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Romney's Napoleon Complex

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Mitt Romney has a Napoleon complex. Yes, I know he stands 6'2", and no, I'm not talking about any insecurities he may harbor about his, um, tax returns that he keeps hidden. We're talking about a different Napoleon entirely.

We all know the basic story of George Orwell's Animal Farm. The animals overthrow the drunken farmer, and an evil pig co-opts the revolution, oppressing his animal brethren through violence and groupthink. The evil pig adopts twisted slogans and resorts to faking economic indicators to convince the beasts of burden that they're doing well despite their suffering. That evil pig, of course, is named Napoleon.

My Orwell came back to me when I saw Romney's new car commercial that's running in Ohio, not only the most crucial swing state but also a place where they build a lot of cars. In a campaign more notable for its whitewashing than its white papers, Romney's Ohio ad broke new ground in balderdash. It's impossible to appreciate this ad if you haven't read Animal Farm.

The ad tells two lies so grand that Orwell would have been embarrassed to write it as the pig's dialogue. First, Romney's ad implies that Jeep is moving jobs to China. It started with a misunderstanding of a Bloomberg article that said Chrysler "plans to return Jeep output to China." Romney attacked Obama on the stump, but as it turns out, no jobs are leaving Ohio. In fact, not only is Chrysler expanding overseas manufacturing to sell Jeeps to the Chinese, but they're hiring 1,100 more autoworkers as well in Ohio.

Chrysler had little patience with Romney's misinterpretation. "Despite clear and accurate reporting, the take has given birth to a number of stories making readers believe that Chrysler plans to shift all Jeep production to China from North America, and therefore idle assembly lines and U.S. work force. It is a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats," said Chrysler spokesman Gualberto Ranieri.

Instead of backing off from the lie, Romney rephrased the lie, saying Obama "sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China." That's true, but it gives the impression that American jobs are going to China when both are gaining jobs. The Orwellian genius of this ad is that it uses words to convey their opposite meaning, especially as they're followed by the promise "Mitt Romney will fight for every American job," a statement that's only true if you assume it's something he intends to take up in the future, like a hobby or a New Year's resolution to lose weight.

All that is tap dancing on the head of a pin compared to Romney's claim that he has a "plan to help the auto industry." It must be a super secret plan with an encrypted password with spaces and numbers because he's refused to tell reporters what that plan is. His campaign won't even confirm that a plan exists. Maybe this is a hostage situation, and we only get his plan to help automakers, the details of his $5 trillion tax cut, and his old tax returns when we hand over the keys to the White House, nice and easy and nobody gets hurt.

Or maybe Mitt's just making all this up and hoping Ohioans forget that he wrote the New York Times op-ed in 2008 called "Let Detroit go bankrupt." Had we gone with Romney's plan, the auto industry "would have been in bankruptcy for years and I think you could have written off this company, this industry and this country," said Dan Akerson, chairman and CEO of General Motors.

Either way, Orwell was right when he wrote, "Political language... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."

In 1984, Orwell wrote, "War is peace. Freedom is slavery." And Romney was for the bailout all along. It makes sense if you don't think about it. After all, ignorance is strength.