough to be honest with them. For the Republican candidate, it's an era of post-truth politics, in which he no longer even cares about getting caught lying.
As for why he's so eager to deliberately mislead the public, Obama's successful rescue of the American auto industry is a very difficult issue for Romney to deal with, especially in a state like Ohio that benefited so directly from the president's accomplishment.
Remember, when Obama initially gambled, Romney said we could "kiss the American automotive industry goodbye" if the administration's policy was implemented. At the time, Romney called the White House plan "tragic" and "a very sad circumstance for this country." He wrote an April 2009 piece in which he said Obama's plan "would make GM the living dead."
We now know, of course, that Romney was wrong and Obama was right. When the American auto industry, the backbone of the nation's manufacturing sector, stood at the brink of collapse, it was the president's rescue that worked, which was the opposite of what Romney said would happen.
Unsure how to proceed, Romney has been reduced to a gamble of his own: blatantly lying to voters and hoping to get away with it. In this specific case, it's just sad to see what this candidate is willing to do to advance his ambitions. In general, it reinforces a larger problem -- as Rachel noted on "Meet the Press" yesterday, "There's been a truthfulness problem with the Romney campaign that connects even to the very basic issues."
Mitt Romney campaigned in Defiance, Ohio, last night, and rolled out a new argument. "I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China," he said. "I will fight for every good job in America, I'm going to fight to make sure trade is fair, and if it's fair, America will win."
There are a few problems with this line of attack, starting with the simple fact that Romney wasn't telling the truth. As Chrysler itself explained, the company intends to build Jeeps in China to be sold in China, but isn't moving American jobs abroad.
On Oct. 22, 2012, at 11:10 a.m. ET, the Bloomberg News report "Fiat Says Jeep® Output May Return to China as Demand Rises" stated "Chrysler currently builds all Jeep SUV models at plants in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. Manley (President and CEO of the Jeep brand) referred to adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China."
Despite clear and accurate reporting, the take has given birth to a number of stories making readers believe that Chrysler plans to shift all Jeep production to China from North America, and therefore idle assembly lines and U.S. workforce. It is a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats.
Let's set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China. It's simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world's largest auto market. U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation. A careful and unbiased reading of the Bloomberg take would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments. [emphasis in the original]
All of this, incidentally, is rather ironic given the successful efforts of the Obama administration when it comes to China and Jeeps, specifically.
Greg Sargent explained well why this matters: "Romney may very well be the next president. That's a position of some responsibility. Yet he and his campaign rushed to tell voters a story designed to stoke their fears for their livelihoods without bothering to vet it for basic accuracy. This is not a small thing. It reveals the depth of Romney's blithe lack of concern for the truth -- and the subservience of it to his own political ambitions."
Indeed, we can take this a step further.
Romney specifically urged business leaders to give their employees voting instructions -- many took Romney's suggestion seriously -- and as a consequence, workers in a growing number of businesses are being told their jobs may be dependent on the outcome of the election.
Romney's comments in Defiance are part of the same kind of fear-based argument: vote the right way or you'll be unemployed. Your livelihood is at stake, so support the candidate who opposed President Obama's successful rescue of the auto industry and got rich laying off American workers.
For additional context, it's worth noting that the Detroit News reports today that Chrysler is adding an additional 1,100 new jobs. Why? To build more Jeeps right here in the United States.
A key part of Mitt Romney's strategy in last night's debate was to shift the focus away from foreign policy -- even in the debate devoted to foreign policy -- and onto the economy. There was, however, one problem with the tactic: Romney is wrong about domestic issues, too.
By some measures, one of the most contentious exchanges of the night was over President Obama's successful rescue of the American auto industry.
The dispute was pretty straightforward: Obama said to Romney, "You were very clear that you would not provide government assistance to the U.S. auto companies even if they went through bankruptcy. You said that they could get it in the private marketplace. That wasn't true."
Romney said in response, "You're wrong," three times. The Republican concluded, "People can look it up."
What a good idea.
In a debate in which many of the disputes are subjective, it's nice to have an argument in which there's an objective truth. Romney told viewers last night that his position was that American auto makers "can get government help and government guarantees" as part of the bankruptcy process.
Depending on how generous one is inclined to be, this is either a lie or a stunning case of "Romnesia."
Jonathan Cohn, who's done some great reporting on the auto rescue in recent years, noted Romney's condemnation during the Republican primaries of using public funds for the industry. Here's what Romney said during a debate in late 2011:
"My view with regards to the bailout was that whether it was by President Bush or by President Obama, it was the wrong way to go. I said from the very beginning they should go through a managed bankruptcy process, a private bankruptcy process. We have capital markets and bankruptcy. ... My plan, we would have had a private sector bailout with the private sector restructuring and bankruptcy with the private sector guiding the direction as opposed to what we had with government playing its heavy hand."
