Paul Krugman argued today that Mitt Romney “is running a campaign of almost pathological dishonesty.” That need not be considered hyperbole.
Indeed, Greg Sargent added this morning that Romney’s “falsehoods and all around dissembling” may be designed to “simply wear reporters and commentators down by trafficking in them so heavily that they throw up their hands and give up on trying to track or debunk them.”
But I remain undeterred. A couple of months ago, I launched a Friday afternoon feature, highlighting the most offensive Mitt Romney falsehoods of the week. It moved to Maddow Blog a few weeks ago, so let’s keep this going with another installment.
1. Romney told an audience in Arizona this week, in reference to President Obama, “He said he’d cut the deficit in half. He’s doubled it. He’s doubled it.”
For an alleged numbers guy, Romney is either lying or he’s bad at arithmetic. When Obama took office, the deficit was about $1.3 trillion. Last year, it was $1.29 trillion. This year, it’s on track to be about $1.1 trillion. Does Romney not know what “double” means?
2. On health care, Romney argued, “Our bill [Romneycare] was 70 pages; his bill [Obamacare] is 2,700 pages.”
This not just a dumb argument, it’s also not true.
3. On foreign policy, Romney said, “[T]his president should have put in place crippling sanctions against Iran, he did not.”
Actually, he did.
4. Romney claimed that Syria is Iran’s “route to the sea.”
Iran has 1,520 miles of its own coastline — and doesn’t share a border with Syria.
5. Romney boasted, “I also served in the Olympics, balanced a budget there.”
Well, that’s not entirely right. He hired lobbyists to get a taxpayer bailout for the Olympics and then balanced the budget.
6. Romney claimed, “You can’t be, I don’t believe, anything but a fiscal conservative and run a business, because if you don’t balance your budget, you go out of business.”
That’s both untrue and ridiculous. Businesses operate in the red all the time, and take out loans for capital improvements, expansions, acquisitions, etc. If Romney’s background is in the private sector, how could he not know this?
7. On contraception access, Romney argued, “I don’t think we’ve seen in the history of this country the kind of attack on religious conscience, religious freedom, religious tolerance that we’ve seen under Barack Obama.”
That’s so ridiculous, even Romney couldn’t actually mean that.
8. Also on contraception access, Romney said, “[The Obama administration is] requiring the Catholic Church to provide for its employees and its various enterprises health care insurance that would include birth control, sterilization and the morning-after pill. Unbelievable.”
Yes, it’s literally unbelievable, because he’s lying: churches are exempt. (He’s also contradicting his own previous position.)
9. On the Affordable Care Act, Romney said, “I will repeal Obamacare for a lot of reasons. One, I don’t want to spend another trillion dollars… Number two, I don’t believe the federal government should cut Medicare by some $500 billion.”
10. On Pentagon spending, Romney claimed, “This is a president who is … cutting our military budget by roughly a trillion dollars.”
That’s not even close to being true.
11. On international affairs, Romney argued about the president, “He decided to give Russia their number one foreign policy objective — removal of our missile defense sites from Eastern Europe — and got nothing in return.”
That’s just not what happened.
12. Romney’s new attack ad says Rick Santorum voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Santorum left the Senate in 2006 — three years before Sotomayor’s confirmation. [Update: It looks like the Romney camp played fast and loose on this one, showing Sotomayor with President Obama in 2009 when she was nominated for the Supreme Court, but counting Santorum’s vote when Sotomayor was a lower-court nominee. The implication for viewers is that Santorum backed Sotomayor for the high court, which is not true, when he and other Republicans did support her confirmation to a lower court.]
Foreign Policy columnist Michael Cohen noted yesterday that he understands that “politicians mislead and occasionally fib,” but added, “[H]onestly, I’ve never seen anyone do it as brazenly as Mitt Romney.”
