Mitt Romney took to the airwaves yesterday to condemn President Obama’s and his allies’ ridiculous and despicable attack ads, particularly late-breaking ads accusing Romney of killing a man’s wife with cancer and cheating on his taxes. “You know, in the past, when people pointed out that something was inaccurate, why, campaigns pulled the ad,” Romney said on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America program. “They were embarrassed. Today, they just blast ahead. You know, the various fact checkers look at some of these charges in the Obama ads and they say that they’re wrong, and inaccurate, and yet he just keeps on running them.”
This is, to say the least, a dangerous political tactic.
Romney’s reliance on so-called fact-checkers to determine the truth or falsity of ads is highly problematic. Outlets like Politifact have a known leftist bias, and routinely flack for President Obama. By embracing the fact-checking industry, Romney left himself open to attacks like this one, from the Washington Post’s designated Media Matters talking points spewer, Greg Sargent:
Many of Romney’s main attack lines been panned by the fact checkers. As the above links demonstrate, many of his ads have been based on complete distortions of what Obama has said or proposed, whether we’re talking about the “didn’t build that” ads, the “it worked” spot, or the latest ad claiming Obama wants to send “welfare checks” to those who don’t work.
None of the examples Sargent mentions were actually distortions. But Sargent is quoting fact-checkers.
Beyond that, Romney seems to be embracing a defensive mentality with regard to this campaign – a mentality that seems oddly reminiscent of John McCain’s failed 2008 campaign. Today, Romney’s advisors universally forwarded the message that Romney is a victim of Obama’s mean-spirited ads – and that this somehow gives Romney an advantage. “We are betting that a substantive campaign, conducted on the high ground, and focused primarily on jobs and the economy, will trump a campaign that is designed to appeal to our worst instincts," said Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior Romney advisor. The point: Romney has the moral high ground.
Well, the moral high ground and $5 will buy Romney a cup of coffee. The fact is that negative campaigning works – and the fact is that Romney has yet to hit Obama hard. Playing by the Marquis of Queensbury rules – or even worse, playing by liberal-imposed fact-checking standards, or double standards with regard to civility – is a recipe for failure.