Corporate journalism is not known for standing up to powerful politicians–or for its long memory. And so, when factchecks of the first presidential debate revealed that GOP candidate Mitt Romney was often not very truthful, sometimes even misstating his own policies, the media not only failed to make much of a fuss over Romney’s falsehoods, they also failed to tie them into a GOP tradition of debate dissembling.
Wait, did I just say a GOP tradition of debate dissembling? That’s right–it’s a strategy that was acknowledged as far back as 1984, but it’s gone virtually unmentioned in U.S. media since then.
The strategy was first revealed in an October 4, 1984 New York Times piece that quoted Peter Teeley, the press secretary to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, who said, “You can say anything you want during a debate and 80 million people hear it.” Teeley added that, if the candidate spoke untruthfully: ”So what? Maybe 200 people read it or 2,000 or 20,000.”
Corporate media have failed to connect this time-tested strategy to Romney’s performance–where Think Progress claimed he repeated “27 myths in 38 minutes.” Indeed, besides MichaelMoore.com, which recently dug up the New York Times report, virtually no one has mentioned it in years.
Of course, the reason Republicans think they can get away with lying in debates is the same reason they think they can speak publicly of a strategy of lying in debates–they believe they will never be called on it by the media that reach the vast majority of voters. And they’re right.