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“Believe Me Because I Said So”: Mitt Romney Goes From Etch A Sketch To Sketchy

“Lead from behind” may be a sound bite the Obama administration regrets, but debating from behind is clearly something President Obama is very good at. He got the first debate’s wakeup call while Mitt Romney let the encounter in Denver mislead him into confusing petulance with strength.

For Obama’s supporters, the fact that the president played offense, had a strategy and seemed happy in his work was reason enough for elation. But the most electorally significant performance was Romney’s. Under pressure this time, the former Massachusetts governor displayed his least attractive sides. He engaged in pointless on-stage litigation of the debate rules. He repeatedly demonstrated his disrespect for both the president and Candy Crowley, the moderator. And Romney was just plain querulous when anyone dared question him about the gaping holes in his tax and budget plans.

Any high school debate coach would tell a student that declaring, “Believe me because I said so,” is not an argument. Yet Romney confused biography with specificity and boasting with answering a straightforward inquiry. “Well, of course, they add up,” Romney insisted of his budget numbers. “I — I was — I was someone who ran businesses for 25 years, and balanced the budget. I ran the Olympics and balanced the budget.” Romney was saying: Trust me because I’m an important guy who has done important stuff. He gave his listeners no basis on which to verify the trust he demanded.

Romney’s stonewalling was so obvious that it opened the way for one of Obama’s most effective lines of the evening: “If somebody came to you, Governor, with a plan that said, here, I want to spend $7 or $8 trillion, and then we’re going to pay for it, but we can’t tell you until maybe after the election how we’re going to do it, you wouldn’t have taken such a sketchy deal. And neither should you, the American people, because the math doesn’t add up.” Obama sought to make that point in the last debate. This time he had a metaphor and a story to go with the arithmetic.

Romney also covertly disclosed that he, like George W. Bush before him, has every intention of cutting taxes on the rich. Like Bush, he used stealthy language to try to achieve a great fiscal coverup.

Here was Romney on Tuesday: “I will not, under any circumstances, reduce the share that’s being paid by the highest-income taxpayers.” Here was Bush in 2000: “After my plan is in place, the wealthiest Americans will pay a higher percentage of taxes [than] they do today.”

This really matters: Romney intends, as Bush did, to push for steep tax cuts for the wealthy. His only pledge is that he’ll keep the share of the total tax take paid by the wealthy unchanged, presumably by reducing other taxes too. And this is supposed to lead to lower deficits? How?

The most instructive contrast between Debate I and Debate II was the extent to which Romney’s ideas crumbled at the slightest contact with challenge. Romney and Paul Ryan are erecting a Potemkin village designed to survive only until the polls close on Nov. 6. They cannot say directly that they really believe in slashing taxes on the rich and backing away from so much of what government does because they know that neither idea will sell. So they offer soothing language to the middle class, photo ops at homeless programs to convey compassion and a steady stream of attacks on Obama, aimed at shifting all the attention his way.

For his part, Obama looks strong when he calmly and methodically confronts the exceptionally large philosophical and practical differences that now divide the parties. He looks weak when he fuzzes up those differences in the hope of avoiding conflict. The fight is often asymmetric because Obama speaks for balance — between tax increases and spending cuts to reduce the deficit, between a thriving market and an active government — while today’s conservatives have no interest in balance.

In the first debate, Obama let Romney back into the race by failing to shake his opponent’s self-presentation. But Romney also put himself into contention by pretending to be a moderate, shelving his plutocratic side and hiding his party’s long-term objectives.

In the second debate, the disguise fell. Romney revealed more of himself than he wanted to and asked voters to endorse a radical tax-cutting program without providing them the details that matter. Sketchy is one word for this. Deceptive is another.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 17, 2012

October 18, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Lying For Jesus”: Is Romney Now Lying When He Admits His 47% Comments Were A Lie?

Mitt Romney has stood by and defended his infamous comments, that he believes 47% of Americans “are dependent upon government,” and “believe that they are victims.” The viral video’s release last month by Mother Jones was a game-changing moment for an already-rocked campaign that was fraught with internal turmoil. But now, after lying during the presidential debate 27 times — and not even being forced to defend his “47 percent” comments, Mitt Romney is claiming that those comments just “didn’t come out right,” and were “completely wrong.”

“Well, clearly in a campaign, with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question-and-answer sessions, now and then you’re going to say something that doesn’t come out right,” Romney last night told Tea party conservative Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity. “In this case, I said something that’s just completely wrong. And I absolutely believe, however, that my life has shown that I care about the 100 percent and that’s been demonstrated throughout my life. And this whole campaign is about the 100 percent.”

In the leaked video from a May $50,000 a plate fundraiser, Romney had told supporters:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

“Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax,” Romney had added, and it was his role “to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Last month, when the video surfaced, Romney did not for one minute deny he made those comments, and he and his campaign stood by and defended them:

“I am talking about a political process of drawing people in my campaign… My campaign is about helping people take more responsibility,” Romney said, and infamously added, merely that his comments were not elegantly stated.. I am sure I can state it more clearly and effectively than I did in a setting like that.” (An exceptionally elegant setting, mind you.)