As a substantive matter, this didn't make any sense -- capital markets were frozen at the height of the crisis, and the money simply wasn't there. It was either the government or nothing. Last night, Romney argued the opposite of his position, saying he supported auto makers getting "government help."
By any measure, this isn't just a flip-flop; it's failing to tell the truth about a flip-flop.
And in terms of political salience, all of this only serves as a reminder to the nation -- most notably some folks in Ohio -- that if Romney had his way, the American auto industry would have collapsed, waiting for private investment that would have never come.
It was just a few years ago that policymakers, with the American auto industry on the brink of collapse, had a decision to make. President Obama launched an ambitious rescue, and immediately, Mitt Romney said we could "kiss the American automotive industry goodbye" if the administration's policy was implemented.
Indeed, at the time, Romney called the White House plan "tragic" and "a very sad circumstance for this country." He wrote an April 2009 piece in which he said Obama's plan "would make GM the living dead."
At a time when housing starts are sputtering and there are few other solid signs of a recovering economy the U.S. auto industry has become the little engine that could.
Once all the makers weigh in with their August numbers by day's end sales for the month will likely show about a 16 percent year-over-year gain. And while the market, at best, is expected to total 14.5 million this year, well off from its 17-million peak, "There's not much else we can point to these days that's anywhere near as buoyant," said analyst Joe Phillippi, of AutoTrends Consulting.
The Associated Press found Detroit car companies "all reported double-digit increases in sales for the month compared with the same period a year ago."
Under the circumstances, and given the timing of the news, it's hard to miss the political implications.
Remember, when Obama launched his rescue policy, it was a real gamble, and Republicans were absolutely certain the plan was hopeless. It was a foregone conclusion, they said, since government intervention in the marketplace is always a disaster. Their ideology told them everything they needed to know -- every aspect of conservative governance told GOP policymakers the success of Obama's rescue would fail.
Consider the predictions made at the time, as pulled together by ThinkProgress.
Rep. John Boehner (R-OH): "Does anyone really believe that politicians and bureaucrats in Washington can successfully steer a multi-national corporation to economic viability?" [6/1/09]
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL): "It's basically going to be a government-owned, government-run company.... It's the road toward socialism." [5/29/09]
RNC Chairman Michael Steele: "No matter how much the President spins GM's bankruptcy as good for the economy, it is nothing more than another government grab of a private company and another handout to the union cronies who helped bankroll his presidential campaign." [6/1/2009]
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC): "Now the government has forced taxpayers to buy these failing companies without any plausible plan for profitability. Does anyone think the same government that plans to double the national debt in five years will turn GM around in the same time?" [6/2/09]
Rep. Tom Price (R-GA): "Unfortunately, this is just another sad chapter in President Obama's eager campaign to interject his administration in the private sector's business dealings." [6/2/09]
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX): The auto company rescues "have been the leading edge of the Obama administration's war on capitalism." [7/22/09]
Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ): When government gets involved in a company, "the disaster that follows is predictable." [7/22/09]
They were prepared to let the industry die, or in Romney's infamous words, "let Detroit go bankrupt." With the benefit of hindsight, we now know they were wrong and Obama was right.
I suspect we'll hear some gloating in Charlotte this week, and at least in this case, it'll be understandable.
The list of falsehoods Paul Ryan told at the Republican National Convention last night isn't short, but there's one, in particular, that seems to be generating the most attention.
"My home state voted for President Obama. When he talked about change, many people liked the sound of it, especially in Janesville, where we were about to lose a major factory.
"A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. 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."
For regular readers, the anecdote may have sounded familiar -- Ryan has incorporated the anecdote into his speeches before, I took it apart two weeks ago.
To their credit, plenty of campaign reporters immediately recognized one of the major flaws in Ryan's attack -- the GM plant in Janesville was shut down before Obama took office. Take a look at that photo included above, and then notice the date on the banner. GM's press release announcing the closing of the plant was issued in June 2008. One of the local papers ran this headline in December 2008, the month before Obama's inauguration: "Hugs, tears as GM workers leave Janesville plant for last time."
Republicans are going to greatlengths to argue that Ryan didn't actually mislead the country. They're wrong; Ryan's argument was obviously and deliberately deceptive. The truth matters, and Ryan's version of reality isn't it.
But the closer one looks at Ryan's attack, the more bizarre it appears.
