Twenty-twelve is destined to go down in history as the election year in which almost all of the participants created their own reality.
We shouldn’t be surprised. In fact, we should have seen it coming.
In a 2004 New York Times Magazine piece, Ron Suskind recorded an exchange he had with a Bush administration official who derided Suskind for being part of “the reality-based community . . . We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”
See the war in Iraq for further details.
The 2008 McCain presidential campaign, although never an empire, had the same attitude. A McCain spokesman crowed to Politico: “We’re not too concerned about what the media filter tries to say . . . Somehow you just got to go over the heads of the filter.”
McCain’s campaign did manage to go over the heads of the filter. It also went over like the metric system. But that’s a different story.
2012 is the story of creating parallel universes that never intersect, so there’s no common ground. Democrats and Republicans can’t conduct rational political discourse because there’s no set of facts they mutually agree upon.
The 2012 campaigns go beyond distorting facts or misleading the public. They more resemble the fantasy world-making normally associated with The Matrix or Star Wars franchises. Or with the Obama Derangement Syndrome birthers (He was born in Kenya!), or the 9/11 truthers (Bush did it!), or the recently minted deathers (Osama lives!).
Exhibit A: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid claims – with absolutely no evidence – that Mitt Romney hasn’t paid any taxes in ten years. Segue from there into the Obama campaign spot that asks, “Did Romney pay 10 percent in taxes? 5 percent? Zero? We don’t know.”
Well, Harry apparently does. And Mitt, of course.
But that’s child’s play compared to what went on at last week’s Republican National Convention, a.k.a. Fantasyland. The most popular ride was the speech by GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan (R-Imaginary Marathon) who made these dubious assertions, among others (tip o’ the pixel to Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog):
- The [Obama $831 billion] stimulus was the biggest expenditure in government history
Not even close – try World War II, which cost $4.1 trillion in 2011 dollars.
- The stimulus was full of fraud
Or not. Wonkblog notes, “according to TIME’s Michael Grunwald, whose new book “The New New Deal” is the definitive history of the stimulus, only 0.0001 percent of stimulus funds were wasted on fraud.”
As the Atlantic’s James Fallows says, the mainstream media is “adjusting to the realities of ‘post-truth politics.’”
Fact checkers all across America have dislocated their shoulders wrestling with the ads in the presidential race, assigning Pinocchios to TV spots or rating them Pants on Fire!
There’s no better example of the current anything-but-reality atmosphere of this election than the Romney campaign’s Welfare Assault on Barack Obama.
In not one, not two, but three separate television commercials Mitt Romney has approved this message: “Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and you wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check.”
Hey – call it Swellfare.
Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler (the Geppetto of all those Pinocchios) rendered this verdict about the Romney campaign’s claim that the Obama administration had “gutted workfare:”
Conservatives may have legitimate concerns about the process in which the administration has approached this issue…… All things being equal, the Romney ad leans more toward four Pinocchios. There is something fishy about the administration’s process on this memorandum, but that does not excuse the Romney campaign’s over-the-top ad.
Interestingly, here’s what Kessler had to say about the Obama campaign’s defense of its ads:
Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is being disingenuous when it suggests Romney sought the same sort of waiver authority when he was governor, when there is little evidence that is the case. The claim that Romney sought waiver authority in 2005 is worth a solid three [Pinocchios].
Fun fact (!) to know and tell: A Romney pollster told Buzzfeed last week, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.”
Yeah. God forbid.