In 1988, Republican candidate for President, Vice President George H. W. Bush, father to the young man who would later become the latter day President Bush, put out the story about his opponent, Democrat Michael Dukakis. It seems Dukakis was a little unhinged.
Michael Dukakis, you see, had been emotionally troubled, emotionally troubled enough to see a psychiatrist during a time of mental depression.
Dukakis and his campaign was caught flatfooted. Their own immediate response was ... Huh?
And so Lee Atwater, on behalf of the Bush campaign, released the evidence in casual conversation with reporters. It seems that some years before, a relative of Michael Dukakis, his uncle, had died. Dukakis attended the funeral. Also attending the funeral was a distant relative who was a psychiatrist.
Get it? You don't?
Okay, reporters, let's lay it all out. Everyone loves their uncle, right? So he was a beloved uncle. If your beloved uncle died, wouldn't you be depressed? So Michael Dukakis had to have been suffering from depression. Now do you get it? No?
Okay, let's break it down. His relative, the psychiatrist went to the same funeral. Have you ever attended a family funeral where you didn't see everyone there? So Dukakis and his psychiatrist relative had to have seen each other, right?
So Michael Dukakis had, while suffering from depression, seen a psychiatrist.
President Reagan was asked some question about the Dukakis campaign and made a Mitt Romney type knee-slapper. "Look, I'm not going to pick on an invalid." Reporters groaned, but they began reporting the Dukakis-is-unstable story as he-said-she-said. Republicans are pushing rumors that Dukakis has seen a psychiatrist while suffering from emotional depression, the Dukakis campaign denies the allegation.
It still strikes me as a filthy campaign. Years later, a dying Lee Atwater apologized for that and other slurs.
This year, even the pretense of legitimacy has been discarded. At least Lee Atwater offered some cockeyed justification, some twisted version to wind a path to a sideways plausibility.
In 2008, candidate Obama mocked at a statement made by a McCain aide. He quoted the aide: "If we keep talking about the economy, we`re going to lose." Four years later, the Romney campaign sliced and edited video to falsely show President Obama as if he was talking about himself. Their advertising showed Obama saying, "If we keep talking about the economy, we`re going to lose."
When asked about the obvious lie, the Romney people replied that this was a political campaign. You could hardly expect truthfulness in a political campaign. That was their justification. Well, it was a sort of twisted frankness, truth-telling about a documented lie.
Today the Romney practice continues, with another Lee Atwater level distortion followed by a documented lie - the opposite of the truth.
The Lee Atwater level reprise is about Medicare. A congressional bill written by Paul Ryan and endorsed by Mitt Romney would eventually replace Medicare as it has come to be experienced by seniors for more than a generation, with a voucher system. That plan has since been replaced with another Ryan written "defined contribution" plan to replace the current "defined benefit." It is a coupon system without the coupons.
Now, Republicans may object to my characterization. They may want to substitute another description that they will regard as more accurate. They may accuse me of distortion or not providing context. I think it would be difficult to find any outright untruth.
Part of the plan passed by the House of Representatives, the one written by Paul Ryan, the one endorsed by Mitt Romney, calls for cuts in corporate giveaways. It would end a lot of outright waste. Medical corporations would be told they could no longer overcharge. The resulting savings would be over 700 billion dollars.
The Ryan plan to take the windfall away from corporate overcharge had actually been put into effect by the Obama administration, even before Paul Ryan included it in his plan.
Which brings us to the Romney distortion. President Obama, says Romney, is stealing $700 billion dollars from the Medicare program. Mitt Romney promises to restore the cuts. The Romney promise will do nothing for those seniors who fall for the tall tale, but it will put more cash in the coffers of overcharging corporations.
Okay, that was the Lee Atwater reincarnation, not the Lee Atwater who apologized. The Lee Atwater with the loving hand of Jesus on his shoulder, about to take the journey home.
Next comes the outright lie, the lie that involves welfare.
In the 1990s the welfare program was reformed. Harsh cuts by the Republican Congress were blocked by President Clinton until Republicans agreed to modify them into realistic work requirements. Included was some flexibility. Waivers could be granted to states who wanted to experiment with different approaches to getting people off welfare without putting at risk children and those unable to work.
After the Obama administration took office, a few Republican governors requested waivers. They thought they had ways to get more people into jobs. The Obama administration granted the Republican waivers, but put into writing the condition that the waivers would only be valid if more people would be put into the workforce with the waivers than without.
The Romney campaign continues to pay for ads that say the direct opposite of the truth.
...President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements.
Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check. And welfare to work goes back to being plain old welfare.
This is followed by the traditional endorsement. "I'm Mitt Romney and I approve this message."
There is no fact checking that has found the ad to be truthful, and dozens that have found it to be a documented falsehood. It is not a distortion or an exaggeration or an extrapolation of some grain of truth.
It is not simply a lie. It is a lie with a history, part of a pattern that had gone on since George Wallace first railed against welfare as part of the liberal plot involving integration and voting rights. It is a gamble that years of white resentment will cloud any vision of the real truth. The visual accompaniment reinforces the message. One hard working employee after another reacts to this latest attack on work. Searching for a black face, or the face of any minority, is a variant on "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego."
The hand fluttering over the mouth, oh-my-did-I-say-that, has fluttered too many times. Obama-is-not-an-American-ha-ha-just-kidding-can't you-take-a-joke, has followed in the steps of too many ever so heartfelt statements with a similar message: "I just don't think he knows what America is about."
We no longer wait for the second shoe to drop, or the third, or the fourth.. These folks have either been depleting the Imelda Marcos collection, or Mitt Romney is a centipede.
I have followed the career of Mitt Romney for years. I am not repelled by his ideology. I am repelled by his lack of it. I have always been put off by the absence of core honesty, a casual mendacity that is demonstrated anew every day.
Still, I am genuinely surprised by this newest set of tactics, what is politely and euphemistically called "appealing to the base." Perhaps not shocked, but surprised.
I have never thought, and I do not think now, that Mitt Romney is a racist.
He has simply learned to play one on television.
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