I’ve spent the last two weeks getting licensed to work in a new field. Mitt Romney has spent the last two weeks since Rick Santorum dropped out of the race trying to convince the American public that he should replace Barack Obama as president of the United States in November. It has not been pretty.
The topic for the radio segment I taped yesterday with WEAA’s Sean Yoes was “why does Mitt Romney lie so much?” I’d like to say I was surprised by the number of web articles and blogs I found about Romney’s penchant for telling whoppers while prepping for the show because I have not been paying as much attention as usual to politics this month. But the reality is, I had already accepted this trait as one of his shortcomings back when I repeatedly said on this very blog that he would be the Republican nominee. Micheal Tomasky over at the Daily Beast accurately describes why, despite my unabashed support for President Obama’s reelection, I really wanted Romney to win the GOP nomination:
We’ve all heard it a hundred times, even from some liberals: “Oh, I know Romney took extreme position X, but he just has to say those things to get nominated. He’s really more moderate than that deep down.” I think this is, among liberals anyway, a defense mechanism. That is, if you are liberal and you fear that Romney may beat Barack Obama, you want to tell yourself a story to help you deal with that expected day, and the story has to be about why that outcome won’t be so bad. So the story is: He’s really a moderate. He doesn’t seem loony. Once he gets in there, he’ll behave responsibly.
Romney’s problem with the telling the truth is exacerbated by three things. He is enabled by the national media. His assertions are accepted at face value by a political base willing to suspend their powers of disbelief for anyone who will tell them that he, and by extension, his supporters, are superior to President Obama. Combine these elements with our national tendency to accept the blandishments, distortions and fabrications CEO’s routinely use to publicly describe the state of their companies, and you get a candidate who is willing to lie with enthusiasm, as if the capacity to replay videotaped recordings of his public statements does not exist.
The “Who is he, really?” question is one that consumes campaign coverage, but in Romney’s case the question has been about phoniness, not dishonesty, and the two are very different things. What that means is that when Romney makes a statement like this one, reporters don’t run to their laptops to write stories that begin, “Raising new questions about his candor, today Mitt Romney falsely accused President Obama…” The result is that he gets a pass: there’s no punishment for lying, because reporters hear the lie and decide that there are other, more important things to write about.
I’d like to think that anyone running against a “failed presidency” would have a pretty simple job—assemble the facts surrounding President Obama’s failures and let them speak for themselves.