Mitt Romney’s campaign can be congratulated on fulfilling a summer campaign promise — to speak its mind in campaign ads, regardless of what outsiders said. Or as Romney pollster Neil Newhouse put it in August: "We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.”
With a new ad out Tuesday, the Romney camp, sure fire, renews its previously discredited charge that President Obama “gutted the work requirement for welfare.”
It’s an allegation that many media already showed ignores the real intent of an Obama administration rule that lets states begin to try new ways to get the poor to fulfill the work requirement that goes with their welfare payments. That’s normally the kind of power-sharing with the states that Republicans adore. But not when there’s an opening to dog the Democrat in the White House and to ignite the electorate with images of layabouts collecting government checks while giving nothing in return.
The misleading welfare claim comes at the start of a 30-second ad, “Can’t Afford Another Term,” that lays out a series of troubling economic benchmarks reached during Obama’s first term. The spot lays the burden for the Great Recession squarely in the president’s lap, including a $16-trillion debt. The ad is filled with images of young people. It concludes: “We may have made it through President Obama's first term. It’s our children who can’t afford a second.”
The claim of gutting work requirements in welfare makes for the second disputed assertion in a Romney ad released in the last few days. The Republican already had been widely chastised for airing ads suggesting that Chrysler, after being bailed out by Obama, shipped jobs making Jeeps overseas to China. The automaker said it actually had added U.S. manufacturing jobs, while also adding jobs in China to supply the Asian market.
Romney had raised the no-work-for-welfare claim earlier in an ad that declared: “Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check."
That got it wrong by suggesting Obama had changed policy nationally when, in fact, his Health and Human Services Department had offered waivers for only a few test programs. The letter proposing the change also said it only would allow work substitutes, like education, to "improve employment outcomes for needy families." That sounds lot different than a drive to cut the work requirement.
Politifact.com, among many other outlets, found the earlier Romney ad grossly misleading. “The ad’s claim is not accurate,” Politifact said, “and it inflames old resentments about able-bodied adults sitting around collecting public assistance.”
It’s noteworthy that both of the newest misleading Romney ads went on the air without a press release to news organizations, which had been standard issue for ads during most of the campaign. Why give the media an early heads-up on ads, if those thankless scribes will spend the extra time debunking your 30 seconds of handiwork?
With just a week to go until election day, voters would be wise to greet any and all campaign ads — from both sides — with a healthy dose of skepticism.