Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Whatever Works

There is a view among ethicists known as Pragmatism which holds, roughly speaking, that whatever works is right. Many politicians, unless they're governed by some higher moral principle, are pragmatists who believe that if something, no matter how nefarious it might seem to some, helps them hold onto power then it's ethically right and proper.

This is why so many politicians feel no qualms about lying about both themselves and their opponents. In their eyes lying is morally justified if it results in electoral success.

President Obama has amassed a rather impressive record in this regard, churning out half-truths and untruths on an almost daily basis.

Karl Rove summarizes some recent examples of Mr. Obama's faltering commitment to honesty in a piece at the Wall Street Journal:
To get a sense of how comprehensive the president's assault on the truth has been, consider some of his false claims in recent speeches and ads.

One Obama spot says, "To pay for huge, new tax breaks for millionaires like him, Romney would have to raise taxes on the middle class: $2,000 for a family with children."

That claim has been thoroughly discredited, including by PolitiFact Virginia and editorials in this newspaper. Mr. Romney, unlike the president, is committed to cutting taxes for everyone, including the middle class.

Another ad says, "As a corporate raider, [Mr. Romney] shipped jobs to China and Mexico." In response, the Washington Post editorialized, "On just about every level, this ad is misleading, unfair and untrue."

As recently as Sept. 17, Mr. Obama claimed in Ohio that Mr. Romney's "experience has been owning companies that were called 'pioneers' in the business of outsourcing jobs to countries like China." But that claim, too, is a fabrication.

There is more. An Obama ad aimed at northern Virginia women intones, "Mitt Romney opposes requiring coverage for contraception." In fact, Mr. Romney opposes the president's unprecedented assault on religious liberties—in this case, the federal government forcing religious institutions (like church-sponsored hospitals, schools and charities) to provide insurance coverage for contraception in violation of their fundamental moral values and, incidentally, the First Amendment.
Rove goes on to accuse the president of having trouble being forthright about his own record as well:
Mr. Obama said at a Univision Town Hall on Sept. 20 that his biggest failure "is we haven't gotten comprehensive immigration reform done." The president then did what is second nature to him: He pinned the blame on Republicans. The problem with this excuse is that the Democrats controlled Congress by huge margins in the first two years of his presidency — and Mr. Obama never introduced an immigration bill or even provided the framework for one.

In the same interview, Mr. Obama claimed that his Justice Department's botched "Fast and Furious" gunrunning program was "begun under the previous administration." This time it was ABC's Jake Tapper correcting the record, pointing out, "it was started in October 2009, nine months into the Obama presidency."

The most troubling recent example of Mr. Obama's serial dishonesty is his administration's effort to deny that the attack on our consulate in Benghazi was a premeditated terrorist assault, as if the truth would somehow tarnish Mr. Obama's foreign-policy credentials.
Unfortunately, many voters only pay lip service to their alleged disdain for dishonesty among politicians. When given the chance to show the door to someone who has blatantly tried to deceive the electorate both about his opponent and about himself, they'll vote for him anyway as long as he's more charming than the other guy. They did it with President Clinton and, sadly, many of them will do it again with Mr. Obama.

It makes one wonder who is more dishonest, the politicians or the people who vote for them even as they profess their contempt for the lack of integrity among the political class. Maybe voters only despise dishonesty when it's the other party's guy who's engaging in it.

Why the President May be in Electoral Trouble

Although recent polls have been showing Mr. Obama maintaining a substantial lead over Mr. Romney in the race for the White House there are several reasons to be skeptical that Mr. Obama is enjoying the cushion the media has been claiming for him. Here are four:
  • Support and/or enthusiasm is down in every subgroup that carried Obama to victory last time. Jews, businessmen, youth, even blacks and Hispanics are all less enthusiastic than in 2008. Those blacks and Hispanics who vote will undoubtedly vote overwhelmingly for Mr. Obama, but it doesn't appear that as many will vote this time around as last.
  • Democratic registration is down sharply in most swing states. John Hinderaker at Powerline cites these numbers from Ohio and elsewhere:
    Voter registration in the Buckeye State is down by 490,000 people from four years ago. Of that reduction, 44 percent is in Cleveland and surrounding Cuyahoga County, where Democrats outnumber Republicans more than two to one.

    Ohio is not alone. An August study by the left-leaning think tank Third Way showed that the Democratic voter registration decline in eight key swing states outnumbered the Republican decline by a 10-to-one ratio. In Florida, Democratic registration is down 4.9 percent, in Iowa it's down 9.5 percent. And in New Hampshire, it’s down 19.7 percent.

    The Third Way study, which was conducted in August, indicates the Democrats’ drop in registered voters coincides with a gain in independent voters.
  • Admittedly, this one is anecdotal but perhaps significant nonetheless: I've heard a lot of people say that they voted for Mr. Obama in 2008 but will not vote for him in 2012, but I've yet to hear someone say they voted for John McCain in 2008 but will vote for Barack Obama this year.
  • Finally, almost every poll that shows President Obama ahead assumes that Democrats will turn out in the same proportion over Republicans as they did in 2008. Many pollsters survey respondents based on the 2008 numbers so if Democrat voters were 8% more numerous than Republicans in 2008 then pollsters ask 8% more Democrats than Republicans who they'll vote for this year.

    This, of course, results in higher percentages of voters who say they'll vote for Mr. Obama, but given the heavy GOP turnout in the 2010 election and the much higher voter enthusiasm among Republicans this year, it seems unrealistic to rely on the 2008 numbers for this year's electorate.