The Olympic Games are over but the political games continue. It’s too bad the presidential race doesn’t have a strict set of rules like the 100 or 400 meter races on the track or in the pool: no cheating or other dishonesty, no tripping your opponent, etc.
There are rules against “doping” (in this analogy I’d equate that with taking illegal campaign contributions). But in every election cycle the campaign of one or more well-known politicians is discovered to have received a donation that is larger than allowed, is from the family of a fugitive or some other source that should have raised a red flag.
If media outlets were required to provide free air time to candidates when their opponent’s advertising contained a lie that could be proven, nasty ads would disappear. Of course, there would have to be a mechanism to rule on the truth or falsehood quickly, not the years similar fraud or defamation suits can take now.
The campaigns and PACs of both presidential candidates are guilty of using misleading ads in recent months. Since Nevada polls have the race in a statistical tie here, we are seeing the ads frequently.
Mitt Romney recently ran an ad, funded by the Republican National Committee, that accuses President Obama of eliminating the requirement that welfare recipients work or go to school under most circumstances. It is true that there is video from June 8, 1998 where Mr.Obama says he is “not a fan” of the 1996 Clinton welfare reform legislation. But the administration’s order from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) this July only specifies that states may have some leeway to craft their state’s welfare program for their needs. Of course, that does open the door for states to make changes or eliminate the work requirement, but the HHS order did not tell them to do so.
A large number of analysts and news outlets have brought out the details of this, so it is disappointing to see the Romney campaign running a second ad reiterating the same claims from the first ad.
If the 2012 election were an athletic race, the anti-Romney advertisement from the Priorities USA PAC would be called for a foul. Besides containing misleading statements and several Democrats lying in the ad’s defense, it was in very poor taste.
The ad features Joe Soptic, who worked for a company which was ultimately shut down by Bain Capital, the venture capital company founded by Romney. Soptic states that he lost his health insurance along with his job and his wife became ill, but did not go to the doctor because she lacked insurance and died 22 days after being diagnosed with cancer. Those were the only facts given and in that order. The accusation is clear: his wife died because Bain closed his company and the family had no insurance – and it is all Mitt Romney’s fault.
When people began to complain about the ad, Stephanie Cutter, Obama Campaign Deputy Manager, went on several news shows and said she knew nothing about Mr. Soptic’s story. That was proven to be a lie when an audio tape was uncovered with a May 14, 2012 conference call where Soptic told his story. Ms. Cutter was a participant, being referred to by name by Soptic.
Soptic is clearly trying to take revenge on Romney. His grief is understandable, but that does not make it acceptable to leave out important facts. In a January 10, 2012 interview, Soptic said he was offered a buy-out, which he refused. Buy-out offers often include insurance coverage for a time. Another important fact uncovered a few days after the controversy began was that Mrs. Soptic was employed when her husband was laid-off and had health insurance through her job. She had no insurance when diagnosed with cancer, but not in any way because of Bain Capital.
The Obama administration has not refuted nor apologized for the ad. Yet in Pueblo, Colorado, on August 9, Mr. Obama criticized PAC ads, especially those that blame him for the bad economy!
In an ad that ran in Nevada in June, President Obama claimed that 4.3 million jobs have been created during his presidency. The KTVN news “Reality Check” segment on June 21 stated that the claim is “misleading”. The jobs created were private sector jobs. Mr. Obama conveniently left out all the jobs lost at all levels of government across the US. When you do the math, the net change (jobs added minus jobs lost) is 552,000 jobs lost in the past 3.5 years.
This week the Obama campaign and PACs are attacking GOP vice-presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan. The ads, and Mr. Obama’s statements while campaigning in Iowa, incorrectly state that Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” budget plan would end Medicare “as we know it”. Actually, Ryan’s plan would keep everyone who is 55 years or older right now on traditional Medicare.* Those younger could choose Medicare “as we know it“, or choose an option that allows them to pick their insurance plan. Under the latter arrangement, the government would pay a certain amount; if the individual chooses a more expensive plan, they would pay the difference. (Keep in mind that Medicare “as we know it” only pays 80% of expenses and most seniors purchase supplemental insurance.) The other oft-repeated claim is that the Ryan plan would cost seniors an additional $6400. Not “future seniors”, just “seniors”, implying the plan would affect those currently on Medicare, which is not true. (For younger Americans, $6400 more – if true – would be better than nothing when Medicare runs out of money.)
The Obama claims about the Ryan plan are not outright lies, but intentionally deceptive. A deception is just leading people to a false conclusion rather than telling them a lie directly. Using deceptive language is just as unethical as lying.
What to do?
Many ads have tiny print with the source and date of information. The best thing we can do to find the truth is search the Internet for these reports and news stories and read them for ourselves. We would all like to believe that the candidate we prefer always tells the truth, but this is politics! Maybe uncovering a lie won’t change your vote, but it is always worthwhile to know the truth.
* One is eligible for Medicare at 65. But, if enacted today, the Medicare portion of the Ryan budget would not take affect for 10 years, so only those younger than 55 today would be affected by the changes.