On Monday night, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's presidential campaign released its first paid ad attacking President Obama, and the 60-second clip, which will run throughout Thanksgiving weekend, is already being criticized as "brazen in its dishonesty." (Watch the video below.) The ad employs footage from an October 2008 campaign stop in New Hampshire, in which Obama says, "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose." But here's the full quote, the first half of which is absent from Romney's ad: "Senator McCain's campaign actually said, and I quote, 'If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.'" Obama was attacking his 2008 GOP rival — but Romney's ad makes it look like the damning quote is straight from Obama's mouth. The Obama camp has called the ad "deceitful," while the Romney campaign fired back saying "it used that quote intentionally." Is the ad really as dishonest as critics say?
This is really dishonest: At best, the out-of-context quote is "disingenuous," says Jamelle Bouie at The American Prospect. "At worst, it's an outright lie." Plus, Team Romney's accusation that Obama keeps skirting the economy in order to "distract voters" from his "abysmal economic record" is flawed. For months, Obama has done nothing but push the American Jobs Act. "If there hasn't been progress," it's simply because of "the Republican Party's categorical opposition to anything that could improve the economy."
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
Actually, there may be shades of gray: The accusations that Romney is lying may be a little overblown, says James Hohmann at Politico. "In Romney's eyes," President Obama is now doing exactly what the Democrat attacked McCain for in 2008 — downplaying the economy for political gain — which is why Romney included the quote in the ad. Plus, the "back-and-forth" about the ad "will only elevate Romney and rally conservatives to his side." The more the GOP conversation centers on beating Obama, "the more likely Romney is to win the nomination."
Regardless, this strategy could backfire: Romney is "taking a huge risk," says Steve Benen at Washington Monthly. Throughout his campaign, he's been caught "frequently just flat-out lying" — about his tax plan, about "RomneyCare," and about various statements by Obama. These are more than mere slip-ups. They "are examples of a candidate who looks more like a con man than a leader." If Romney maintains his frontrunner status, his personality will eventually come under the microscope. And the more he's "caught deceiving the public, the more questions about his character will be unavoidable."
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.