So the unemployment rate truthers are in a panic this morning. Some conservatives are angrily claiming that the new Labor Department stats finding unemployment below eight percent were cooked to help Obama win reelection.
The Tweet from former General Electric CEO Jack Welch is gaining the most attention: “Unbelievable jobs numbers...these Chicago guys will do anything...can’t debate so change numbers.” The refrain has been picked up by conservative Republicans in Congress and CNBC contributors. Fox News’s homepage blares: “Jobless rate dips under 8 percent, but...IS THE NUMBER REAL?”
Ezra Klein debunks the whole thing, as if it needs debunking. But it’s also worth noting that it’s hard to see how the unemployment truthers are helping Mitt Romney here. By launching into a full blown angry panic about improving jobs numbers, they only draw attention to, and reinforce, the idea that the economy is, in fact, improving — and, worse, that the prospect of economic improvement is terrible news for Romney’s presidential prospects.
Here is Romney policy director Lanhee Chen, trying to get a sane message out about the new employment numbers, but finding his efforts cluttered up by his questioner’s insistence that he endorse unemployment trutherism. Chen distances the campaign from it:
This is the latest manifestation of what Jonathan Bernstein has called the closed conservative information feedback loop. There were the poll truthers, who told us that any Obama lead simply must be the result a liberal media conspiracy to rig all the polls to create a false sense of an inevitable Obama victory. Only Rasmussen and Gallup are telling the truth. Oh, wait — Gallup shows Obama ahead now. So those numbers can’t possibly be true, either.
Then there was the release of the Drudge race-baiting tape of six-year-old Obama comments. Some on the far right were convinced this would badly damage the president, because they think swing voters are prone to seeing Obama as they do. But these voters probably don’t find the idea that Obama is secretly committed to widespread racial revenge too convincing. Indeed, this, too, was an unhelpful distraction for the Romney camp, which properly downplayed the tape’s news value.
This latest — unemployment trutherism — strikes me as having the potential to be a bit more damaging to Romney. It’s very likely that these claims are now going to break through to the nightly news, drawing still more attention to the dropping unemployment rate.
Of course, there’s always the danger that news outlets will cover this stuff in a he-said-she-said manner, reporting on the assertions of the unemployment truthers without calling them out, thus injecting them into the discourse. But that seems unlikely. This is really out there stuff, and hopefully the networks will say so outright. If so, it’s hard to see how it’s helpful to Romney for undecided voters to be treated to the sight of fury and panic about improving economic news among those who want him to be elected president.