A real question now raging in American politics is: does truth really matter anymore? Can a candidate or a campaign assert over and over something that is a documented falsehood, even when called out on it, and suffer no political consequences? Forget about being a Republican or Democrat: Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s Jeep-jobs-to-China raises that issue as graphically as it has been raised. And here is more proof: the auto companies are issuing statements saying the ad makes a bogus charge.
But it’s clear (so far) that Team Romney doesn’t care. Will the voters? Stay tuned Tuesday.
In nothing less than a big corporate slap down, the CEO of one of the world’s biggest auto companies totally decimates the claims of an ad for one of America’s most famous former CEO’s, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Even though reporters from all political persuasions and automakers have made it clear the ad is at the least inaccurate and perhaps one of the biggest lie ads produced by either party in decades, the Romney campaign has almost gleefully insisted on airing it and having its surrogates insist it’s accurate. Hey, what do the CEO’s of auto companies including the company mentioned in the ad know?
Chrysler chief executive Sergio Marchionne circulated an e-mail to Chrysler Group LLC employees today strongly restating the automaker’s promise that it will not move existing U.S. production of Jeeps to China.
In the e-mail, Mr. Marchionne said he felt obligated to again address the company’s production plans over continuing “public debate.”
The note did not directly reference politics or the presidential election, but Chrysler’s plans for Jeep have become a major political talking point over the last week, especially in Ohio. Speaking in Defiance last week, Republican candidate Mitt Romney seized on a misrepresentation of a Bloomberg story, suggesting that Chrysler was considering moving existing Jeep production to China.
Fiat SpA, Chrysler’s parent company, is considering building some Jeeps in China, though the production would be new, not shifted from elsewhere.
Mr. Romney tweaked his line of attack, but is still using the story in currently airing television ads that attack President Obama over the auto bailout, saying he “sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China.”
Mr. Marchionne said in his e-mail today that any Jeep production in China would only serve to bolster the brand, and with it, U.S. jobs.
Chrysler Group’s production plans for the Jeep brand have become the focus of public debate.
I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China.
North American production is critical to achieving our goal of selling 800,000 Jeep vehicles by 2014. In fact, U.S. production of our Jeep models has nearly tripled (it is expected to be up 185%) since 2009 in order to keep up with global demand.
We also are investing to improve and expand our entire U.S. operations, including our Jeep facilities. The numbers tell the story:
We will invest more than $1.7 billion to develop and produce the next generation Jeep SUV, the successor of the Jeep Liberty — including $500 million directly to tool and expand our Toledo Assembly Complex and will be adding about 1,100 jobs on a second shift by 2013.
At our Jefferson North Assembly Plant, where we build the Jeep Grand Cherokee, we have created 2,000 jobs since June 2009 and have invested more than $1.8 billion.
In Belvidere, where we build two Jeep models, we have added two shifts since 2009 resulting in an additional 2,600 jobs.
With the increase in demand for our vehicles, especially Jeep branded vehicles, we have added more than 11,200 U.S. jobs since 2009. Plants producing Jeep branded vehicles alone have seen the number of people invested in the success of the Jeep brand grow to more than 9,300 hourly jobs from 4,700. This will increase by an additional 1,100 as the Liberty successor, which will be produced in Toledo, is introduced for global distribution in the second quarter of 2013.
Together, we are working to establish a global enterprise and previously announced our intent to return Jeep production to China, the world’s largest auto market, in order to satisfy local market demand, which would not otherwise be accessible. Chrysler Group is interested in expanding the customer base for our award-winning Jeep vehicles, which can only be done by establishing local production. This will ultimately help bolster the Jeep brand,and solidify the resilience of U.S. jobs.
Jeep is one of our truly global brands with uniquely American roots. This will never change. So much so that we committed that the iconic Wrangler nameplate, currently produced in our Toledo, Ohio plant, will never see full production outside the United States.
Jeep assembly lines will remain in operation in the United States and will constitute the backbone of the brand.
It is inaccurate to suggest anything different.
And here’s part of an earlier report from Talking Points Memo on additional reaction from auto company bigwigs:
Chrysler, Jeep’s parent company, has publicly condemned Romney’s claims as false, writing on its website that they have “no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China” and that any expansion in Asia is to serve Asian markets. In fact, they are adding over 1,000 jobs to their Toledo factory as part of a $500 million investment in upgrading its capacity…
GM didn’t take well to the ad either, bristling at the notion that the auto rescue — which the Center for Automotive research estimated saved 1 million US jobs — encouraged outsourcing.
“We’ve clearly entered some parallel universe during these last few days,” GM spokesman Greg Martin told the Detroit Free Press. “No amount of campaign politics at its cynical worst will diminish our record of creating jobs in the U.S. and repatriating profits back to this country.”
Detroit News reporter David Sherpardson reported some more choice words from GM over the ad, quoting a representative who said “At this stage, we’re looking at a Hubble telescope-length distances between campaign ads and reality….GM’s creating jobs in the US and repatriating profits back to this country should be a source of bipartisan pride.”
So far there are no signs that the Romney campaign plans to stop running ads with claims that the companies and CEOs involved insist are absolutely false.
If this happened to a reporter who ran false information and refused to keep running it or run a correction, he or she would be fired and probably not work in the business again.
But — so far at least — there are no signs that there are any substantive consquences for the Romney campaign which means there is a new template for politicos running for office: say and charge whatever you want because if it’s demonstrably false no one can stop you from saying it or using it in ads.
And maybe no one cares…
UPDATE: Former Clinton administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich, writing in The Huffington Post:
This is only the most recent in a stream of lies from Romney. Remember his contention that the President planned to “rob” Medicare of $716 billion when in fact the money would come from reduced payments to providers who were overcharging — thereby extending the life of Medicare? (Ryan’s plan includes the same $716 billion of savings but gets it from turning Medicare into a voucher and shifting rising health-care costs on to seniors.)
Remember Romney’s claim that Obama removed the work requirement from the welfare law, when in fact Obama merely allowed governors to fashion harder or broader work requirements?
Recall Romney’s assertion that he is not planning to give the rich a tax cut of almost $5 trillion, when in fact that’s exactly what his budget plan does? Or that his budget will reduce the long-term budget deficit, when in fact his numbers don’t add up?
And so on. “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” says Neil Newhouse, a Romney pollster.
There are two lessons here. First, lies financed by deep pockets are hard to refute, but they must be refuted. Otherwise, there is no accountability in our democracy.
Second, anyone who tells or countenances such lies cannot be trusted to hold the highest office in our land, because he has no compunctions about feeding false information to the public.