Why Romney’s Inaccurate Auto Ad May Be Smart Politics

A deceptive ad about the 2009 auto bailout from Mitt Romney is taking center stage in the final week before the election.

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JIM WATSON / AFP / GettyImages

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney delivers remarks at a victory rally in Lebanon, Ohio, on Oct. 13, 2012

With one week to Election Day, the damage inflicted by Hurricane Sandy has scaled back the final sprint of campaign activity to a crawl. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney made a political calculation to avoid seeming unduly political, though Romney crept up to the line with his Tuesday-morning event in Ohio, a campaign gathering masquerading as a storm-relief effort. But this marathon campaign is drawing to a close, and while the storm may have elbowed the election out of the minds of voters, something must fill the political-news vacuum. Which is why this deceptive ad from Mitt Romney is taking center stage in the final week before Nov. 6:

The motivation behind the ad is obvious. The two candidates’ divergent positions on the 2009 auto bailout has hampered Romney in Ohio, the most important state on the electoral map. Obama’s decision to extend government funds to GM and Chrysler kept the American auto industry afloat, propping up Ohio’s economy in the process; unemployment there fell from 10.6% in January 2010 to 7% in September, well below the national average. Ohio Republicans argue that this has little to do with Obama’s auto policy, instead assigning credit to the state’s Republican governor, John Kasich. But there is little question that the bailout has boosted Obama. Ohioans have a brighter outlook on the state’s fortunes: whereas 54% in a TIME survey last week said the U.S. was on the wrong track, 51% say Ohio’s forecast is improving. In the bailout, Obama has a handy cudgel to whack Romney with while claiming the credit for himself. As a result, he has retained strong support among white blue-collar workers, a cohort with whom he is struggling elsewhere. “There’s no question that the automobile issue has probably cut into some traditional support we’d be running away with,” Bob Bennett, the chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, told me recently. 

Romney’s new ad, which Democratic sources say has about $100,000 behind it, is part of a sweeping effort to push back. The campaign has pointed to Delphi Corp., an auto-parts supplier whose 20,000 or so nonunion workers saw their pensions cut after the bailout, as an example of the decision’s collateral damage as well as Obama’s purported preference for union workers. But the new ad, which is running in the auto-centered Toledo and Youngstown media markets, is part of a stepped-up campaign to cut into Obama’s advantage on the auto issue. It was released quietly, without the usual accompanying press release. That’s probably because Romney’s campaign advisers knew it would stir up a storm.

The ad is unequivocally misleading, a mashup of unsupported assertions and deceptive suggestions. “Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians, who are going to build Jeeps in China,” the ad says as images flash of cars being flattened. This line is embedded with subtext: that Obama is selling off a treasured American corporation; that Ohio jobs may be fleeing as a result; and that they will resurface in China, a byword for the argument that Obama’s weak leadership has cost the U.S. economy. As political rhetoric, which is often measured by its ability to deceive an audience without crossing over into outright falsehood, it’s wondrous stuff. It begs the viewer to make false inferences.

But it isn’t true. Chrysler has said it may build additional Jeeps in China to meet demand there but has no intention of shifting production out of the U.S. A Chrysler spokesman called claims to the contrary “a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats.” News and fact-checking outlets have widely debunked the suggestion: Politifact awarded it a “Pants on Fire,” and Factcheck.org and the New York Times called it “misleading.” Romney’s advisers dispute that characterization. But Romney himself told a crowd in Defiance, Ohio, last week that he “saw a story” suggesting that “one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China.” Which is wrong.

If the ad is clearly misleading from a factual perspective, it may still help Romney. Throughout the election cycle, Romney’s advisers — and, to a somewhat lesser degree, Obama’s — have been guided by the belief that they can peddle falsehoods with impunity, because a tribal electorate won’t punish them for doing so. “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers,” Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said.

Perhaps Romney is fuming about the way his own position on the auto bailout has been mischaracterized by both the Obama campaign and the press. Obama had reduced Romney’s position to a devastating headline, which sat atop a November 2008 op-ed in the New York Times: “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” That headline is the greatest gift the Times has given to Obama. The line did not appear in the op-ed itself.

The second presidential debate offered a glimpse of Romney’s frustration at having his position caricatured by the President. In the very first question of that town-hall forum, Obama offered his winning juxtaposition: “Governor Romney said we should let Detroit go bankrupt. I said we’re going to bet on American workers and the American auto industry, and it’s come surging back.” Here’s Romney’s response:

One thing that the President said, which I want to make sure that we understand, he said that I said we should take Detroit bankrupt. And that’s right. My plan was to have the company go through bankruptcy like 7-Eleven did and Macy’s and Continental Airlines and come out stronger.

