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What if Obama wins?

Thomas Edsall has discovered one of the casualties of the Presidential campaign. Truth.

An equally significant development has been the strategic decision of the Romney campaign to set new standards in the use of untrue campaign claims.

The ultimate test case of whether it is possible to lie and get away with it will be the outcome in Ohio, where Romney is running ads in open disregard of the truth.

Over the past two weeks, with Ohio once again a key battleground, the Romney campaign has falsely alleged in speeches and in television commercials that Chrysler plans to shift Jeep manufacturing and jobs from the United State to China.

Edsall notes that Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post gave Romney’s claim four pinocchios, his lowest rating. (Go here for James Taranto’s critique of Kessler’s analysis.) Edsall concludes:

If Romney wins Ohio, every campaign in future elections is going to give much more serious consideration to lying and to open defiance of media rebuttals as a legitimate campaign expedient.

Edsall has a chair in journalism at Columbia University. This piece was in the New York Times. Does Edsall really believe that a Romney victory is going to encourage politicians to be more dishonest? Does he really believe that Romney’s add sets a new standard of mendaciousness? Edsall was born in 1941. Has he been in Sleepy Hollow since then only to awaken to discover that politicians sometimes dissemble, stretch the truth, and gasp, sometime even lie? How can he write something so remarkably naive?

I actually think Esdall really believes that Romney has broken new ground in dishonesty. It’s just hard for him to imagine that other politicians are equally dishonest. It must be hard for the journalists at Slate as well. A poll of Slate’s staff and contributors finds 31 votes for Obama, 2 for Romney (the publisher and managing editor.) But don’t worry. They’re not biased. They’re journalists, as editor David Plotz explains:

To repeat what I wrote in this space four years ago, I don’t think Obama’s Slate victory reflects a bias that has corrupted the magazine during the campaign. There are obvious reasons why Slate would lean heavily toward Obama. Slate’s voters tend to skew young and all polls show younger voters favoring the Democrat. And we are journalists.

Evidently, journalists are the only part of the human race who can put aside their personal views and not let it affect their actions.

One thing I like about Esdall’s observation on truth is that it shows an appreciation of incentives–if Romney wins, other politicians, will learn that lying can be fruitful. But either out of bias or a lack of imagination, he fails to fill out the full range of possible incentive effects. If Obama wins, what will politicians learn?

They will learn that you can outsource the design of your $820 billion stimulus package to Congress, ignore the recommendations of the bipartisan debt commission you set up, and go golfing 104 times even when unemployment is tragically high.

And worst of all, Professor Edsall, if Obama wins Ohio, “every campaign in future elections is going to give much more serious consideration to lying and to open defiance of media rebuttals as a legitimate campaign expedient.”

After all, the Obama campaign and his supporters incessantly claim that he saved the auto industry and over a million jobs. This claim has been rebutted by the media. The claim ignores the alternative of bankruptcy which would have let Chrysler and GM stay in business. The claim forgets that Ford is part of the industry and that even if Chrysler and GM had disappeared, supply chain jobs (which are the bulk of the million jobs that were “saved,” would simply have shifted to other auto manufacturers including Ford.

So if Obama wins, this will encourage other politicians to lie because they’ll see they can get away with it.

Politicians never knew you could lie about your record or your opponent and help your chances of being re-elected. Big discovery for those politicians and Thomas Edsall.

Someone should also let Edsall know there is gambling in Casablanca.