09.19.1211:55 AM ET

As Usual, Dishonesty Rules

Is Romney's redistribution attack against Obama, based on this 1998 tape of the future president endorsing the concept, going to hurt? It wouldn't be my sense that redistribution is such a dirty word outside of right-wing circles. Most Americans--most normal, decent, unselfish Americans--are for it.

Last fall in one poll, two-thirds of Americans said the rich should be taxed more and that wealth should be distributed more evenly across the classes. This is but one survey of many. Generally speaking, Democrats back the concept strongly, and independents support it mildly. Indeed, Americans basically have no idea how inequal our society is, and when they're told, they're generally shocked, and they express a preference as in this poll for something much more egalitarian. 

So that's the background, but of course, a 30-second spot (well, in this case, 50 seconds) can have its own power, so who knows. But if you look at the ad, you'll see that as usual, to score his points, Romney has to resort to a lie. Here's how CBS.com describes it:

The RNC ad, entitled "Redistribution," repeats a partial audio clip of Mr. Obama's 1998 remarks twice throughout the ad while dramatic classical music plays loudly in the background. It also features a clip of CBS News' Steve Kroft questioning Mr. Obama about his position about the redistribution of wealth in a December 2011 interview, and includes a quote of Kroft saying "this is the socialist Obama and he's come out of the closet." In Kroft's full quote, it's clear he's not calling the president a socialist but is rather noting that some people will do so: "There are going to be people who say, 'This is the socialist Obama and he's come out of the closet," he said in the interview.  

It's a semi-dishonest use of the Kroft quote, in that it tries to make it sound like Kroft is calling him a "socialist" rather than joking with him about the label, which is what he was in fact doing. And the ad also completely chops up the Obama "didn't build that" riff to leave out the words roads and bridges and convey the idea that Obama thinks a person who built a business didn't build it.

I think it's useful to keep in mind this difference between the two. Romney demanded that Mother Jones release the whole unedited tape, and it did, and there was nothing there for Romney to lean on. Moral: To make Obama look bad, Romney has to lie about what he said. To make Romney look bad, all you have to do is play the tape.

UPDATE: I just learned about this missing two minutes nonsense. Yes, I'm sure that in those two minutes he said, "Hey, kidding! Really had you going there, eh?" I mean, seriously. We are about to enter a desperate seven weeks, people.