There is something about the liberal character, as it seems to be defined these days, that shrinks away from open political combat, even when it is clearly called for and necessary. Take, for example, the unwillingness of too many on the left to call out Mitt Romney’s recent welfare claims for what they are: lies.
Today, watching the Melissa Harris Perry show on MSNBC, I became positively irate when the aforementioned Melissa—a wonderful host and incisive political commentator—referred to Romney’s claims as “inaccurate.”
No. No. No. A thousand times, NO.
I don’t mean to pick on Melissa here. She’s wonderful, one of my favorite political talk show hosts. And in all fairness, she is not the only person on the left shrinking away from the “L” word. In fact, aside from Jamelle Bouie of The American Prospect, who explicitly called Romney a liar on the welfare issue in the Washington Post on August 20th, I can’t remember anybody on the left actually calling Romney’s welfare claims lies, although they clearly are, and I’ll explain this point further in a later paragraph. (I apologize here to anybody on the left whose public statements to this effect I may have missed.)
Sure, it’s technically true that Romney’s claims are inaccurate, as lies are, indeed, a subset of inaccuracies. But “inaccurate” is the wrong word to use here, and so sickeningly typical of shrinking-violet liberals who are more concerned with being polite than actually winning a damn election.
Here’s why “inaccurate” is the wrong word to use:
If somebody says something that is inaccurate, there could be many reasons for it. It could be, for example, that Governor Romney just misread or misunderstood what President Obama actually did. Poor Mitt, he just blew it.
The problem here is that using the word “inaccurate,” rather than calling it the lie it is, lets Romney off the hook. It implies he might have just made a mistake and that, if he knew better, maybe he wouldn’t be saying it.
The fact is, there is NO WAY Romney could possibly not know better. There is no reading of the president’s actions on welfare that suggests the president ended the requirement, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, that welfare recipients work. Romney is deliberately misrepresenting what happened here. What he is claiming, in multiple campaign commercials, is not merely inaccurate; it is a LIE.
The reason I state this so bluntly is that there is no way Governor Romney could not know that what he claims is not true. In addition to Bouie’s spot-on column in the Post, the Tampa Bay Times, in its acclaimed “PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter” on August 7th, explicitly and painstakingly explained why Romney’s statements were completely false.
There is a wealth of information out there, over the last two-and-a-half weeks, debunking Romney’s welfare claims. It’s impossible that Romney and his team are unaware that their claims are inaccurate (if you’ll pardon, for the moment, my own use of the word).
When it is impossible that you don’t know your claims are inaccurate, and you keep making them, you’re lying. And when you’re lying, you are making an intentional choice to steer people wrong.
It’s not a mistake. It’s not a mere “inaccuracy.” It is a lie, and there is a huge difference between an inaccuracy and a lie that speaks very distinctly about Mitt Romney’s character. If we do not make that case, we on the left hand Romney a gift. It is the electoral equivalent of what is known in sports as a turnover.
I know that we on the left would like very much to be high-minded and polite, and to win through the strength of our ideas and our appeals to the better angels of our fellow citizens’ nature. But in so doing, we allow the other side to resort to tactics, such as Romney’s outright welfare lie, without any consequences.
And lies, if not called out and knocked down, tend to work. Remember the unconscionable Swift Boat attacks against John Kerry that Kerry and the Democrats failed to knock down (and which probably cost him the razor-close 2004 election)?
How many times do we on the left have to get bludgeoned before we finally muster the intestinal fortitude to fight back?
It starts with calling a deliberate untruth what it is: a lie.