Quick Recap: President Barack Obama is a tax and spend liberal who uses the government as his personal piggy bank to pay off fat cat donors and Energy companies in guaranteed bankruptcy. He also launched an utterly failed stimulus that deliberately paid other countries to make things we could here just to stick it to the working American in the throes of the “worst economic recovery America has ever had” when all he has to do was magically lower the National Debt. Oh, did I mention he also doesn’t think any business owners are responsible for their companies’ success?
Governor and Republican nominee Mitt Romney is an effete, out of touch pirate captain of industry who ran a company pioneering outsourcing. He also plans to reward companies for sending jobs overseas while simultaneously taking money from the middle class to give to the rich like a reverse Robin Hood. By the way, his only political experience – a gubernatorial stint in Massachusetts – resulted in lost jobs, a 47th ranked job creation figure, and an exploding debt. Let’s face it: as far as both President Obama and Governor Romney’s campaigns are concerned, our country is pretty much doomed.
Here’s the catch: only about 46% of anything the Obama Campaign says and 30% of the Romney Campaign’s statements are even mostly true according to Pulitzer Prize winning Politifact.com. Beyond that, the outside contributors – who’ve increased markedly in their participation after the now infamous Citizens United v. Federal Election Comission decision – rarely touch above 35% mostly true statements and ads. Clearly saying that any campaign advertisements out there should be taken with a grain of salt is an understatement. I view this as a serious problem in a political system in which so much emphasis is put on television advertising. We want our president (or senator, or representative, or board member, etc.) to be trustworthy and upstanding – the best of all of us – yet we do not expect them or any of our other political candidates to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Take, for example, the two most famous truth-dodging advertisements from both sides. President Obama’s Bain Capital attacks and Governor Romney’s “you didn’t build that” indictment. While Romney’s time at Bain was not exactly indicative of the struggles of small businesses in America – He specialized in buying, improving, and sometimes then reselling smaller companies for profit – there is no proof whatsoever of for the accusations Obama’s ads have repeatedly thrown at him. While Bain Capital did send jobs overseas, there is little to no proof that Romney had any control when it happened. It is false and unfair to lay blame on him when he had no obvious say in the matter. Conversely, Mitt Romney has blatantly taken Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comment out of context and run with it. Obama was trying to say that we are all building America together, small business owners get help from government built roads and bridges and they give back to help America continue to improve its overall quality of life. Though he said it poorly, Obamas comments do not open him up for attacks if his comments are not given full context as to their meaning.
I understand that a campaign can’t be expected to actively provide information detrimental to their own cause. However, I do not think it is unreasonable for the government, or a private organization such as politifact.com, to have to vet advertising to ensure that Americans are getting as factual a representation of their election options as possible. In fact, we have regulations on all advertising in America EXCEPT for political ads. Why are we expecting our grocery stores, electronics outlets, and television networks to be more honest than our countries leaders? Does the fact that the First Amendment tenuously protects “political speech” really allow our leaders to outright lie in advertisement with little to no punishment?
The argument for the status quo is twofold: Regulation is an impingement upon free speech, and that we have “free market” checks such as politifact.com or factcheck.org to keep the citizens informed as to the truthfulness of campaign advertisement. While I am not one for nonchalantly reducing American’s rights to free speech, I do not understand how ads are different from ads. What makes a political ad inherently different from any other? If anything, shouldn’t they be held under more scrutiny that your average Dominoes ad? I’d feel much more comfortable knowing that a news outlet can refuse to run a political ad if it’s proven to be false (they can’t right now). This brings me to the second point, that we have fact-checking websites to which all Americans have free, unrestricted access. While I think it is good to teach the citizens to be discerning in gathering information, I think we should do this by expecting them to critically examine party platforms to really understand which party’s policies most represent their views, not whether a candidate is telling the truth.
Surprisingly or not, there is definite world precedent in regulating political advertisement. In England political parties are not even allowed to run advertisements, a fact heralded by some as instrumental in avoiding a polarizing and vitriolic political sphere. Canada prevents anyone from making a deliberately false statement about a candidate on any major medium during an election. In short, this is hardly a draconian or anti-democratic measure and one that, frankly, will help all Americans make an informed decision come election season.