Lie to me, please: Truth was the real loser of first presidential debate

AP Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Obama wave to the audience during the first presidential debate at the … Continued


Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Obama wave to the audience during the first presidential debate at the University of Denver on Oct. 3, 2012.

Do Americans really care whether they are being lied to, or does the polling on the first presidential debate show that while Americans like a good fake reality show, their minds are already made up anyway?

Mitt Romney’s debate performance may show that you can “win” a debate and become less “likeable” at the same time. This I will dub the “Kardashian factor.”

The problem to me is that if the American people find aggressive lying entertaining, will they eventually be unable to tell the difference between lies and reality? I fear that time, indeed, is approaching.

We have entered the age of “post-truth” and our entire political process has degenerated as a result. Our politics looks more and more like episodes of “Survivor.”

Be warned: “post-truthfulness” will inevitably bleed into all areas of our lives as a result, from intimate relations to our social and work lives. It is the essence of the amoral, where individuals or whole nations are unable to perceive or are indifferent to questions of right or wrong.

Oddly enough, however, it was neither President Obama nor challenger Romney whom many thought, myself included, who was the worst performer of the evening. Instead, that honor goes to the deferential moderator, Jim Lehrer. Time and again, Lehrer was “steamrolled” by Romney who simply talked over Lehrer and “lied his way through the debate with no challenge from moderator Jim Lehrer.”

President Obama, who also could have challenged Romney on these untruths, stuck to his narrative and didn’t decisively call Romney out on it. Obama didn’t win points for that. In fact, Americans, it seems from the sum of the post-debate polls, prefer aggressively told lies to explanations. At least, perhaps, until after a few days when they realize it was just a reality show.

Romney denied he has proposed a $5 trillion tax cut, but since he has given no specifics on the elimination of “offsets” like tax deductions and credits, the $5 trillion is the only hard number available. Romney repeated the untruth that President Obama is “cutting $716 billion” from Medicare, but these are actually savings from reductions in fraud and waste. Gas prices have not “doubled,” as Mr. Romney claimed.

Perhaps the worst lie of all was Romney’s claim that people with pre-existing conditions would be covered under his plan, a claim that a Romney adviser immediately walked back after the debate.

Finally, Romney “essentially revived the idea of death panels” by claiming Obamacare established “a board that will tell people what kind of treatment they’re going to get.” Nope.

The best moment of the debate, frankly, and where reality may have intruded, was when Romney essentially fired both Jim Lehrer and Big Bird: “I’m sorry, Jim, I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS, I love Big Bird. Actually like you, too.”

Oops. Truth-telling.

Immediately a Twitter meme was created, @FiredBigBird. The last I checked, it had 23,160 followers. By contrast, @SilentJimLehrer was only following Big Bird.

Big Bird tweeted:

Now, Romney, that one moment of truth-telling will come back to haunt you, mark my words. It took four minutes for @FiredBigBird to be created.

But for the rest of the debate, it was truth that lost. Hands down.

Former president of Chicago Theological Seminary (1998-2008), the Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is professor of theology at Chicago Theological Seminary and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress

  • HardyCitrus

    Also this was another of Mitt’s huge lies – that “Obama promised unemployment would stay below 8%”

    Yeah, when did that happen and why haven’t we ever seen that in a campaign ad? Because it never happened and this is just another of Mitt’s wild over the top lies.

    But as Mitt said in the debate, just repeat the lie over and over.

  • HardyCitrus

    A tax cut is not a tax cut is not a tax cut if it is (maybe) paid for?

    SOMEONE is getting stuck with a $5 trillion bar tab. Mitt is planning a $5 trillion “redistribution of wealth.”

    But Mitt thinks he can do some sort of Jedi mind trick by saying “there is no $5 trillion dollar tax cut.” What was it Mitt was saying about liars repeating something over and over?

  • OldUncleTom

    Truth left the work place decades ago. Most of my working life, there has been “what happened”, and the “official story” for the customers.

    It is so common, I wonder if people even realize any more that this is lying.

  • OldUncleTom

    Mitt claimed also that nobody could say it wasn’t true if He said it was. I wonder if He can also walk on water now?

  • OldUncleTom

    There was a statement something like Mitt’s claim during the interval between the election and the inauguration. But, it should be noted that the proposed stimulus package referred to was 50% larger in funding and had a somewhat different structure than the bill that actually survived the sausage-making in the Congress.

    So, in context, the Obama staffer said, “IF THIS bill is passed, we PREDICT that unemployment will remain under 8%.” “THIS BILL” never passed (though a smaller one did), and unemployment went higher. We will never know if the Obama staffer was correct in the prediction.

  • C. Berger

    Hurrah!! Finally someone besides me points out that Jim Lehrer let Romney run all over him. Evidently, because he’s so rich, Romney never learned as a child to “wait your turn”. He just kept talking over everyone the whole time. Please God, don’t let the American people be so dumb as to elect him President.

  • C. Berger

    Hurrah! Finally, someone besides me thinks that Jim Lehrer did a lousy job as he just let Romney run all over him. Obviously, because he’s so rich, Romney was never told as a child to “wait your turn”–just talk over everyone and refuse to shut up.

  • minidictum

    You don’t get “truth” by reading the major news media outlets either; CNN included. Even this article spins a couple of the points and doesn’t completely tell the truth without giving it a little left hand spin. Hello, kettle…

  • Baphomet

    Never wrestle with a pig. You both get muddy and the pig likes it.

  • JimNJ

    Romney has lied > 500 times during this general election campaign. Steve Benen has documented Romney’s lies. And Romney lied frequently during the 1st debate. There he is: Bishop Romney, in all his grifter glory. What does his church think of his lying? What did the country do, to deserve this?

  • publius1

    It wasn’t Lehrer’s job to call out Romney; that was Obama’s job. This isn’t kindergarten.

  • Windyone

    Yes, it is hard to understand why the President repeatedly lied on statistics and statements out of context and fumbled the ball even as Lehrer gave him the advantage of 11% more minutes that Romney.

  • Windyone

    Obama lie count was 13% higher than Romneys

  • Windyone

    Leherer in fact gave Obama 11% more minutes to ramble on his exaggerations.

  • Windyone

    But in fact unemployment is still over 8%

  • Windyone

    Since it takes 125,000 new jobs each month to keep up with population growth there is no way that unemployment can decrease with 114,000 jobs. The 7.9% “calculalated” “surveyed” number manufactured by DOL is bogus number.. It will be revised later.

  • Joezerb

    Tying to get people to vote for you turns you into a salesman. Who believes even 10% of what any salesman tells you? The process has given us mainly fourth rate “leaders” and will do so again come November.

  • KammaRama

    The stunning act of Romney-mendacity that this article does not mention is when he said something like “I have five boys so I know what it i like when people keep saying what isn’t true over and over until you believe it…” Stunning because that is what Romney, Ryan, and Fox News do…It is their main MO! Obama should have called him on that.

    Romney was lying and denying all night and then he tried to attack Obama for doing what he did. That takes a lot of brass….

    My thought is: if Romney’s boys are compulsive liars, from whom did they learn that? As they say, like father, like son.

  • spamsux1

    A ridiculous assertion by the author that Lehrer was to blame for Obama’s pitiful performance.

    Jim stayed out of the way and let the two men debate. He asked questions and let them answer and argue.
    Obama took 4 more minutes than Romney.

    Stop the stupid, misplaced blame for Obama’s failure.