No reason to outsource the truth in ads

If President Barack Obama wanted to slam Mitt Romney on jobs, it wouldn’t be difficult.

His team could have written an ad that said Romney, while at Bain Capital, invested in companies that later went bankrupt, closed or otherwise cost workers their jobs.

He could even have said, “Don’t take my word for it: Listen to Republicans such as Rick Perry or Newt Gingrich, who circulated the stories of laid-off workers in a brutal film that he aired with the financial help of Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson; capitalists all.”

So why is the president and his campaign continuing to repeat highly questionable charges that Romney outsourced jobs to China and India while he was at Bain, and while he was governor of Massachusetts? Why repeat disputed statements when the truth would suffice?

It’s a legitimate question.

The Obama team has been on Romney’s case about jobs for months, but stepped things up after a Washington Post story was published June 21 that alleged Bain, under Romney, “owned companies that were pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas calls centers and factories making computer components.”

First, Romney started Bain in 1984, and left in 1999. But, as my 8NewsNow colleague Steve Kanigher has written, outsourcing was hardly a new thing in 1987. Since at least the 1970s, industries (especially clothing manufacturers) have sought to lower labor costs by manufacturing goods in foreign countries.

Second, the charge itself is suspect. The independent group FactCheck.org investigated the Post’s allegations – and the Obama campaign’s ads citing the Post as a source. Their conclusion: ” … we found no evidence to support the claim that Romney – while he was still running Bain Capital – shipped American jobs overseas.”

The in-depth FactCheck.org report looked at each of the companies mentioned in the Post story to conclude that either the outsourcing took place after Romney left the company, that it couldn’t be accurately determined whether American jobs were lost to foreign countries, or the charges were unsupported by the evidence.

In addition, the group found that Romney had not “outsourc[ed] state jobs to India.” In fact, he vetoed a bill that would have prevented the state from doing business with companies that outsourced state contract work to other countries. At best, one could say he made it possible for outsourcing to occur, although the state’s Democratic Legislature failed to override the veto, as it had with many other Romney vetoes.

So, if the charges are not true, why make them? Some answers can be found in The New York Times, which reported July 1 that Obama was “successfully invoking Mitt Romney’s career at Bain Capital to raise questions about Mr. Romney’s commitment to the middle class.”

“And strategists in both parties said independent voters speaking in focus groups had indicated that they had seen the ads or heard their charges and that they had raised questions in their minds about Mr. Romney’s experience.”

USA Today polled voters in swing states, and found about one in 12 reporting that commercials – including the ones on Romney’s Bain record – have changed their minds about a candidate. Among those with changed minds, 76 percent now support Obama, with just 16 percent saying they were persuaded to support Romney, the paper reported July 8.

The answer, it seems, is that it works. But Obama could have fashioned very similar ads without stretching the truth at all. The fact is, capitalism is sometimes messy, and greater efficiency and profits sometimes costs jobs. Romney himself has acknowledged this.

The bottom line: There’s no good reason for Obama to stretch the truth.

 

Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist and author of the blog SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 387-5276 or SSebelius@reviewjournal.com.

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