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A Test for the Right's Machine

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Cross-posted from Consortium News

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Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, portrayed as "Mittwit" in a poster by Robbie Conal. (Graphic credit: robbieconal.com)

The back-to-back national conventions had a clear winner on policy and presentation; the Democrats trounced the Republicans. But the chief reason for the lopsided result was that the Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan ticket constructed its three-night infomercial around a set of demonstrable lies and distortions.

Speaker after speaker played games with President Barack Obama's "you didn't build that" quote by pretending he was referring to individual businesses, when it was clear he meant the infrastructure of bridges, roads and other public investments that help businesses succeed. To further exploit Obama's misplaced antecedent, the Republicans printed plenty of signs and t-shirts, too.

Then, there was Romney's determined use of a racist-tinged falsehood about Obama gutting the work rules on welfare, when the administration simply was agreeing to a bipartisan request from some governors to have more flexibility in making the work requirements more effective.

The GOP fabrications were so obvious that even the docile mainstream press couldn't help but notice. And, beyond the convention's transparent lies, there was the void on substance. The speeches, including those by Romney and Ryan, were so lacking programmatic details that the press again was forced to take note, and the Democrats were perfectly positioned to whack at the vacuous speeches like empty pinatas.

In particular, ex-President Bill Clinton bashed the Republicans silly. Clinton summed up the GOP message thusly: "In Tampa, the Republican argument against the President's re-election was pretty simple: we left him a total mess, he hasn't cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in."

However, Clinton added, "President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did. No president, not me, not any of my predecessors, could have repaired all of the damage he found in just four years."

Clinton also explained why the Republicans were so shy about offering any specifics on their plans:

"In order to look like an acceptable alternative to President Obama, they couldn't say much about the ideas they have offered over the last two years.

"You see they want to go back to the same old policies that got us into trouble in the first place: to cut taxes for high-income Americans even more than President Bush did; to get rid of those pesky financial regulations designed to prevent another crash and prohibit future bailouts; to increase defense spending two trillion dollars more than the Pentagon has requested without saying what they'll spend the money on; to make enormous cuts in the rest of the budget, especially programs that help the middle class and poor kids. As another president [Ronald Reagan] once said -- there they go again."

Hiding the Ball

Indeed, even a casual observer would have taken away from the GOP convention the impression that the Republicans were hiding the ball on their economic strategies and foreign policy plans because those details would have alienated average Americans.

The Democrats were especially on solid ground when they pounded the Republicans for advocating more tax cuts favoring the rich while avoiding any serious discussion about how that lost revenue would be recovered or what popular programs would need savaging. Even supposed "fiscal hawk" Paul Ryan has been begging off questions about when the current Romney/Ryan plan might eliminate the federal deficit.

Asked by Fox News' Brit Hume when the Romney fiscal plan would balance the budget, Ryan said, "I don't want to get wonky on you, but we haven't run the numbers on that specific plan." In other words, the Republican ticket has no idea when its plan might eliminate the federal deficit.

Ryan, who is chairman of the House Budget Committee, added that his House budget plan does project a balanced budget sometime in the 2030s, roughly a quarter century from now, although there is even doubt about that if a Romney-Ryan administration enacts more tax cuts, repeals the savings in the Affordable Care Act and opts for a less draconian plan for voucherizing Medicare than Ryan initially proposed. Most likely, there would be red ink as far as the eye can see.

On foreign policy, too, Romney and Ryan offered little to evaluate what they would do, other than that they would never apologize for America and would add even more money to the military.

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at

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