With each passing week, I find it harder to disagree with such a sentiment.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 24, 2012
A bill to allow Utah schools to drop sex education classes — and prohibit instruction in the use of contraception in those that keep the courses — moved significantly closer to becoming law Wednesday. The House passed HB363 by a 45-28 vote after a late-afternoon debate that centered largely on lawmakers’ differing definitions of morality.
“We’ve been culturally watered down to think we have to teach about sex, about having sex and how to get away with it, which is intellectually dishonest,” said bill sponsor Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden. “Why don’t we just be honest with them upfront that sex outside marriage is devastating?”
It was a viewpoint that met with equal conviction from those opposed to the bill.
“You cannot speak of abstinence without talking to students about methods of birth control that are not certain, about protecting oneself from [sexually transmitted diseases] and all the things that can happen in a negative sense to a young person who engages in sex ,” said Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay. “It’s really immoral not to teach kids about what the consequences are.”
Over the course of nearly an hour, lawmakers took turns trying to change the bill. Ultimately, the version the House passed would allow school districts to forgo teaching about sex altogether.
Lawmakers also, however, changed the bill on the House floor to prohibit schools that continue to teach sex education from instructing students in “the use of contraceptive methods or devices.” It was a change from the version that passed out of committee earlier this month that would have prohibited “instruction in the advocacy or encouragement of the use of contraceptive methods or devices.”
Wright said the version of the bill that passed Wednesday would prohibit instruction in contraception, although teachers could respond to student questions about the matter.
It would be a big shift from current law, which prohibits only the advocacy of contraceptive use. Current law requires high schools to teach sex education, allowing them to choose whether to simply stress abstinence or teach abstinence-only.
By: Lisa Schencker, The Salt Lake Tribune, February 22, 2012
Rick Santorum regularly knocks the stimulus bill that the Democratic Congress passed, and President Obama signed into law, back in early 2009. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act “cost American jobs,” he told CNN last July. But that didn’t stop Santorum from claiming a tax credit for home efficiency funded through the stimulus plan that year.
According to his 2009 tax form, which was released last week, Santorum claimed a $3,151 expenditure on new exterior windows and skylights, one of the “qualified energy efficiency improvements” for homes that was granted a tax credit through the stimulus bill. The stimulus bill revived a tax credit that had expired at the end of 2007 and increased the amount of money homeowners could claim. This allowed the Santorum family to knock $945 off their taxes.
The purpose of the tax credit was to help homeowners save money by using less energy, while at the some time generating fewer emissions. But the efficient choices can often cost more upfront—hence the desire to create a tax credit to incentivize that kind of expensive upgrade. The measure was also intended to benefit the manufacturing and construction industries by creating more opportunities for them to make and install the windows and other efficient products.
Santorum has made attacking the Obama administration’s energy and environmental policies a prime plank in his platform, implying just last week that the president is some kind of dirt-worshiping hippie aligned with “radical environmentalists.” He’s also used his position on the subject as a way to distance himself from rival Mitt Romney, who has at times shown sympathy for protecting the environment.
Mitt Romney just can’t stop wealth allusions from creeping into the conversation.
He did it again on Friday. At the end of a speech about his economic plan before the Detroit Economic Club, when it felt as though he was just winging it, he said: “I love this country. I actually love this state. This feels good being back in Michigan. Um, you know the trees are the right height. The, uh, the streets are just right. I like the fact that most of the cars I see are Detroit-made automobiles. I drive a Mustang and a Chevy pickup truck. Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually.”
That’s rich, literally.
That’s not what you want to say when you are in Detroit, which, as I pointed out last week, has the highest poverty rate of any big city in America.
That’s not what you want to say in a city where Megan Owens of the Detroit-based advocacy organization Transportation Riders United said on Friday that roughly half of its bus service has been eliminated in the past five or so years.
That’s not what you want to say when discussing a tax-cut plan that, according to models prepared by the Tax Policy Center, would heavily weight the benefits toward the top of the income spectrum.
