Sunday's lead New York Times story by the political team of Jeff Zeleny (pictured) and Jim Rutenberg accused Romney of playing the race card with false ads on welfare reform: "Romney Adopts Harder Message For Last Stretch – Nod To White Workers – A Tropical Storm Threat Forces Party to Delay Convention by a Day."
The Times accused the Romney campaign of ads "falsely charging that Mr. Obama has eliminated work and job training requirements for welfare beneficiaries," claiming such "moves reflect a campaign infused with a sharper edge and overtones of class and race." Yet the claim made in Romney's ad holds up -- unlike the Times's claim that Romney's recent joke about Obama's birth certificate was playing the race card.
Mitt Romney is heading into his nominating convention with his advisers convinced he needs a more combative footing against President Obama in order to appeal to white, working-class voters and to persuade them that he is the best answer to their economic frustrations.
Having survived a summer of attacks but still trailing the president narrowly in most national polls, Mr. Romney’s campaign remains focused intently on the economy as the issue that can defeat Mr. Obama. But in a marked change, Mr. Romney has added a harder edge to a message that for most of this year was focused on his business and job-creation credentials, injecting volatile cultural themes into the race.
The Times team is the latest to suggest Romney is using a false charge to foster racial resentment:
Many of those voters are economically disaffected, and the Romney campaign has been trying to reach them with appeals built around an assertion that Mr. Obama is making it easier for welfare recipients to avoid work. The Romney campaign is airing an advertisement falsely charging that Mr. Obama has “quietly announced” plans to eliminate work and job training requirements for welfare beneficiaries, a message Mr. Romney’s aides said resonates with working-class voters who see government as doing nothing for them.
The moves reflect a campaign infused with a sharper edge and overtones of class and race. On Friday, Mr. Romney said at a rally that no one had ever had to ask him about his birth certificate, and Mr. Ryan invoked his Catholicism and love of hunting. Democrats angrily said Mr. Romney’s remark associated him with the fringe “birther” camp seeking falsely to portray Mr. Obama as not American.
Despite what Times reporters have been repeating, the Obama administration has in fact voided the work and job training requirements of the 1996 welfare reform legislation by granting itself waiver authority over the work requirements, the heart of the law. The Media Research Center's Mark Hadro pointed to statements from Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation after the directive was released in July. Accusing Obama of having "gutted" welfare reform, Rector wrote "The new policy guts the federal work requirements that were the foundation of the reform law. The Obama directive bludgeons the letter and intent of the actual reform legislation."
Mickey Kaus of the Daily Caller says the Times's story "fits the [mainstream media] template – presenting what are perfectly normal moves (to make swing voters see Romney as an acceptable alternative, to raise issues like welfare that cut his way) as some sort of wrenching, Plan B 'strategic shift.'"