The scariest thing about Rick Perry isn’t just that he’s the likely Republican nominee, it’s that he’s displayed an unapologetic exuberance for telling supercolossal lies, most recently in the form of a pulse-pounding, face-melting, cinematic commercial. The efficacy of these kinds of lies could catapult him to the White House.
Most politicians equip their mendacity with convenient escape pods with which they can conveniently jettison their weaselly words by way of a few artful dodges. Not Rick Perry. His lie machine is a red, white and blue phallic rocket ship fueled by post-apocalyptic imagery and a musical score that Michael Bay would reject for being too over-the-top.
Perry’s latest commercial, titled “Proven Leadership” is a perfect example of what Perry is capable of. And it’s something the Democrats and the president’s reelection campaign staff ought to take very seriously.
The story begins with hyperspeed edits of the aforementioned post-apocalyptic hellscape, each one reminiscent of I Am Legend or the nuclear bomb sequence from Terminator 2. Empty streets, empty houses, empty playground swings swaying as though the children formerly in them were, seconds earlier, vaporized by President Obama’s army of Internal Revenue Gaydroids.
The audio, and especially the music, is a fantastic way to test the dynamic range of your home theater subwoofer, and it builds to such a crescendo that it makes the old THX “Digitally Enhanced” movie bumper sound like the Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood theme.
There’s even an air-raid siren in there. An air-raid siren! Even if it were true that President Obama ruined the economy all by himself (it’s not even close to true), there’s nothing in the history of the last three years indicating that we’re in danger of an aerial attack. At least not in our commonly known dimension — the epistemically closed fantasyland playing out in the twisted imaginations of tea party Republicans is another story.
Throughout this Armageddon sequence, we hear the voice of President Obama describing how the economy has improved since he took office, which is true. Contradicting the president’s words are the voices of, I assume, various Fox News anchors telling us that the president has created “zero jobs.” More about this lie presently.
Another air-raid siren leads up to a full stop cut-to-black transition and the triumphant entrance of Rick Perry who angelically materializes with majestic, patriotic B-roll that includes fighter jets soaring in formation, Perry riding in a helicopter, archival Perry in a flight suit and aviator glasses, cheering throngs of supporters, spotwelding sparks, the Iwo Jima memorial, churches, farmers, a gazillion American flags and, inexplicably, several horses running on a beach (appropriately, they’re running to the right). This second half of the video is clearly designed to make Sean Hannity’s entire audience have a simultaneous orgasm.
And, you know, I’m seriously understating the ridiculousness of the thing.
This is how Rick Perry delivers a lie. With thunderous gusto.
The video tells us in no uncertain terms and with steroid-pumped jingoism that the president created “zero jobs.” This is the big lie being delivered by this garish extravaganza and it’s repeated throughout the first half of the video. Perry also spoke this lie to everyone watching the most recent CNN debate.
Rick Perry on CNN last week: “[President Obama] had $800 billion worth of stimulus in the first round of stimulus. It created zero jobs, $400-plus billion dollars in this package. And I can do the math on that one. Half of zero jobs is going to be zero jobs.”
The nonpartisan website Politifact gave Rick Perry a “Pants on Fire” rating for this one — as in, liar, liar, pants on fire. Not even remotely true. Rick Perry made this up. It’s fiction. The entire premise of his latest video, with all of its amplified puffery, is a fabrication. Not like it really matters to Republican voters who exist inside an ideological bubble the size of Mark Levin’s adenoids, but here’s the truth from Politifact. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA, also known as “the stimulus”) saved or created 1.3 million to 3.6 million jobs. IHS/Global Insight reported 2.45 million jobs were saved or created. The Macroeconomic Advisers reported 2.3 million jobs were saved or created. And Moody’s Economy reported 2.5 million jobs were saved or created.
Even if only one job was “created” and the rest were simply “saved,” that’s still not “zero jobs,” as Rick Perry claimed.
Politifact also wrote that during the second quarter of this year alone the ARRA created “555,029 full-time equivalent jobs.”
Let’s recap. Where were we when President Obama took office? The economy was hemorrhaging up to 820,000 jobs a month during the deepest recession since the Great Depression — and we’ve learned recently that the economy was even worse than was observed at the time. This was before the president took office in late January, 2009. Before the president was inaugurated, the economy lost 3.1 million jobs during the recession under President Bush, and another 2 million jobs in the first three months of the Obama administration before any of the president’s economic policies were in place.
I don’t care who you are or what party you represent but no one on this planet is capable of restoring that many jobs in this economy within three years. Impossible. Especially considering that corporations have discovered during the recession that profits are higher if they pay fewer people to do more work, or if they simply ship the jobs overseas. That’s one reason why corporate profits are skyrocketing even though unemployment remains high. Workers, especially those with mortgages on the brink, are terrified of losing their jobs, so they’re agreeing to do more work for less pay and reduced, if not eliminated, benefits. No amount of tax cuts for corporations or the super rich will roll back this corporate strategy. It works.
Nevertheless, upon the signing of the ARRA, every economic indicator shows that the economy turned around almost instantly. In January of 2009, the economy lost 820,000 jobs. By June, that number was cut in half. In November on 2009, the economy was creating 50,000 jobs. Meanwhile, the Dow rose from 6,000 at the beginning of 2009 to over 10,000 by the end of the year. First quarter GDP rose from -6.4 percent to +5.7 percent by the fourth quarter.
The only problem with the ARRA was that it simply wasn’t large enough to match the utter magnitude of the catastrophe. In subsequent months, the recovery leveled off, and the Republican efforts to sabotage the economy by stonewalling support for anything that could turboboost the recovery have been shockingly successful.
Despite congressional Republican obstruction and the need for more stimulus, we’re still in a recovery albeit a slow one (hence the need for the president’s new American Jobs Act), and none of these factors alter the reality that the ARRA worked. It created or saved millions of jobs and rescued the economy from a decline into what could have been an insurmountable disaster, and no amount of anthemic bumper sticker marketeering can change this objective reality.
The Republican marketing machine is strikingly powerful. Rick Perry’s new video is a fantastic example of the Republican capacity to obfuscate the truth and win supporters in spite of flagrantly lying to them. They’re able to get away with whopper lies so massive, they’re almost hilariously off the rails. Mitt Romney, for example, released a chart recently that blamed President Obama for the job losses that occurred in 2007 and 2008 — before the president was even elected.
Their ability to shape their own reality — to blame the president for the entire recession while simultaneously rigging the game against the recovery is unprecedented in American political history. It’s evidence that the modern Republican Party has ceased to be driven by policy and ideas, and, instead, has become nothing more than a marketing and advertising firm selling candidates like packs of cigarettes. You’ll look cool and it’ll feel so good. They fish you in, get you hooked and you wind up voting against your own best interests while lamenting, “Why-oh-why does the nation have cancer? Must be the black guy.” It’s infomercial fiction pitched and sold using Fox News propaganda, AM talk radio fury, cinematic production values, easy-to-remember Frank Luntz zingers and all varieties of star-spangled cheerleading. They’ve been able to so effectively whitewash their guilt in this economic mess that the current Republican frontrunner is a top-down J.J. Abrams reboot of George W. Bush (who actually was the president when the economy collapsed).
And voters are buying it like pie.
The consequences include the results of the latest CNN poll showing that independent voters are supporting the Republicans — lies and all — by a margin of 53 to 28 over President Obama.
That’s scary. So maybe the air-raid siren was appropriate after all.