07/30/2012 01:06 pm ET Updated Sep 29, 2012

The Evil of Misquoting

Charles Krauthammer wrote an op-ed piece that has run in major newspapers across the country based entirely on something that Obama did not say.

Here is what Obama said verbatim: "If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."

Here is what Krauthammer quotes: "if you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."

He implies falsely that Obama is saying that the business owner is not responsible for his success by eliminating Obama's preceding comment. Obama is saying, clearly, that the business owner relies on infrastructure which the entrepreneur did not build himself. So Krauthammer blows through an entire rant based on a false quote, lambasting something Obama never said. This is really despicable, and beneath a commentator of Krauthammer's standing. In the body of his piece he takes on the question of infrastructure but only after he undermines his credibility with yellow journalism headlines.

Let us say that Romney said in a speech before AIPAC, "We should all work to prevent anybody from attacking the state of Israel, which I hate to see ever happen." Then Obama comes out the next day and in feigned fury says, "Now my opponent says , 'the state of Israel, which I hate...' demonstrates his terrible grasp of foreign affairs and a frightening religious intolerance." We can assume that liberal commentators would pile on with blaring headlines like, "Romney Hates Israel!"

An honest debate about different world views is healthy in a democracy. Obama and Romney offer us an opportunity to take the country in different directions; the two candidates differ sharply on many major issues. But the GOP has taken us away from that legitimate debate by running against a candidate of their own creation, one not remotely resembling the real Obama.

What the Republicans have done here indicates they are incapable of attacking Obama on his record, or on his actual statements. So they have been reduced to fabricating positions and statements. As unseemly as this is, the strategy might work; those who only watch Fox News will only see and hear the truncated quote that Krauthammer used in his op-ed rant. They will actually believe Obama said business owners are not responsible for their success. I expect the worst from Fox, and they never disappoint, but we have crossed a new threshold when mainstream conservative commentators deliberately and knowingly misquote to make a point. Krauthammer has squandered all of his credibility because we now know he will compromise his integrity.

Remember, "Romney hates Israel!" What Fox and friends have done is every bit as cynical as printing that quote. Of course it is as ridiculous as it is false, but that is no longer a barrier to publication.