Military Voters and the Lie Pipeline

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 6 2012 9:42 AM

Military Voters and the Lie Pipeline

It's a story we can re-run every week or so. The conservative media runs with a story. The Romney campaign gauges whether it's getting pick-up. The Romney campaign gloms on to the story -- which turns it into a "one side says, the other side says" tale. As Breitbart.com's Mike Flynn points out, he was first to hone in on the part of the Obama campaign's lawsuit that argued extended voting rights were unfair if applied to military members and no one else. And the folks at Media Matters have been clipping various Fox News segments that make the same argument -- gliding past the Obama campaign's desire to extend voting days for other people, not restricting voting days for military members. This Fox and Friends segment with Pete Hegseth is pretty typical.

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Hegseth starts off with a whopper, implying that soldiers "in Iraq and Afghanistan" and people being "shot at" won't be able to send ballots in right before the election if Team Obama wins. Nope! In every state, those with early voting and those without, those soldiers will send in absentee ballots. If the Obama campaign wins this lawsuit, military members in Ohio will able to vote in person on the Saturday before the election -- and so will everybody else who's registered. And here's the kicker: Romney himself, who started weighing in as the issue broke through conservative media, is pleading ignorance about this.

Romney said he hadn’t “seen that report and so I can’t comment on the specific filing,” but he later added, “any effort to impede the right of our military members overseas or here domestically in voting would be an extraordinary violation of the trust that we should have for those who serve so valiantly.”

The complaint is here. I read it pretty quickly, and unlike Romney, I don't have a degree from Harvard Law School. But the point isn't for Romney or the campaign to argue the merits of the complaint. It's to amplify bogus stories if those stories might weaken Barack Obama. It's to then hope that daily political reporters write on the "controversy" instead of the facts. I get the sense that the Obama campaign is gobsmacked by the dishonesty of all this, but if they wanted to jump into the mud, they could point out that Romney's position on the complaint would disenfranchise firefighters, policemen, Olympic athletes, and people who rescue kittens from burning buildings.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.