That’s not what you want to say when, as David Cay Johnston of Reuters pointed out this week, Romney’s plan would:
“Raise taxes on poor families with children at home and those going to college. Romney does this by reducing benefits from the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit and by ending the American Opportunity tax credit for college education.”
That’s probably not the thing to say in Detroit after arguing in a now-famous New York Times Op-Ed article against the auto bailouts, saying: “If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.”
That was probably not the thing to say on the day after Steven Rattner, the lead adviser on the Obama administration’s auto task force in 2009, smacked you down in a New York Times Op-Ed article for suggesting that the government “should have stayed on the sidelines” and allowed the companies to go through “ ‘managed bankruptcies’ financed by private capital.”
As Rattner put it:
“That sounds like a wonderfully sensible approach — except that it’s utter fantasy. In late 2008 and early 2009, when G.M. and Chrysler had exhausted their liquidity, every scrap of private capital had fled to the sidelines. I know this because the administration’s auto task force, for which I was the lead adviser, spoke diligently to all conceivable providers of funds, and not one had the slightest interest in financing those companies on any terms. If Mr. Romney disagrees, he should come forward with specific names of willing investors in place of empty rhetoric. I predict that he won’t be able to, because there aren’t any.”
Ouch. I need to catch my breath after that one.
O.K., carrying on.
The “couple of Cadillacs” comment probably wasn’t the thing to say the day after the Pew Research Center found that most Americans now support the bailouts, with 56 percent saying “the loans the government made to G.M. and Chrysler were mostly good for the economy.”
That probably wasn’t the thing to say in a city where you published an op-ed in The Detroit News on Valentine’s Day continuing to argue against the bailout, saying:
“This was crony capitalism on a grand scale. The president tells us that without his intervention things in Detroit would be worse. I believe that without his intervention things there would be better.”
That probably wasn’t the thing to say the week that your campaign felt the need to remove this lovely little passage from The Detroit News’s endorsement of you before sending it to reporters:
“We disagree with Romney on a point vital to Michigan — his opposition to the bailout of the domestic automobile industry. Romney advocated for a more traditional bankruptcy process, while we believe the bridge loans provided by the federal government in the fall of 2008 were absolutely essential to the survival of General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Corp. The issue isn’t a differentiator in the G.O.P. primary, since the entire field opposed the rescue effort.”
The Detroit Free Press’s endorsement this week echoed the complaint about Romney’s opposition on the bailouts, calling him “dead wrong” and saying that in the past year he has been “refashioning himself as something other than what his record suggests. He has made gestures toward economic and social radicalism, and eschewed the common sense of cooperative governing that made him a success in Massachusetts.”
But what is likely more telling about Romney’s ineloquence and continued wealth-tainted asides that draw attention away from his message onto his wallet is this gem from his Friday endorsement by The Arizona Republic:
“There are better orators in American politics. Indeed, the Democrats appear to have one. And certainly there are Republicans who better project the passion for the office they seek. Steady, unflappable Romney would not a ‘passion president’ make.”
So, poor oratory, anemic passion, possessed of “utter fantasy,” and gestures toward radicalism while cruising in a couple of Caddies: That’s probably not the image you want going into a make-or-break primary.
By: Charles Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, February 24, 2012
Well, it was about perfect, wasn’t it, that Mitt Romney gave his big economic speech before about 1,200 supporters in a 65,000-seat football stadium? Whether the stadium or the speech was emptier is the obvious question of the moment. Pathetic as the pictures of the event were, I’d have to hand the trophy to the speech. Some of Romney’s specifics weren’t as far out there as those of his opponents. His proposed individual marginal tax rates, for example, are radical, but not as radical as those announced by the remaining three other Republican candidates. But his plan is even worse than theirs are in a way that we’ve come to know as typically Romneyesque. He is desperately eager to please the right wing and also to try to seem like the responsible one, but there is no way to do both of things without lying.