And I know he keeps saying, You want to take Detroit bankrupt. Well, the President took Detroit bankrupt. You took General Motors bankrupt. You took Chrysler bankrupt. So when you say that I wanted to take the auto industry bankrupt, you actually did.

And I think it’s important to know that that was a process that was necessary to get those companies back on their feet, so they could start hiring more people. That was precisely what I recommended and ultimately what happened.

There was a greater difference between the President’s position and that of his challenger than Romney’s remarks might suggest. Obama extended GM and Chrysler government loans as they navigated bankruptcy. Romney believed that a government bailout would be detrimental because it would remove the need to innovate and change. Instead he wanted a “managed bankruptcy” through which the automakers would be forced to restructure, with executive bloodletting and forced union concessions that would promote future competition. “The federal government should provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing and assure car buyers that their warranties are not at risk,” he wrote in the Times op-ed. (One problem: there is no evidence that there were private companies ready to intercede with funding even in light of such a “guarantee.”) The last line of Romney’s piece argues, “In a managed bankruptcy, the federal government would propel newly competitive and viable automakers, rather than seal their fate with a bailout check.” He may have been wrong. But it’s not as though he wanted the industry to wither and die.

What’s clear from Romney’s remarks at the Hofstra debate is that he thinks the Americans public doesn’t understand the issue — not even the fact that GM and Chrysler actually went through bankruptcy — and is therefore susceptible to Obama’s bumper-sticker attack. Romney may be right. Either way, the conviction helps explain why his campaign is intent on relitigating an issue it appears to have already lost in the court of public opinion. Falsehoods aside, if he can muddle Obama’s simple argument or peel away some independents with soft support for the President because of the bailout, Romney may just mitigate Obama’s advantage on the topic.

197 comments
kemaltolan
kemaltolan

Be intelligent and play dump!

Still, 97% of all of us should understand that the Republican agenda just favors the rich. Nobody else. E.g. health insurance should be a human right, because the highest good of yours is your health. If you are not healthy anything else does not matter. Is it right to get punished because you are sick. Even with health insurance you can get bankrupt if you are sick. Is that right? Do you think that is right? Our system is good for the rich for nobody else. Very few people get that because they think they will never get sick!

Health insurance is just one piece of the Republican agenda against 97% of the people!

DON'T WORRY BE HAPPYhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CMS82wZnBA

carolerae
carolerae

Lying approved by Feckless Press is #1 Problem with Press in US.  Makes you guys Liars too.

Sinspreader88
Sinspreader88

How on earth is lying to the American people "Smart polotics" lets over look the fact that after he did put out an ad that lied about Christler and Jeep both companies came to the media and said he was lying he lost votes for that. It isn't smart polotics is a plain stupid move. It shows people what a liar he is and no one wants to whole heartedly back a liar.

bobcn
bobcn

<i>Why Romney’s Inaccurate Auto Ad May Be Smart Politics</i>

An incredibly cynical title.  Sadly, if Romney succeeds in conning enough chumps, it will also be true.  

The only thing remarkable about the dishonesty of Romney's campaign is it's aggressiveness and shamelessness. It has certainly raised the bar. But it's not new.  Gore wasn't a 'serial liar' and he never said he 'invented the internet'.  Unlike the lies spread by the 'swiftboat veterans for <strikeout>truth</strikeout> lies', Kerry actually earned the medals he was awarded for bravery and injury in combat.

I can't complain about Altman's title here, but I have a big problem with his complaint about Obama's use of Romney's NY Times 'Let Detroit Go Bankrupt' OpEd.  The fact that Romney didn't write the title is irrelevant   Anyone that has taken the time to actually read the OpEd will see that Romney was completely wrong in his assessment of how to deal with Detroit's problem and how to solve it.  Clearly, his prediction that 'you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye' if the bailout took place wasn't even close to being accurate.

YngwieFM
YngwieFM

It's effective, because as Altman points out, the media is largely useless except as light entertainment, making the dissemination of falsehoods very effective.

PostMe
PostMe

Only three possibilities : Either he is an idiot OR he thinks we people are idiot OR we people are idiots. If anyone can digest these lies I guess it is the third category. I think Mitt Romney should just say he is the president. If you have to lie then why not just go for the big and the direct one. Why even work hard to get elected. Just put ads that he is the president. I wont be surprised if there are polls which would say that 27% people believe that he indeed is. 

misterwilder
misterwilder

Romney's a very sick man. Born a pathological liar...and that's what his wife Ann was referring to when she said she was "worried" about his mental stability should he win the election.

