A Campaign of Lies: US Candidates Unabashed in Stretching the Truth

By in Charlotte, North Carolina

In this year's US presidential election, truth is in short supply. Both the Democrats and the Republicans have become more unabashed in their lies than ever before. With a mainstream media weakened by the appearance of partisan bias and editorial staffs that have been ravaged during the crisis, many of the whoppers won't be second-guessed.

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Republican Party presidential candidate Paul Ryan is a fitness freak. At the crack of dawn, he likes to lift weights in the catacombs of the Capitol Building. He says it has helped him to maintain a body fat index of between 6 and 8 percent. Ryan can also run very fast -- at least so he claims. The conservative candidate even told a radio host he had completed a marathon in "under three, I think, you know, high twos … a two hour and fifty-something."

Twenty-six miles (42 kilometers) in under three hours? With a time like that, Ryan could practically fall back on a career as a marathon runner if he doesn't manage to secure the United States' second highest political office. US fitness magazines quickly expressed their doubts, with some actually bothering to research marathon statistics. They found only one entry, from 1999, that included Ryan. What they unearthed was data that read more like a hobby jogger than a running machine: four hours and one minute.

Ryan was forced to concede that he had remembered things incorrectly. Was it a big deal? Of course not. But it is still an episode that is telling of this US election. Never before have candidates on both sides lied so openly and so unabashedly -- about their own merits, but also about the plans of their rivals. The development prompted one New York Times columnist to warn: "Facts are for losers. The truth is dead."

The marathon incident was the exception; Ryan was forced to apologize. But much more audacious attempts at manipulating the truth in this election have gone unpunished -- largely because strategists in both the Republican and Democratic camps are coolly calculating that people these days are no longer being held liable for their lies in politics.

Ryan's address at the Republican National Convention in Tampa provided a good example. He brazenly attacked President Barack Obama for allegedly ignoring the recommendations of a bipartisan commission for reducing the budget deficit. What he failed to mention, however, is that he himself served as a member of that commission and, as such, played a major role in the fact that it was unable to reach an agreement.

False Statements Prevalent

In yet another example, Ryan accused Obama of wanting to take $760 billion in funding away from Medicare, the country's public healthcare system for senior citizens. But Ryan seemed almost elegant in his omission of the fact that he himself supports similarly massive cuts.

And little attention has been paid to the fact that he tried to hold Obama accountable for the closure of a General Motors plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, that had suspended operations well before the president got elected. Nor has much attention been focused on the fact that many experts do not believe that Ryan's own budget plan would in any way reduce America's debt load given that, in addition to massive reductions in social spending, he calls for radical tax cuts.

Such efforts at misleading voters are systematic -- on both sides. Obama's campaign, for example, has broadcast ads falsely claiming that Romney wants to ban abortion, even in cases in which a woman has been impregnated during rape or when pregnancy puts the woman's life at risk. Campaign attacks on the Republican Party candidate's work for investment firm Bain Capital have also surfed the line between fantasy and reality.

Still, the tactics used by the Republicans so far come across as being far more unscrupulous. The online portal PolitiFact, created by the Tampa Bay Times newspaper, analyzed statements made so far by Romney and other leading Republicans and concluded that one out of 10 is completely false. With Obama, only one out of 50 turned out to be incorrect.

'We're not Going to Let Fact Checkers Dictate Campaign'

It is not as if the lies aren't being discovered. Indeed, leading US media outlets have long hired "fact checkers" whose sole duty is to confirm the veracity of the statements made by leading politicians. At the Washington Post, for example, journalist Glenn Kessler, who writes the paper's "The Fact Checker" column, awards "Pinocchios" to those who most egregiously stretch the truth, with the nose growing in proportion to the lie told.

Nevertheless, the credibility of the US media has suffered massively in recent years. In addition to the growing perception that many US media outlets have a partisan bias, the media has also been hit badly by the economic crisis, and many companies have significantly scaled back their editorial operations. Tremendous pressure is also coming from increased competition with other information channels like social networks. There, rumors and erroneous information can be disseminated at a wildfire pace.

The American media has traditionally been known as the Fourth Estate because of the role it plays in monitoring the government. Increasingly, however, presidential candidates are ignoring the traditional media, further weakening this control function. Obama makes himself available to the White House Press Corps so rarely that its reporters recently sent a letter of protest. In early August, they wrote that Obama has not taken a serious question from the press corps in seven weeks. The president instead prefers to speak with local radio stations or celebrity rags like People magazine -- media where critical questions about false statements aren't to be expected. Challenger Romney has also largely and systematically shielded himself from reporters' questions during his campaign trips.

It is unlikely that this practice will change, despite all the debate over Ryan's most recent fibs. "We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers," a defiant Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said at a panel hosted by ABC News at the Republican National Convention in Tampa last week.