First, though, let’s discuss that venue. So a hotel ballroom was oversubscribed. Okay, I know Detroit has been down on its luck for the better part of 40 years, but even so I find it pretty difficult to believe that there is not a venue in the whole metropolitan area that has a capacity somewhere in between the Westin Book Cadillac ballroom’s 1,000 or whatever and Ford Field’s 65,000 (for football; 80,000 for wrestling). The University of Detroit’s basketball teams, for example, must play somewhere. Reports indicate that the Economic Club of Detroit, not the campaign, made the switch. But someone at the campaign said, “Gee, okay!” It’s not a catastrophe, but it is staggeringly stupid. Imagine the field day the right-wing agitprop machine would have had in 2008 with Barack Obama doing something like that. Indeed remember the sport they made of the mere fact of Obama giving a speech in a football stadium, even after he did in fact fill it.
But the deception involved in trying to make 1,200 supporters seem like 80,000 is nothing next to the deception of the plan itself. Romney would lower all six current individual tax brackets by 20 percent. That’s not as drastic as his opponents’ plans. Newt Gingrich, for example, would let any taxpayer choose between paying under the current regime or just paying a 15 percent flat tax. Rick Santorum would have most taxpayers paying just 10 percent. So this is the Romney-the-Reasonable part of the plan. Sticking with six brackets is supposedly meant to signal that he believes in a little stability and is not a loon.
Reducing those rates, of course—along with the reduction of the corporate rate from 35 percent to 25 percent; along with massively increasing Pentagon spending—will reduce revenue. And here’s the catch, via The Wall Street Journal’s write-up. Romney “said Wednesday that as president, he would direct Congress to make up lost revenue from the rate cuts by limiting deductions, mostly for wealthier Americans. Mr. Romney and his aides didn’t say which deductions would be targeted.”
Ah! There it is. Deductions? We’ll figure those out later. Listen, I have a new fiscal plan for the Tomasky household that I am announcing today. I’m going to go half-time at the Beast and quit doing all my other work, thereby reducing my income by well more than half. But circumstances dictate that I also need to buy a new car, and a nice car, a Lexus, because this household needs a husband/father who isn’t ashamed to be a Tomasky and is prepared for the future because the roads can get awfully dangerous out there in Montgomery County. How will I pay for it, you ask? Well, first of all, you’re a freedom-hater for even asking the question, and second, I’ll simply cut all other household spending to the bone. I’ll end up revenue neutral, I swear.
Romney’s plan is literally about that serious. He won’t announce which deductions because it’s really hard to go after deductions, and because there is probably not enough money there anyway to make up for the lost revenue. But trust him, it’ll all work out.
And here’s a curious thing. Romney commits a grave error, from the right-wing point of view, in even acknowledging that there is lost revenue. If he’d gone to the Mitch McConnell School of Economics he’d know that cutting tax rates increases revenue. So the really interesting question here is: Why does Romney even bother to acknowledge that there will be lost revenue that will need to be made up?
He acknowledges it because some small but quickly vaporizing part of the man still retains some attenuated grasp of fiscal reality. So rather than tell the balls-out, red-meat lie that reduced rates will raise more revenue, he tells the squishy and weasely lie that he’ll take care of the imbalance at a future unspecified date in some future unspecified way. And that, my friends, is Romney to the core. He thinks he can finesse everything, that he’s much cleverer than he is, that somehow people won’t notice. But no one’s buying his line about the bailout. It’s patent nonsense, and Steve Rattner just demolished it on the Times op-ed page today. Romney also looks a little graceless, by the way, saying that he drives the Mustang and the GM pickup, while his wife drives the Cadillacs, plural. The way he added that after a pause, it reminded me of John McCain not remembering how many houses he owned. But Romney remembers. He just thinks he can bluff it.
He makes me really wonder about the private sector in this country. Did he earn all those millions behaving this way, telling people what they wanted to hear, then maybe doing something else entirely, then saying to them that that was his plan all along, then jovially throwing a colleague under the bus? Don’t answer that question.
By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, February 25, 2012