It’s not the first negative ad we’ve seen this election cycle, and it won’t be the last. But Mitt Romney’s latest ad touting the blatant lie that under Obama’s welfare plan you wouldn’t have to work or train for a job, you can just sit and wait for your check, could be a new low.
Lean Forward contributor and contributing editor of The American Prospect magazine Paul Waldman stopped by The Ed Show on Friday to discuss what HuffPo journalist Jonathan Weiler called “[perhaps] the single most dishonest television ad in the history of American presidential campaigns.”
“They really do appear to have lost any concern about whether or not what they’re saying is true,” Waldman told Ed Schultz. “In the ad, after they get through talking about the part about Bill Clinton, every sentence in there is false, with the exception of ‘I’m Mitt Romney and I approved this message.’"
Romney accused Obama of “gutting” welfare-to-work programs, reducing them to plain old welfare programs. In reality, the Obama administration announced they would consider granting waivers to states to allow them some flexibility.
“Waivers that weaken or undercut welfare reform will not be approved. Waivers will not be granted to avoid time limits on when assistance may be provided,” the Obama campaign stated. “The only waivers that will be granted will test approaches that can do a better job at promoting work among families receiving assistance.”
Waldman explained that besides being wrong, the ad attempts to subtly play off voter prejudice:
“This issue is an old story for Republicans, it goes back to the 1960s. And it really exists at the nexus of class and race. Mitt Romney’s biggest political problem is the perception that he’s a candidate of, by and for the 1%. And so he’s doing what Republicans have done for a long time, which is to send a message to middle class voters that ‘your resentments shouldn’t be aimed up at the wealthy, they should be aimed down at the poor.’ And even though they’re not making an explicit racial argument, you can’t ignore the fact that there is always a racial element to this in the minds of voters and that’s something the Romney campaign is not naïve about. They understand the kinds of reactions people have when you start talking about welfare and those freeloading welfare recipients who are taking your hard-working money so they can goof off.”
Questionable racial subtext aside, Michael Eric Dyson was on hand to point out another major flaw in the ad – when he was the governor of Massachusetts, Romney supported a program that gave welfare recipients free cars, as well as repairs, insurance, inspection, and a AAA membership.
Thankfully, Waldman believes this could be the last we see of this kind of welfare-themed ad leading up to November. He told Ed Schultz they just don’t work like they once did:
“This does have sort of a whiff of desperation about it. Keep in mind, Republicans won the policy argument about welfare all the way back in 1996 and this just comes out of nowhere. I really think his biggest problem is this perception that he’s only going to do what’s in the best interest of the elite. So they are pulling out this argument that goes all the way back to Richard Nixon and to Ronald Reagan talking about welfare queens, and Newt Gingrich in the 90s talking about midnight basketball…this idea that your money is going to undeserving poor people and black people. It’s an old song but it doesn’t have quite the same ring anymore and it’s hard to imagine that it’s going to be all that effective.”