August has been a tough month for Romney. On the 9th, he told Chuck Todd that he wanted his taxes and business records off the table, claiming that further discussion was nothing more than a personal attack. Here the phrase “personal attack” actually means “what the people want to discuss directly contradicts the story Romney wants to tell” because when his claims were googled for accuracy, more than a few discrepancies were noted.
Its rough when reality flies in the face of the things you wish were true.
Two weeks ago, the American public was treated to one of the greatest displays of asinine, fuck-nuttery in recent history when Missouri Representative Todd Akin made it clear that no one had ever had the “birds and bees” talk with him, let alone taught him basic biology. To be fair, I can see how Mr. Akin would be confused; a lot of scary and confusing things can come up when you Google topics like “sex” or “rape” or “gay rape sex fantasy.”
In the wake of Akin’s idiocracy nearly every prominent member of the GOP went through the standard contortions attempting to distance themselves from the representative’s statements. Unfortunately, because Google exists, this tactic didn’t work.
Because it only take a few key strokes to check, it was immediately apparent that not only did many members of the GOP hold the same views on abortion as the representative from Missouri, but their vice-presidential nominee, Sen. Paul Ryan, had worked closely with Todd Akin to sponsor a bill that would have defined life as beginning at conception. Oh, yeah, then there’s also the whole thing about Todd Akin and Paul Ryan voting in lockstep on every piece of abortion legislation since 2001.
It came as no surprise to those of us with a computer and the basic skills to perform a web search that just forty-eight hours later, the Republican National Committee voted to adopt a plank to the party platform that reinforced their long held belief that life begins at conception.
On Wednesday Paul Ryan drew intense criticism from fact checkers across the internet for his truth bending claims on three points: a GM plant that was closed in Ryan’s district, the Simpson-Bowles debt commission report, and the Medicare proposal put forth by the president.
To recap: The GM plant in question was closed in 2008, while George Jr. was still in office; Ryan served on the debt commission and voted against its suggestions, and by doing so effectively helped kill the proposal; and, despite now embracing his running mate’s desire to restore those cuts to Medicare, Ryan’s own budget prior to his nomination favored the president’s cuts.
Of course, when called on such obvious falsehoods, Romney surrogate, pollster Neil Newhouse, suggested fact-checkers were biased and stated: “We’re not going [to] let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”
There was a time when it was it was quaint and sort of cute when older politicians displayed their profound misunderstanding of how the internet works. Remember 2006, when Ted Stevens said that the internet was “a series of tubes?” Or what about the 2000 election when George W. Bush adorably called it the “internets?” We all had a good laugh at their expense for displaying how remarkably out of touch they were with the technology of the day.
To be clear: I don’t expect any politician to be proficient in every aspect of web technology; that’s what your IT guy is for. But at a minimum, I do expect that they, or someone they employ is capable of performing a basic Google search on any given topic (like, oh, I dunno, their candidate’s previous position on a political issue, or how babies are made.)
You don’t have to understand the logic of Boolean Algebra to understand how to type in relevant search terms (which is probably a good thing since the Republican position on education reform means that soon our kids won’t even understand the logic behind 2+2=4,) but by issuing statements like Newhouse’s, the Romney campaign has made it clear that they wish to remain willfully ignorant of their biggest political opponent.
The internet has had a remarkable, democratizing effect on how information is distributed and a terms like “fact-checker” now applied to anyone with an internet connection. At the core of Newhouse’s remark is the idea that the GOP does care to hold themselves accountable to the very population the wish to represent.