The question for the day is why a public figure lies when it’s so easy to refute the lie?
This question develops naturally from the latest Romney fiasco—his accusation that President Obama has loosened the work requirement for welfare. This accusation is such a blatant lie that virtually every mainstream media outlet has covered it, with each story explicitly stating that Romney is not telling the truth. Romney comes out looking bad in stories in The New York Times, National Public Radio, News & Observer, and CBS News, for example.
Make no mistake about it: Romney did not commit another spontaneous faux pas, similar to offering to bet $10,000 or making a snide, offhand remark about Olympic security. The campaign actually thought this one out and made a conscious decision to go after the President because his administration proposed giving individual states the flexibility to change welfare work rules if they could come up with systems that got people off of welfare quicker. As with the health care law, the idea of giving states flexibility on welfare requirements was a central core tenet of the Republican Party for decades that Romney and Republicans now conveniently ignore for political reasons. Instead, Romney avers that Obama wants to end the work requirement for welfare, the lie that the mainstream media jumped right on.
Romney continues to repeat the accusation in the face of the bad publicity, and with good reason. The same people who believe the birther myth and the lie that African-Americans get a disproportionate share of welfare and food stamp benefits will believe that Obama has gutted the welfare work requirements. Romney is feeding the fires of ignorance to make sure that these supporters—now part of the Republican core—come to the polls in November.
But even as Romney plays to this core group he weakens his case with independent voters. While many independents would be incensed by a welfare system that didn’t have a work requirement, they are irritated when one candidate tells a bald-faced lie. In Romney’s case, the welfare lie not only helps to build the case for Romney’s mendacity; it also builds the case for his campaign’s lack of direction and maybe to the idea that Romney is a bit out of touch.