As for his lying about the auto bailout...the CEO of Chrysler said "Romney is full of s**t." That's a direct quote from today. Most Americans...at least the ones who still believe in truthfulness, honor, and America's greatness...would agree 100% with that assessment. America...the REAL America...still despises liars, grifters, and snake oil salesmen.

"Smart politics" my rear end. Maybe in the Sudan...or Germany seventy-five years ago. In reality, Romney needs some serious medical and psychological help.

BobJan
BobJan

It is what it is. As long as there are lobbyists the politicians will be selling themselves to the highest bidders. Electing the same people over and over brings out the same results. Wars, recessions, food stamps, it never changes and every four years we think the next guy will change it for the better and then there are just more lobbyists waiting to buy their way.

JohnYuEsq
JohnYuEsq

Romney is NOT a decent man. In deed, he is an INDECENT, GREEDY, BLINDLY AMBITIOUS SOB.

TheWaryLemming
TheWaryLemming

Wow, lying and knowing it are smart politics now huh?  Make you proud no?

Unbelievable.

ParthaNeogy
ParthaNeogy

What we would like to know is why Alex Altman will happily carry water for Mitt no matter what.

americanfirst
americanfirst

Youtube:General Motors Has Become China Motors

Philip_Kaaret
Philip_Kaaret

General Motors spokesman Greg Martin said, "The ad is cynical campaign politics at its worst. We think creating jobs in the U.S. and repatriating profits back in this country should be a source of bipartisan pride." GM is willing to call out Romney on this ad while Time magazine won't.

waytogo
waytogo

There is some thing very annoying about this write up, almost applauding Romney for getting away with the sleeze. I am sure people in general & voters  in Ohio in particular are much smarter than you are assuming and   Romney will be punished  at the ballot for this bogus story

StanleyPlopper
StanleyPlopper

Articles like this make me sick. Every attempt is made to placate both Repsand Dems, leading to a muddy analysis of little or no worth. It seems like theMr. Altman wants to say something, but just can't get around to it becausehe might offend someone and get an angry letter (or even worse, an out-of-toucheditor might get the letter).  The fact is, partisans and idealogueswrite letters all the time attempting to sway coverage - and it works. Good newssources (stemming from editors) understand they're not going to make everyone happy, but put the blunttruth out there regardless. Stand for something, otherwise you stand for nothing.

JeffMeckstroth
JeffMeckstroth

Romney's campaign is getting quite desperate. I love how he says he'd do more for the auto industry and Obama merely took into bankruptcy. For one that is what Romney wanted to do and two Romney won't private companies to help them. Sadly Romney's plan wouldnt work because the credit market was at a stand still. His idea of bankruptcy would have led to liquidation and therefore no more American car companies. He says oh well Chrysler is partly owned by a company in Italy but he is missing the point, many people got to keep there jobs and it was not outsourced to Japan like he would have had it done.

SalParadise
SalParadise

This is disgusting. Romney is trying to lie his way to the White House, and the media not only goes along with it, they applaud him for trying.

Why don't you people try doing your jobs? First, you let Bush lie our way into Iraq, and now you're letting Romney steal the election.

And you wonder why print media is dying.

sprzybylowski
sprzybylowski

This is just a reflection of the tendency by both candidates to engage in character assassination through half-truths and outright falsehoods.  The electorate not only accepts that the candidates will lie, but embraces it in some curious game of who can tell the biggest whopper.   The practice is to 'win' the game.  Honor, statesmanship and honesty is dismissed as foolishness, and to under-estimate to gullibility of the citizenry is seen as a path to campaign failure which can only lead to a loss.

No candidate considers misstating your opponents position.  After all, they are managed by the same soulless MBA's  who, without regard to the individuals involved, designed the latest mortgage disaster.  They live in a world where the play only has to last long enough to reach their short term goals without consideration of any greater impact

Pollopa
Pollopa

The seemingly missed point is that Romney and the republicans keep chanting jobs, yet they do things like this that hinder auto sales from an American manufacturer. These American Companies are not only saying stop, they are yelling it.

How many times have we seen posted now the republican mantra, "I will never by a GM"  "Government Moteros" etc. Now they bring Chrysler into the mix of hated Amaerican Companies by the right.  My truck has a sticker on it that says "Proudly made inthe USA".  It also has a bowtie on the grill.  What the heck is wrong with the republicans?  Can't they see that they are hurting American companies, American jobs, American enterprise, R&D, local tax base etc. etc.?  This really is nuts!

Sue_N
Sue_N

My earlier commentseems to have disappeared, so I shall try again … perhaps with a bit more restraint. So …

Jeebus, really? Really? "It's wondrous stuff"? Willard is lying through his pearly whites, and this is what you come up with? Has it ever occurred to you and the other members of our national political press that the reason candidates lie with such impunity is that you all not only let them get away with it, but actually applaud them for it?

