Rutland Herald and Montpelier/Barre Times Argus
Sunday September 2nd, 2012 (This Just In 201)
By Barrie Dunsmore

I have spent much of my life reporting the words of democratic governments and communist dictatorships – not to mention the claims of the many autocrats, theocrats and garden variety ego- maniacs in the business of imposing their wills on their subjects.

I have come to expect that even in democracies most politicians will embellish the truth, exaggerate their accomplishments and denigrate their opponents with dubious charges. In recent years our democratic governments also employ legions of “spin-doctors” who massage the facts to put their leaders in the best possible light- especially during an election campaign. But in my experience, what separated the democracies from all the rest was that often illusive but very tangible power called the truth. This is not to say that democracies are free from liars. Far from it. It’s just that in open societies it has usually been harder to get away with lying than in totalitarian states.

Abraham Lincoln may or may not have actually said you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Still, to win an election you don’t need to fool all the people all the time - just 50.1 percent of them (or thereabouts) on one occasion. And never have I seen the extent of what is apparently the primary new tool of the 2012 presidential election – the prolific, shameless use of the big lie.

The Big Lie was defined by Adolf Hitler in his 1925 book Mein Kampf. In accusing the Jews of Germany, Britain and America for Germany’s loss of WWI, he was creating his own Big Lie which he would later use to justify the Holocaust. Though unspeakably evil, Hitler’s explanation of how and why the big lie works is cynically astute. But let me add quickly and emphatically, I am not comparing any American politician or political party to Adolf Hitler. And there are no lies being spread during the current presidential election campaign of the magnitude of Hitler’s Big Lie. Yet there are lies being repeatedly told of sufficient importance that they could well determine the outcome of the election. By my definition, that makes them big ones.
One of the themes of this past week’s Republican Convention in Tampa was based on a deliberate distortion of something President Barack Obama said recently. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker noted after the first night of the convention that speaker after speaker had made reference to Obama’s statement, “If you’ve got a business- you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” When initially challenged by the Fact Checker for using the quote totally out of context a Romney pollster commented, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers," And so, for its repeated misrepresentations of Obama’s remarks on this subject, Fact Checker gave the Republicans four Pinocchio’s (the top of its lying scale.)
Some might say, well that’s just the “liberal” Washington Post (which frankly is not so liberal any more.) Okay, then how about the review of Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s speech to the convention, by Fox News writer and contributor Sally Kohn, published Thursday on the Fox News web site? These are some of the “highlights” of that analysis.
“To anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech.
“Fact: While Ryan tried to pin the downgrade of the United States’ credit rating on spending under President Obama, the credit rating was actually downgraded because Republicans threatened not to raise the debt ceiling.
“Fact: While Ryan blamed President Obama for the shut down of a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, the plant was actually closed under President George W. Bush. Ryan actually asked for federal spending to save the plant, while Romney has criticized the auto industry bailout that President Obama ultimately enacted to prevent other plants from closing.
“Fact: Though Ryan insisted that President Obama wants to give all the credit for private sector success to government, that isn't what the president said. Period.
“Fact: Though Paul Ryan accused President Obama of taking $716 billion out of Medicare, the fact is that that amount was savings in Medicare reimbursement rates (which, incidentally, save Medicare recipients out-of-pocket costs, too) and Ryan himself embraced these savings in his budget plans.”
After this withering salvo Ms. Kohn went on to list things that Ryan did not say. “Ryan didn’t mention his extremist stance on banning all abortions with no exception for rape or incest, a stance that is out of touch with 75% of American voters.
“Ryan didn’t mention his previous plan to hand over Social Security to Wall Street.
“Ryan didn’t mention how his budget would eviscerate programs that help the poor and raise taxes on 95% of Americans in order to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires even further and increase -- yes, increase -- the deficit.” I repeat, this was a Fox News commentary.
Finally, there is the record of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney himself. In the years since he was running for senator and then for governor of Massachusetts, he has changed his position 180 degrees on the following subjects: the repeal of Rowe v Wade, a woman’s right to choose, Ronald Reagan, stem cell research, the minimum wage, the Pentagon’s don’t ask- don’t tell policy on gays, immigration reform, the assault weapons ban, privatizing Social Security, capital gains taxes, global warming, and finally of course, his own Massachusetts Health Care plan as a model for the nation. I’m not making this up. Just Google “ Romney flip-flops.” At least one of the options will take you to YouTube where you can see and hear the candidate in his own words.
While not everything Romney and Ryan say may qualify as a big lie, taken as a whole there is a consistent pattern of willful deceit. As such their words raise the fundamental question - how can you believe anything these men say?

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