Recently, a terribly misleading ad from Priorities USA Action essentially accuses the actions and leadership of Mitt Romney of leading to the death of the wife of a man who used to work for a company taken over by Bain Capital. The ad, which has been proven factually inaccurate by CNN, was given approval by Washington Post Plum Line blogger Greg Sargent despite its inaccuracies. From the post (emphasis added):
Priorities USA Action has released a widely discussed ad that implies Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital is to blame for the death of a laid off steelworker’s wife. I think the ad goes too far…Joe Soptic’s wife died five years after his plant closed. She had her own health insurance — for a time — after he lost his job….But the circumstances of her illness are so unclear…that there’s simply no way to determine whether she would or wouldn’t have died if he hadn’t been fired.
The ad doesn’t quite say outright that Romney is to blame for her death….But the ad could have been a bit more specific in recounting what happened with her illness — and it does imply that she died partly because of Bain, which, again, is unsupportable at best.
The larger story here is this: Even if this ad makes unsupportable charges — and even if you think there’s nothing objectionable about Bain’s conduct — the ad dramatizes a larger story about what has happened to the middle class in this country….Obama believes in aggressive federal action to cushion the blow of market outcomes like the one that hit families like the Soptics with such force. Romney…is promising to roll back government protections for families like theirs. Whatever you think of the ad, that’s the more important larger argument to be having here — and it has been clarified this week.
So let’s get this straight: the ad “is unsupportable at best,” according to Sargent. But that’s acceptable because it clearly defines what the campaigns are about – Obama for greater government protections against “market outcomes,” and Romney for cruelly taking them away. Gotcha.
This is ridiculous on two levels: first, dishonest is dishonest. According to Sargent’s logic, any right-of-center SuperPAC releasing an ad saying Obama hates all unborn babies would be legitimate as long as it highlighted a clarifying discussion on philosophies. An ad saying Obama wants to take all income by all people for federal taxation is acceptable, as long as it leads to a high-profile and clarifying discussion on philosophies. Heck, any amateur blogger could claim that President Obama said he thinks government is more responsible than business owners for the success of their own businesses! (Oh, wait – he did. And I bashed him for it.)
Second, Sargent assumes Obama’s visions of the role of government are actually better for people than that of those who support freer markets. But given how Medicare is increasingly shifting costs to the private sector; how tax bias has led to a very dysfunctional individual insurance market; and how federal and state regulatory, tax, and debt burdens are helping to keep unemployment high, I have my doubts. Additionally, if it weren’t for ineffective federal social welfare and an unconstitutional federal education bureaucracy, perhaps we’d have a work force more able and willing to work, have insurance, and live longer lives.
To me, originally watching the ad with few preconceived notions, it reminded me of the terribly dishonest David Dewhurst ad accusing Texas Senate Republican nominee Ted Cruz of being responsible for a young man’s suicide, or the “Taliban Dan” ad run by then-Rep. Alan Grayson in his failed re-election run in 2010. Dishonesty is dishonesty, especially when it comes to mistreatment of other human beings and/or their deaths. For Sargent, who describes his blog as ““opinionated reporting” from the left,” his approval seems more like “false testimony and an attempt to prop up a failed presidency from the left.”