Keller @ Large: Another Exercise In Character Assassination

By Jon Keller, WBZ-TV
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(Photos courtesy: JEWEL SAMAD and Scott Olson/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photos courtesy: JEWEL SAMAD and Scott Olson/AFP/Getty Images)

WBZ-TV's Jon Keller Jon Keller
Jon Keller is WBZ-TV News' Political Analyst, and his "Keller A...
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BOSTON (CBS) – Another day, another blunt attack ad in the race for president.

An ad from Mitt Romney’s campaign claims the Obama Administration is out to destroy a signature bipartisan accomplishment of the 90’s.

The welfare reforms that became law under President Bill Clinton are widely credited with cutting the welfare roles by making work or job training a requirement for receiving benefits.

Romney’s claim that the president now wants to turn the clock back is explosive, but is it true?

The ad states, “On July 12, President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements. Under Obama’s plan you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job, they’d just send you your welfare check.”

That’s quite an indictment, but is it fact or fiction?

John Walsh, the head of the Massachusetts Democratic Party says it’s a gross distortion. “It’s false and it’s hypocritical,” he says.

And the Romney campaign?

“Well the facts speak for themselves, anyone can go up on the HHS website and read the memo,” said Jonathan Burks, Deputy Policy Director of the Romney campaign.

So we did, and while the memo is a study in “bureaucrat-ese,” it doesn’t appear to wipe out the ban on welfare without work.

The charge that it “guts” that reform comes from a conservative think-tank analysis alleging the waivers might allow welfare recipients to claim “hula dancing” as a form of work.

“Whether there’s a chance that somebody might try to do something, I think there’s a lot of checks in place,” says Walsh. “The truth of the matter is that’s not anywhere near what the ad says though.”

“President Obama’s been clear for years that he opposed the bipartisan welfare reform deal that was reached back in the 1990s. The fact that his administration is now taking this opportunity to undermine the core requirements of welfare to work isn’t a surprise to anyone,” said Burks.

So what’s the truth? Romney has linked work to welfare throughout his career, while Obama says the success of the Clinton-era reforms helped change his view.

“We have to have work as the centerpiece of any social policy,” said President Obama.

To swallow this Romney ad, you have to believe that the president was lying when he said that, and is now pandering to the “welfare vote” by “quietly” trying to erase the work requirement.

To swallow the Democrats’ insistence that Romney’s refusal to release more of his tax returns means he’s hiding something evil, you have to believe Romney is evil.

Another day, another exercise in character assassination for this presidential campaign.

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