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1. Projecting the lies of European politicians?
mae 09/04/2012
Didn't the German government lie along with other EU governments that there was no bailout clause in the eurozone when the euro was introduced 13 years ago. Now that was one of the biggest lies ever told but Europeans seem to have forgotten that one now. We are now on what the 2nd or 3rd bailout for Greece. Ireland received how many bailouts? Spain?
2. A global crisis, what's next?
Mieliauskas 09/05/2012
A global crisis, what's next? My letter is about the next stage of the current crisis. Now about my forecast accuracy - as I chose a job in Scotland in 2005, I have been thinking about this crisis; I knew, that it is unexpected and that it lasts until 2020. Nouriel Roubini predicted the twelve stages of current crisis, I predicted the first eight stages - how it will start and develop in USA and UK, but I didn't predict that it covers the whole world and in 2005 I knew that 2020 China will be the largest economy in the world. A dollar crash is inevitable, as now is going the four processes, which can not be stopped: 1. The ever worsening economic situation in the world, because has been not eliminated a main reason for this crisis - the financial black holes - tax havens, which sucked from world economy 21-32 trillions $. 2. The decreasing dollar market share. 3. The protectionism, the regulation of investment, prohibition to sell the most important companies and more and all these measures have been taken to guard against the dollar... 4. The global system of the tax havens is becoming every year bigger and stronger and more influential, it is practically impossible to reform it now, as show the tax havens history. A only way to reform the global financial system and central part of it - tax havens is crash, a only question is when? Now, about the financial system and globalization. The crisis in 2008 showed that the world has become a gigantic financial superpower in which all countries are financially bonded together, and crisis in one big country is a crisis almost everywhere in the world. Such fact has approved the current crisis in the euro area. The money in this system is something similar to water: a small country or its currency market is like a very small body of water, and if you add a lot of water and if it is isolated, the water level rises abruptly, similarly it is with the money - if a small country prints a big number money, hyperinflation occurs, an example - Zimbabwe, a big country is like a great pond and you need a lot more water to launch a level rise, as well as lot more money to rise the inflation and if there is leak the water flows away. Something similar happened with the convertible currencies. UK 1973 and in the years Margaret Thatcher as prime minister and USA 1983 Ronald Reagan as president, with help of the representatives the largest business began the reforms taking away limits amount of credit issued by the banks and taking away limits for capital flow abroad and helped create a global network of tax havens, soon followed by the main other developed countries and globalization began. The world is like a large lake, which requires a lot of water in order to launch its level to a rise, similarly the finance require a lot of money to launch a rise in level, but unlike water, for every human being the income and the amount of money in his account is very different. The peculiarity of this crisis is, that in the developed countries the money have been allocated very unevenly. During 30 years of globalization for 90% of the population real incomes increased slightly or remained the same and the illusion of the better life was created by the credits and mortgages, that triggered real estate bubble. The only winners from globalization were 10% of population and a real winner was 1% of population. And now about what scares me, it's not the eurozone crisis, permanent eurozone crisis is very useful for one country - Germany, a low euro rate promotes its exports, a unemployment is reduced to a record level and enables Germany to reform EU in the way they want and because of the euro collapse its interests would be seriously undermined and the crisis is easy to complete, by release the required amount of eurobonds or simply printing electronic money, as are doing the UK and the USA and not a single eurozone country's elite, even Greece don't want to leave euro, because new national currency will be significantly devalued and who want lose their money or receive lower wage and this crisis is creating United States of Europa, a economic system, where Spain is like California with the big problems and Greece like Montana.
3. Correction to the article
Nec_v20 09/12/2012
Herr Gregor Peter Schmitz, "Obama's campaign, for example, has broadcast ads falsely claiming that Romney wants to ban abortion, even in cases in which a woman has been impregnated during rape or when pregnancy puts the woman's life at risk." This statement about a "false claim" on the part of the Obama campaign is demonstrably wrong. I beg the readers indulgence, but I wouldn't want to be accused of quoting out of context. Following is a link to an appearance Romney made on the show "Huckabee" on the 01/11/2011: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkrOt9Qposg: At approximately 5:24 into the interview: Huckabee "Would you have supported a Constitutional Amendment that would have established the definition of life at conception" Romney "Absolutely" This refers to the so-called "Personhood Amendment" which has been introduced in a number of States and has been rejected. It would ban all forms of abortion under any circumstances. This makes absolutely no exceptions with regard to abortion, furthermore it would - if put into law - ban many forms of contraception including the female contraception pill. Thus not only is the characterisation of the Obama ad as a lie incorrect, what Romney in the interview agreed to actually goes far beyond the banning of abortion in the case of rape, incest and health of the mother. It can also be clearly seen, in context, that Romney could not have misspoken or misunderstood what Huckabee was asking. From the following: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.R.212 01/07/2011: which refers to the House of Representatives Bill 212IH, which was cosponsored by the Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan, and seeks to codify into law the concept of Personhood at fertilisation, it is also clear that the Obama ad did not lie. On a personal note, I am not a member of or affiliated with the Democratic Party, any Obama re-election organisation, any pro-choice organisation or anyone running for any election past or present in any State of the United States. The opinion stated above is entirely my own and I have attempted to present freely and publicly available evidence - not the opinions of others - to support my view.
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