Yes, partisans (or the "tribal electorate," in your words) want to believe their guy is always right and will spin, spin, spin things their way and declare that their guy is always right. That's politics. But it is the job of journalists to tell the truth and to report the facts. Because if you don't, who will?

How in the world are voters supposed to make informed decisions if you and other journalists can't be bothered to do your damned jobs?

MarieBillanoStratas
MarieBillanoStratas

Since making up stuff seems to be acceptable, we can say Romney has cheated on his tax returns that's why he's hiding them. Romney must have done something really illegal and unlawful, why else would he be afraid to show his returns. His own father provided the gold standard, but, Romney does not really honor what his father stands for. Romney is a law unto himself. Romney must realize that what he's doing can be done to him too. A lie for a lie etc.

pbernasc
pbernasc

if people are stupid enough to vote for Romney .. what can you do ? It's your won country .. feel free to screw it. 

Clinton gave to the American people a budget surplus (never happened under GOP in the last 60 years) and a booming economy, 

Bush gave back a exploding deficit and collapsing economy .

Stupid people will vote GOP. Blame yourself. ... 

jilli.brown
jilli.brown

Boldly pronouncing that romney is a shameless liar is good politics?  On what planet?  Why didn't he just take out 10 second ads saying "we think you're stupid" - romney/ ryan.

BorisIII
BorisIII

From reading the angry comments from this article, Obviously the truth hurts.

YngwieFM
YngwieFM

'have been guided by the belief that they can peddle falsehoods withimpunity, because a tribal electorate won’t punish them for doing so."

Or a hapless and corrupt corporate media won't make too big a fuss.

skyguynick
skyguynick

@TheWaryLemming True... but they have gone hand in hand with politics from time immemorial.  That is just the way it works.

guinerbob
guinerbob

@SalParadise I totally agree.  The mainstream media needs to call BS on these types of "misleading" spins (i.e. lies).

waytogo
waytogo

@Sue_N the one bright spot coming out of this kind of reporting is that hope Democrats get really mad and run to the polling booths in droves to defeat Republicans at their own game. I really do wish Democrats do that

pbernasc
pbernasc

@jilli.brown that's what he did ... he doesn't know that cause he is too full  of himself to understand that .. sadly .. though ... there are way too many Americans who would fall for it 

pbernasc
pbernasc

@BorisIII stupidity hurts more ... hey, screw your own country .. put it back in the end of the guys who tool 40% from your retirement fund .. if you are stupid, you can only blame yourself

TheWaryLemming
TheWaryLemming

@skyguynick @TheWaryLemming

And you accept that cynical ideal? Do you realize, that by accepting it, you are enabling them to continue.

Perhaps time to do a little sober reading:

http://goo.gl/S2YXA

Sue_N
Sue_N

@ahandout @Sue_N Aw, aren't you cute?

Now, hold on, because I'm about to yank your precious talking point out from under you.

Yes, by all means, let's get answers on Benghazi. Let's have a thorough, intensive investigation of exactly what happened, what went wrong, what mistakes were made and how we can fix it. But let's let the professionals handle it, and not the press, the baggers, Willard, armchair generals who post on blogs, etc. And let's take Issa out of the mix, because he's proven he can't be trusted with sensitive information. Also, let's exclude anybody who couldn't find Libya on a map.

I'm more than willing to get answers. I just suspect that when we get them, you won't like them, because they won't be what you're hoping to hear.

MarieBillanoStratas
MarieBillanoStratas

@ahandout @MarieBillanoStratas Pres. Obama could have armed himself had he known a Mormon has no use for honesty. Romney's dishonesty has reached a fever pitch with his agitating ads about Jeep sending jobs to China causing the CEOs of both Chrysler and GM to push back & ask Romney to "stop lying about their companies". What Romney is doing could be tantamount to slander or some crime like that guy in New York who tweeted that NYSE was 3 feet in water & ConEd had shut down power. Those are lies that caused panic lie shouting Fire in a theater. Lies like Romney cannot be condoned & applauded. Why would people go to school, get enlightened, be civilized, tell the truth, not commit erjury if lies are allowed and accepted. It is very disturbing what Altman, a journalist is championing Romney's method.

Sue_N
Sue_N

@outsider2011 Handy doesn't care whether Romney's a liar or not. All that matters to him is that Willard's a Republican, and white.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@outsider2011 He can't even prove that he isn't one since all he posts are conspiracy theories and reheated lies from 2008/

outsider
outsider

you are like a little yapping dog, nipping at everyones heels - with nothing to add, except noise.

can you prove that romney is not a liar?