One thing that was absent from the first presidential debate was truth—the word, that is. A glimpse at the debate transcript reveals that the word never came up at all, while true came up only twice in an exchange of more than 16,000 words. Each candidate used it once, Mitt Romney indirectly to accuse the president of lying about his platform, Barack Obama overtly in his admission that health care premiums have risen since the passage of Obamacare two years ago.
The Obama campaign has announced plans to change all that in the second debate. They intend to make the event a referendum on the truth, which they claim is in short supply in the Romney camp.
“Mitt Romney didn’t tell the American people the truth on Wednesday night,” The Hill quotes an Obama campaign official as saying. “He lied his way through the debate because he knows his ideas would hurt the middle class. Romney doesn’t want to be held accountable for wht he’s been saying for the last year because he knows that voters don’t want what he’s selling.”
Obama campaign spokeswoman Jan Psaki expanded on that theme on Friday, telling reporters:
If he’s unwilling to tell the truth about his record, tell the truth about his plans and the fact that he wants to put in place a $5 trillion tax cut for millionaires and billionaires and leave the burden on the middle class, then we’re happy to do the work for him.
This is a tall order. Part of the challenge is getting Romney somehow to own up to the profile of him they have crafted, which is daunting considering it’s predominantly fiction.
Take the talking point about his $5 trillion tax cut for the rich. Obama’s own deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, has already admitted on CNN that the effect of lowering tax rates across the board by 20% (which is actually what Romney has proposed) will not raise taxes anywhere “near $5 trillion.” In addition, the Tax Policy Center, the group that originally posited that the only way to offset the costs of this proposal was to raise taxes on the middle class, has walked back that claim.
A second challenge for Team Obama is that this line of attack could easily blow up in the face of the president, who himself has been—to put it delicately—less than totally honest in his dealings with the American people. A falsehood that he gave utterance to in the first debate was that he has cut taxes for small businesses 18 times. But this claim can be explained away as double-counting (an “accounting technique” the administration used often), and Investor’s Business Daily called most of the cuts “worthless” by any measure.
He also repeated the half-truth that his proposed tax hike on the rich would mark a return to Clinton-era rates. But this is an apples-and-oranges comparison, since Clinton also lowered capital gains taxes, which Obama intends to increase, given the chance.
Obama can’t even level with voters on the reasons for his desire to raise taxes on the rich during a fragile recovery. One day he claims—falsely—it is to lower the deficit. (The proposed increase would generate $31 billion in revenue, about one day’s worth of government spending using 2008 statistics.) The next day Obama insists that the move is based on “economic fairness,” though he never explains who appointed him the arbiter of what’s fair or how it is fair to raise taxes on the top 5% of earners, who currently absorb 60% of the nation’s tax debt.
For a president who has stretched, bent, folded, and manipulated the truth as often as Obama has, shouting “Liar!” in a crowded amphitheater may day more harm than good with an electorate that has already seen one side of him they didn’t like. The reason Obama lost the first debate is because no one had ever before directly challenged his half-baked and harmful policies. If he opens the door to a discussion of which candidate is the biggest liar, he will likely walk away from the podium a sadder, if not much wiser, man.
- Obama, the tax cutter, hits the campaign trail with Obama, the tax cut hater
- Dems are pinning hopes of blunting Romney momentum on Joe Biden?
- Now that Debate 1 is history, out come the excuses
- Obama spokeswoman: We don’t blame Bush for mess we inherited (from Bush)
- Obama’s latest lie: His tax hike on rich is a return to Clinton-era tax rates
- Joe Biden concedes middle class has been ‘buried’ last 4 years
- For Obama 10% of the buck stops here
- Obama adviser tells CNN ‘People’ magazine as ‘important’ as WH press corps
- Obama campaign spokeswoman claims low crowd turnout at rallies is ‘by design’ (Video)
- If re-elected will Obama use the house’s money to bail out GM a second time?
- Obama speech preview: ‘We can’t afford to go back to failed policies’
- The real argument Romney should be making to counter Obama’s Bain attack
- Lacking an economic message, president rehashes economic fairness argument
Follow me on Twitter or join me at Facebook. You can also reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.