At the surface, there's just no reason to suggest Obama is responsible for a plant closing initiated under Bush. But even beyond the surface-level lie, the ideological disconnect is almost as striking.
President Obama, as you may have heard, rescued the American auto industry in 2009, over Republican objections. In the process, Obama not only saved GM, he rescued plants, workers, and communities.
Ryan, unwilling to respect Americans enough to talk to us like adults, is trying to make a child-like appeal: the plant is closed, Obama is president, ergo blame Obama for the plant closing.
But that's ridiculous. If it weren't for the president's policy, the Janesville plant wouldn't have been the only one closed. Indeed, Ryan's running mate would have allowed all the GM plants to close as part of his "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" policy.
Does Ryan seriously want us to believe Obama's policy wasn't big enough? He wanted an even more ambitious government response? Is the new Republican argument, "Sure, Obama rescued the industry, but he only saved most of the GM plants, not all of them"?
Postscript: Given Romney's work at Bain Capital, Ryan probably ought to shy away from the whole subject of plant closings.
Update: Greg Sargent talked to a Ryan supporter in Janesville who offered a helpful perspective and isn't willing to blame Obama for the fate of the plant.
In Ohio last week, Republican Senate hopeful Josh Mandel raised a few eyebrows, going to almost comical lengths to avoid taking a position on President Obama's rescue of the American auto industry. This week, Mandel changed direction, condemning the rescue that saved hundreds of thousands of Ohio jobs.
Indeed, Mandel called the policy "un-American," which is absurd and risky given how successful the policy was, especially in the Buckeye State.
But that's not all Mandel is saying this week. The estimable Zachary Roth had this report yesterday.
In an effort to raise money from conservatives, Josh Mandel, the Republican candidate for Ohio's U.S. Senate seat, is falsely accusing President Obama of "trying to suppress the military vote." Even in a political environment awash in hard-hitting and often misleading charges, the accusation stands out as a flat-out lie.
"President Obama and the Democratic National Committee are trying to suppress the military vote in Ohio," writes Mandel in a fundraising email sent Monday afternoon to conservative activists and obtained by Lean Forward. [...] "As a veteran, this absolutely makes my blood boil," Mandel adds, before asking for money.
It's important to realize the severity of a lie this blatant. How offensive is Mandel's falsehood? Put it this way: it's so outrageous, even Mitt Romney stopped repeating it after leveling the false charge earlier this month.
The truth isn't particularly complicated. Four years ago, Ohio allowed voters an early-voting window of three days before Election Day, which in turn boosted turnout and alleviated long lines. This year, Republican officials wanted to close the window -- active-duty servicemen and women could vote early, but no one else, not even veterans, could enjoy the same right.
President Obama's campaign team filed suit, asking for a level playing field, giving every eligible Ohio voter -- active-duty troops, veterans, and civilians -- equal access.
Mandel thinks this is evidence of "trying to suppress the military vote." Even he should understand how painfully ridiculous this is, and the honorable thing to do would be to denounce this garbage.
Ask the typical Republican policymaker for an opinion on President Obama's rescue of the American auto industry, and you'll get an earful about an "outrageous abuse" and the scourge of "bailouts." It doesn't matter that Obama's policy worked better than expected -- what matters is that the successful policy runs counter to the GOP's ideology.
But Republican opposition isn't universal. Republicans in Michigan, for example, tend to admit that the president made the right call and generally applaud the policy that helped hundreds of thousands of families in the Midwest.
Occasionally, though, we'll find a conservative politician who just doesn't want to take a side (via Dave Weigel).
In this clip, a reporter in Dayton asks U.S. Senate hopeful Josh Mandel (R) of Ohio whether he would have supported Obama's rescue policy. "I will do everything I can as a United States Senator to protect auto jobs," he replied.
Asked if he's willing to answer the question, the Republican said, "We've talked quite a bit throughout the state of Ohio about all the great plans we have for protecting auto jobs here." Pressed for a direct answer, Mandel responds, "Great seeing you."
If the Senate candidate denounces Obama's policy, Mandel condemns a rescue effort that help save Ohio's economy at a time of severe crisis. If he endorses Obama's policy, Mandel sides with the president he hates and is desperate to undermine.
So he's left to clumsily dodge the question in a way that makes him appear rather foolish.
How long can Mandel seriously expect to keep this up? Quite a while, actually -- the Republican has come this far without ever giving an opinion on Obama's successful rescue policy.
If Mandel and his wealthy friends weren't outspending Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) by such an enormous margin, it's hard to imagine how this race would even be competitive.