Obama, Romney Campaign Ads Hit New Level of Dishonesty

Is it any wonder people are turned off by politics?

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The most frustrating job in politics or journalism these days must be working for the campaign ad fact-checking operations at major newspapers and places like PolitiFact. Oh, it's not that these scrubbers lack material—quite the opposite, in fact. But it seems it doesn't matter what they find or report. People want to believe what they want to believe, and all of the cold, hard facts in the world won't shake that. The fact that a substantial group of people still believes President Barack Obama is a Muslim proves that. But this campaign has taken the misinformation to a new level.

First, there's an ad on behalf of the Obama campaign, done by the super PAC Priorities USA, that essentially blames Mitt Romney for a woman's cancer death. The ad is misleading on so many levels, it's difficult to know how to dissect it. The man in the ad says he lost his job at a steel company Bain Capital had a part in closing, lost his health insurance, and years later, his wife died of cancer. Iffy enough as it is, the ad is even worse—Romney was working on the Olympics at the time of the steel plant closure, the wife had gotten health insurance from her own employer, and it appears she waited a while before seeking treatment. It's a sad story, to be sure, and we can all feel sorry for this widower. But to throw her blood on Romney's face is over the top.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

It doesn't matter, either, that the ad was roundly criticized in the media and by the Romney campaign. In fact, the controversy just ended up drawing more attention to the ad, which was only available on the web anyway.

Then we have Romney's campaign accusing Obama of trying to "gut" welfare reform by taking out the requirement that people work or enter a job training program. This is patently untrue; the Obama administration merely issued rules allowing states to get waivers so they have more flexibility in reaching the goals and rules of the law (oh—and Romney sought  a different sort of waiver on the welfare reform law when he was governor of Massachusetts). Obama, in this case, was forced to run his own ad repudiating the Romney ad.

[Robert Schlesinger: Lies, Damned Lies, and Mitt Romney's Ads]

Maybe the ads will work; maybe they won't. But it made a lot for money for campaign ad-makers, and both ads helped reassure committed Romney and Obama supporters of what they believe—even if it's not based in fact. So either Obama is just another liberal giving away hard-working taxpayers' money to (substantially African-American) poor people, or Romney's a mean-spirited liar.

Is it any wonder people are turned off by politics?

  • Read the U.S. News Debate: Has the Dishonesty in the 2012 Campaign Reached Unprecedented Lows?
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