Criticizing policies they disagree with is fair game, and not inherently detrimental to democratic discourse. But dishonest smears that distort Obama’s record are a different matter. And that’s what conservative activists, funded by large donations from a handful of rich individuals and corporations, are producing. The Republican 2012 campaign against Obama has three central complaints and three main reasons: that he has failed to boost the economy, reduce gas prices or rein in the budget deficit because (A) he does not allow enough domestic energy production, (B) he spends too much money and puts too much power in the hands of government and (C) healthcare reform is a prime example of point B.
This is all baloney. Obama inherited deficits and a recession from President Bush, and the recession automatically worsened deficits by causing government revenues to plunge while the number of people who qualify for government assistance increases. The Affordable Care Act actually reduces the deficit and domestic energy production has actually increased under Obama.
But Republicans can’t let those facts get in the way of their efforts to win back the White House. Consequently, their allies who receive unlimited donations are trying to convince the public using misleading analysis.
Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, which is expected to raise $200 million to run negative ads against President Obama, has launched its first ad campaign of the election. Running in six swing states with a total $1.7 million ad buy, the television commercial takes aim at President Obama’s record on energy. Factcheck.org labeled the ad “bogus.” They write:
The Republican-leaning group makes some false and exaggerated claims.
It says the president “limited development of American oil shale.” Actually, production of petroleum from shale formations is booming. What the administration slowed down were plans for experimental development of ways to produce oil by heating kerogen-rich rocks, something that is years away from becoming commercially feasible.
The ad claims Obama lobbied to “kill” the Keystone XL pipeline. Not true. So far he has delayed a decision on some of it—while endorsing construction of a portion that will carry more low-cost oil to Gulf Coast refineries.
The ad correctly notes that there was a 17 percent decline in oil production in the Gulf of Mexico last year. But not all of that is because of the administration’s temporary drilling moratorium there.
As the New York Times reports, this is just the beginning of a major onslaught to come from Crossroads GPS.
Meanwhile, Charles Blahous, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, a conservative think tank that is heavily funded by Charles Koch and Koch family foundations, released a report on the budgetary impact of the Affordable Care Act. Blahous, who is the Republican Medicare Trustee, found the law will actually increase the deficit. The Washington Post credulously put his findings on its front page.