Candidates telling lies in political campaigns is not entirely new. There is a long history in this country replete with candidates who exaggerate, mislead, and frankly lie about their opponents, their opponent's policies, and their own policies.
However, in the current presidential campaign, the ability of Mitt Romney to constantly make statements which have no factual basis is alarming, especially because the mainstream media often fails to call him on these lies — and when these are told often enough, people actually believe them.
Paul Krugman on the left said that no candidate has ever "lied so freely, with so little compunction." On the right, Daniel Larison of the American Conservative has concluded that Romney is "so contemptuous of the people he tells lies to that he never thinks he will be found out."
Apologists for the former Massachusetts governor will say, "Everyone does it." However, the extent of the lies and the absolute refusal for the Romney campaign to recant these lies even after the lie has been disproven is a methodology that is uniquely Romney. And the allegation that "everyone does it" does not make lying morally acceptable.
Philosopher Immanuel Kant said that lying was always morally wrong. However, today lying seems to be a generally accepted practice. There are many reasons that lying is immoral. One important reason in the context of a political campaign is that a lie makes it difficult for a person lied to to make a free and informed decision. It robs that person of their freedom to choose rationally.
Romney's lies have been well-documented, and now even the sleeping giant of the media seems to have awakened to the more outrageous lies promulgated by his campaign. One of the latest untruths is the allegation that President Obama has "stolen $700 billion from Medicare." Actually, the president has cut $700 billion in future Medicare payments to private insurance companies that administer Medicare benefits, and to hospitals, nursing homes and other providers. Maybe now we won't be required to pay $25 for a box of Kleenex at the hospital.
Romney claims that this money would reduce benefits. That is a lie that has been totally discredited and debunked by everyone from Politifact, a non-partisan fact-checking organization, to the Washington Post. What is so incredibly hypocritical is that Romney and running mate Paul Ryan have been demanding just these sorts of spending cuts to Medicare, and Ryan's budget plan included those same "cuts."
However, their solution would not just cut Medicare — it would replace it with a voucher system which would give seniors a voucher to purchase a plan of their own. And when the amount of the voucher is exceeded...
A startling Romney lie was the video showing Obama saying, "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose." What the video did NOT say was that the entire Obama quote was, "Senator McCain's campaign actually said, and I quote: 'If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.'" Romney portrayed the statement as if Obama was talking about his own campaign. Shameful.
Another lie was the welfare ad. Romney insisted that Obama eliminated the work requirement in the new welfare law. The law actually requires documentation that the work placement of recipients improve. The Washington Post reported, "The Obama administration is not removing the bill's work requirements at all." According to the New York Times, the ad is "blatantly false." Politifact rated the ad claims as "Pants on Fire."
Romney claims that there are "no new jobs under Obama." When Obama took office, we were shedding 800,000 jobs per month, losing 3 million the first four months, thanks to the Bush policies of tax increases for the wealthy, two wars and an unfunded prescription drug program. In the last 22 months, the country has added 3.2 million private sector jobs. No new jobs?
Romney claims that Obama "went around the world and apologized for America." The Washington Post fact-checker stated: "The claim that Obama has apologized for America is not borne out by the facts."
The Justice Department filed a lawsuit in Ohio to require in-person voting for all Ohians during the three days prior to election day. The law previously applied only to the military, and therefore Obama wanted to extend that right to ALL Ohians. According to Romney, however, this lawsuit somehow was to deny servicemen and women early voting. That was a real whopper.
Ryan claimed that he never requested funds from the federal stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. He called it a "wasteful spending spree." However, in 2009 Ryan wrote four letters to the Department of Energy requesting stimulus money, including requesting millions for a Wisconsin firm, and in 2010 he asked the Department of Labor for more stimulus funds. To his credit, he later acknowledged the four letters, but then blamed his staff for writing them, although he signed them.
A campaign built on a foundation of lies says something about character.
Dwight D. Eisenhower said, "The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office."
Adolf Hitler said, "Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it."
And Groucho Marx said, "These are my principles, and if you don't like them ... Well, I have others."