There were hundreds of lies, large and small, told on the stage at the Republican National Convention. The lies listed below were uncommonly pernicious. They were told again and again in voice after voice, by speakers of differing ideological backgrounds and different political proclivities, suggesting that these are the lies with which Republicans hope to dupe America into voting for them in November. You’ll probably hear them a lot in the next two months.
5. Obama’s eradicated all work requirements for welfare queens.
Disseminated by: Rick Santorum, Newt and Callista, Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan
The claim: In July, Barack Obama quietly did away with the welfare work requirement instituted in Bill Clinton’s second term. (Though for some reason the RNC credits the program to Ronald Reagan.) Now, welfare recipients need no longer seek work or job training; they need only collect their checks.
In reality: Barack Obama did no such thing. He merely did as Republican governors have asked him to do, and allowed each state to craft its own welfare guidelines. This is, of course, precisely the kind of thing Republicans from all parts of the government have accused Obama of not doing enough of.
Sad irony: When he was governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney suggested the federal government institute precisely the change he’s now lambasting Obama for making.
4. Leading from behind has destroyed the world’s respect for American courage and power.
Disseminated by: Condoleezza Rice, John McCain, Mitt Romney.
The claim: By not doing more to uproot Moammar Qadaffi, frighten Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, oust Syria’s Bashir al-Assad, or support the various rebel groups of the Arab Spring, Barack Obama has made the United States look weak and ineffective. (In this case, “doing more” should be read as “invading.”)
In reality: As the Libyan operation was conducted in close concert with all of our other NATO allies, it’s difficult to imagine how our cooperation with those allies, in accordance with treaty law, cost us any respect. (Unless Republicans suppose we gain respect only by bullying our friends, in which case they can’t be argued with.) Barack Obama’s subtle assistance in ending the rule of Moammar Qadaffi drew praise from abroad for its effectiveness and restraint, and won the admiration of American deficit hawks for costing the United States fairly little money. Also — and this is obvious — the world is relieved that we’ve gotten out of the business of starting endless, irresolvable wars. How does one pick a side in a fight between Islamists, totalitarians, and a few eternally outmatched, inalterably doomed liberal secularists? On which point:
Sad irony: On those occasions when Barack Obama does offer support to revolutionary movements in the Middle East, such as those in Libya and Egypt, the Republican party blames him for giving conservative Islamists a potential political foothold.
3. You built it.
Disseminated by: Everybody
The claim: Barack Obama doesn’t think people deserve credit for their success.
In reality: Based upon a line in an Obama speech that, taken in context, means only that nobody builds a successful business without help from somebody. The quote: “If you’ve got a small business — you didn’t build that!” is actually: “Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allows you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, that — you didn’t build that.” It’s clear, from watching the speech, that the line that became the RNC’s slogan was, in fact, a reference to “roads and bridges,” not to “business.” The president got a sentence ahead of himself.
Sad irony: During the Republican primaries, Mitt Romney was unfairly attacked by John Huntsman and others, who took Mitt Romney’s “I like to be able to fire people” quote similarly out of context. Mitt, perhaps realizing that he’d sink to the same depths before long, never quite complained, telling The Hill: “I’m gonna be an adult about it and recognize it goes with the territory.”
2. America stands with free markets and free peoples.
Disseminated by: Condoleezza Rice, Mitt Romney
The claim: America has been a force for good forever, unerringly standing for freedom around the globe.
In reality: Ho Chi Minh was democratically elected. We killed millions of his countrymen while trying to keep him from power; preferring instead the leadership of a series of unelected criminals, whose only claim to power was their friendliness to French colonial interests. Jacobo Arbenz was democratically elected, but we killed him because he was a socialist. We propped up the regime of Saddam Hussein. George Bush I told Iraqi Kurds that the United States would support their revolt against Saddam Hussein, should they foment one, and then abandoned them utterly. They were slaughtered by the thousands, men, women, and children. Need I continue?
Sad irony: Condoleezza Rice, who made this claim most loudly, used to believe that part of the reason we were right to go to war in Iraq in 2003 was to amend the wrongs of past American indifference to the plight of Kurds and other oppressed Iraqis.
1. Believe In America.
Disseminated by: Everybody.
The claim: “Believe in America!” “Dream big!” We’re a “nation of dreamers!” And if you dream, too, your dreams will come true.
In reality: The successful people at the Republican National Convention dreamed big, and they succeeded. Correlation does not imply causation, though obviously it’s pleasant for successful people to imagine that they succeeded based upon their skill and inherent worth, rather than some kind of blind, dumb, luck. But the fact is this: Everybody dreams big. Almost everybody works hard. The vast majority of us still die poor. Any person or political party who claims otherwise is engaged in magical thinking.
Sad irony: The very people the Republicans are trying to woo this election cycle, the disaffected voters of the working class, are the ones with the most lose by buying this line of bullshit. They’ll probably buy it anyway, because it’s a lot more comfortable than the truth.