Romney attack ad misleadingly quotes Obama

Obama campaign blasts Republican candidate's ad as a "deceitful and dishonest attack".

 

Mitt Romney's first paid campaign ad of the 2012 presidential campaign has been criticised as "deceitful and dishonest". The minute-long ad uses footage from a 2008 campaign stop in New Hampshire, where Obama said: "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose." However, the full quote was actually: "Senator McCain's campaign actually said, and I quote, 'If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.'" Obama was quoting (and criticising) his GOP rival, but it has been edited to sound as if he was saying it himself.

The ad has already drawn widespread criticism in the US, with Romney accused of misleading the public. Obama's campaign instantly said it was "deceitful". However, in an email to Politico, the Romney camp defended the move. Adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said:

We used that quote intentionally to show that President Obama is doing exactly what he criticized McCain of doing four years ago. Obama doesn't want to talk about the economy because of his failed record.

It's not clear yet who comes off worse from this -- Romney risks being painted as a liar (particularly after some incidences of dishonesty in his campaign), but regardless of this, the economy is a difficult subject for Obama. Gloves off.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.