This is why we can't have nice things. When a top campaign official not only admits, but boasts about spinning propaganda in the form of a campaign commercial, we're lost. Thomas Edsall of the New York Times got this straight from a top operative for the Romney campaign:
“First of all, ads are propaganda by definition. We are in the persuasion business, the propaganda business…. Ads are agitprop…. Ads are about hyperbole, they are about editing. It’s ludicrous for them to say that an ad is taking something out of context…. All ads do that. They are manipulative pieces of persuasive art.”
Of course ads are intended to persuade. But that doesn't really mean they should lie. As Heather pointed out, this was Lawrence O'Donnell's central point in his rewrite of the original ad. And Digby is even more pointed about it:
I'm not sure why we should be shocked by these Romney operatives taking credit for a dishonest campaign ad since operatives do it all the time, but I guess it's just the arrogant openness about their rank dishonesty that makes it remarkable:
Those Romney operatives aren't fools and they know they can get away with lying as long as the press decides they can get away with it. Whether it's because they want Romney to be the nominee or because it fits with their narrative about Obama or some combination of the two, they are very likely to let this pass or even allow it to become part of the CW, thus kicking in Cokie's Law, which says "it doesn't matter if it's true or not, it's out there." Fact checking only matters if the press wants it to matter.
Well, now we have the campaign admitting they're lying and propagandizing in a fashion worthy of certain operatives leading up to and during World War II, and when the media questions them on it, their response is simply "everyone does it."
Edsall's commentary examines the Romney ad in the historical context of political lobbying, advertising, and moneymaking over the past 30-40 years, and the concurrent erosion of ethics over the same time:
The significance of the spot lies in its explicit distortion of an opponent’s remark, but the spot’s direct duplicity is also the latest step in the transgression by political operatives of formerly agreed-upon ethical boundaries. What was once considered sleazy becomes the norm.
Over the past four decades, moral standards governing the conduct of political competition have been violated by both left and right, with two goals: winning elections and making money. In this endeavor, the early 1980s were a fertile period.
It didn’t take long for the practice to become standardized, and today firms on both sides of the aisle are “double breasted.” It is just this kind of ‘inside-the-beltway’ cronyism that both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street define as corrupt.
Of course, it shouldn't surprise anyone that Mitt Romney fired the first truly dishonest shot off the bow. After all, this is a guy who will do, say, and be anyone he needs to be in order to be elected.
We're living in an age where truth is declared a lie in the name of false equivalence by a site called "Politifact", political operatives openly boast of lies and deception in the name of propagandizing, and cable channels call themselves "news" while disseminating gossip and lies. Is it any wonder our political system is broken?
[h/t Greg Sargent]