4 Myths Both Parties Want to Maintain Through the Presidential Election

Obama and Romney try to create rhetorical differences where substantive ones may not exist.


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Through the Looking Glass

To those not enamored by Teams Blue and Red, the rhetorical gymnastics performed in the run-up to a presidential election can be daunting. Yet underneath the hyper-partisan back and forth is an uncomfortable truth: a lot of what both sides are saying on the campaign trail is complete bullshit. Previously I broke down four misperceptions about Barack Obama some of his supporters advance. Some political misperceptions, however, are beneficial to partisans on both sides of the aisle, albeit for different reasons. Here are four myths that both the Democrats and the Republicans want to keep in circulation until the November election.

4. Paul Ryan Is a Budget-Cutting Fiscal Hawk

In the selection of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney's running mate, we had the opportunity to witness the creation of a bipartisan myth in overdrive. In this case, the myth was that Paul Ryan was a fiscal hawka libertarian, even an extremist. Anyone who's given the Paul Ryan budgets serious study knows that none of this true. Nick Gillespie noted earlier this year that Ryan's latest budget runs a deficit of $1.2 trillion, while the president's ran a deficit of $1.3 trillion. What's $100 billion between friends? By 2022, the Ryan budget envisions the federal government spending 4.9 trillion dollars. As Gillespie points out, though the Ryan budget doesn't deny the massive debt problem facing America, it's "weak tea" considering it does nothing to shrink annual deficits, and in fact doesn't even try to balance the budget at all in the next 10 years. Yet Romney selected Ryan to energize the small government and Tea Party base, and President Barack Obama has decided to pin his campaign's hope on painting his opponents as extremists, so playing on the misperceptions of Paul Ryan as a fiscal hawk is politically beneficial to both sides.

NEXT: Did you hear about Obama's amnesty?

3. Barack Obama Is Pro-Amnesty

While the DREAM Act languished in both the Democrat- and the Republican-controlled House as well as the Democratic Senate, even when Democrats held a 60-vote filibuster proof majority in that chamber, the Obama Administration hit record-breaking deportations rates and resisted reform of detention practices. Yet since President Obama announced temporary relief for some young people threatened by deportation a few months ago, his disenchanted Latino base has largely been re-invigorated. The unilateral presidential action also made passing immigration reform in Congress that much harder. But you wouldn't think the president's record was so muddied based on the rhetoric surrounding it. House Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-Texas), called Obama's limited waiver via executive order an "amnesty." A simple Google search will reveal Smith's not alone in characterizing Obama's move that way. At the other end of the spectrum, the Obama campaign's "Truth Team"—normally quick to spin any dissenting political opinion as factually untrue—debunked the myth of the Obama amnesty just once, a full nine months before the president's executive order. In the meantime, "Latinos for Obama" even created an infographic claiming Mitt Romney would "repeal the DREAM Act," almost as if the president and Democrats had actually passed it, beefing up their pro-immigration bona fides.

NEXT: Dude, our president is a peacemaker, he even got a prize for it!

2. Mitt Romney Is More Pro-War than Barack Obama

President Obama was announced as the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize just 10 short months after taking office. Amazing, right? Why did the Norwegians award our president this prize? "[F]or his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." Specifically, the committee cited our newly-minted president's efforts to reach out to the Muslim world. The president admitted he didn't think he deserved the award, adding, "but I also know that this prize reflects the kind of world… all Americans want to build, a world that gives life to the promise of our founding documents." What has Obama done since then? By the end of 2009, there had already been more drone strikes in Pakistan than under the last four years of the Bush administration. A New York Times expose of the president's drone war revealed that the Obama administration considered conversations within the executive branch about the justification for ordering drone killings as sufficient to meet the constitutional due process standard. So much for the promise of our founding documents. Obama also sent U.S. military forces to help bombard Libya during its civil war, violating the constitutional limits on war making. The war in Afghanistan, of course, continues bloodily, and though many believe the war in Iraq has ended, that's not completely true either. Not exactly a peacemaker. Reason has repeatedly explained how Obama's foreign policy mirrors George W. Bush's while various foreign policy analysts have noted that Obama and Romney's foreign policy plans are pretty much the same. Even on the issue of Iran, the difference between Obama and Romney has been described as more a difference in style than substance. Yet both Obama apologists and Romney boosters will claim a substantive difference in foreign policy, one that paints Romney as the more warmongering candidate and Obama as "weak" on foreign policy.

NEXT: Only Romney can stop Obamacare, right?

1. Mitt Romney is Opposed to Government Intervention in Health Care, Like Obamacare!

When it comes to health care reform, the motto of the Tea Party has been "repeal Obamacare," but for Mitt Romney it's "repeal and replace." But replace with what? Romney defended his own government intervention in health care in Massachusetts, Romneycare, in a similar way to Obama's defense of Obamacare. An MIT professor who helped formulate Romneycare and advised Democrats on Obamacare noted many similarities between the two laws. The president himself identifies the Massachusetts law as a blueprint for his own program (though as Romney notes, he was never consulted for his expertise by the Obama administration). Recently, Romney was the target a vicious attack ad trying to connect him, through his work at Bain Capital, to a woman who lost her health insurance and died of cancer. Romney's chief spokesperson, Andrea Saul, didn't rebut the attack by pointing out the glaring inconsistencies of the narrative, but instead noted that had the woman lived in Massachusetts when Romneycare was in effect, she would've never lost her health insurance. Not exactly the kind of defense a candidate opposed to even more government intervention in an already heavily-regulated health care market would give. The comment drew calls for Saul's resignation, but she remains on Team Mitt.

At the same time, the Obama campaign uses the threat of the repeal of Obamacare to marshal support for the president. Just this week, the first lady framed the debate over Obamacare as a question of health, asking an audience "Do we want these reforms to be repealed? …Or do we want the people we love to have the care they need? That's the choice we face." Although Romney may bank on the unpopularity of Obamacare, especially among the conservative grassroots, he's never repudiated the idea of government intervention in the health care market. He even went so far as to tout the Israeli government's intervention in health care as an aspirational model. But what if Romney is actually sincere about repealing Obamacare, and the "replace" part of his mantra is just him trying to play both sides like politicians are wont to do? In June, The New Yorker laid out what it would take to repeal Obamacare and why a President Romney wouldn't be able to do it. The most compelling point? Republicans are highly unlikely to get the 60 votes in the Senate needed to repeal the law.