Joh Aravosis at AmericaBlog put together this compelling report:

So Romney lied to his top donors. Why? Why did he lie to them? Has he lied to other top donors? Is he lying to us now?

Why didn’t Romney realize his comments were completely wrong a month ago? Why did he defend them if he knew they were “completely wrong”? So you mean, Romney lied to the American people for the past month when he said his comments were accurate (albeit inelegant)?

And what happened to cause Romney to only now realize that his comments are wrong?

I’ll tell you what happened. Romney’s son Tagg is busy “reinventing” his dad for the 100th time, and one of the things he told poppy is that he has to come clean on the 47% remarks.

This man is incredibly disingenuous. He will say anything to anyone to get elected President. He used to claim that he was better on gay rights than Ted Kennedy. Now he panders to the farthest of the gay-hating far-right, while his wife campaigns at conferences sponsored by officially-designated hate groups. Ted Kennedy, he ain’t.

But then what is Mitt Romney? What does he actually believe on anything? He’s flip-flopped on gay rights. He flip-flopped on health care reform again and again and again and again and again and again. He’s flipped onimmigration a few times, on gay adoption, the auto bailout, on guns, on his own college, on SuperPACs, on Solyndra, on carbon pollution, on stem cells, on abortion, on contraception, on Iraq, on climate change, on taxes, on the recession a lot.

He flip-flopped on catfish.

He even flip-flopped on flip-flopping.

That’s why fellow Republican, fellow Mormon, John Huntsman called Romney “a perfectly lubricated weathervane on the important issues of the day.”

That’s a nice way of saying that Mitt Romney is a congenital liar.

Indeed.

By: David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement, October 5, 2012

October 7, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Gigantic House Of Cards”: Mitt Romney Gets Away With It, For Now

So other than the fading echoes of Republican celebration and Democratic angst from last night’s presidential debate, and the wait we will now have to endure to see if it made any tangible difference in the contest, what should we actually carry away from the event?

I’ve already confessed myself a non-expert on the “visuals,” and on the “energy level” of the candidates, because I honestly don’t give a damn about any of that. What Mitt Romney needed to do last night, however, was relatively clear: reintroduce himself to swing voters as someone other than a distant plutocrat, and fill in the gaping holes (of omission and commission) in his policy agenda. With quite a bit of help from Barack Obama, he achieved both of those goals, at least temporarily, and in that respect he “won.”

But it came at a price. Jonathan Bernstein summed it up nicely last night at WaPo:

Romney’s policy positions are even more of a shambles now than they were previously. Romney’s position, over and over again, is to simply bluff it on policy. His tax plan continues to be the most obvious one, but it really happens across the board. Romney insisted tonight more than once that his tax plan will keep taxes the same for the wealthy, cut them for everyone else, and not add to the deficit. Forget about the Tax Policy Center; just that much is obviously incoherent and impossible. And, more to the point, it’s clear he’s going to keep on insisting that it adds up, no matter how clearly it doesn’t. But it’s not just that; on every policy, he’s just going to insist that the consequences of his plans that anyone might not like simply don’t exist, so that he’s for sweeping spending cuts but insists that no particular program that anyone brings up might lose any funding, or that he’s for repealing Obamacare but those with pre-existing conditions will magically be protected.

In other words, Mitt Romney lied a lot, and his lies extended beyond his own policies to those of the president (particularly in health care and “green jobs”). His self-representation, moreover, as a deeply caring moderate who shares the president’s goals but is far more eager to reach across the aisle, must have caused some bitter laughter behind the scenes in conservative circles. But because the president, presumably quite deliberately, chose not to depict Romney as a liar and a phony, Mitt largely got away with it, at least for the moment.

Jon Chait believes that Romney has finally pulled off his “etch-a-sketch” moment, reinventing himself as the moderate Republican he once seemed to be in Massachusetts, at a moment when conservatives were too terrified of defeat to object, as they certainly would have earlier in the year if he had hedged on his tax cut plan, let his heart bleed all over the stage for the unemployed and suffering, and begged for a chance to work with Democrats.

But atmospherics aside, what did Mitt actually change last night? He’s long claimed his tax plan wouldn’t increase the deficit, and wouldn’t reduce the relative tax burden on high earners. Last night he said he wouldn’t pursue it if his plan violated either of those principles. But since he’s denied repeatedly there’s any risk of that, why should anybody believe he’d somehow sacrifice the crown jewel of Republican policy–tax cuts for the wealthy–when he’s in office, surrounded by Republicans clamoring for it? But you’d best believe a lot of assurances were going out last night from Team Mitt to conservative opinion leaders denying anything had changed other than how Romney chose to frame and defend his tax plan.

Had Obama more effectively counterpunched last night (or had Jim Lehrer not provided the most passive moderation of a debate in memory), Mitt might not have been able to pull off this feat of prestidigitation. After all, when you think about it, Romney is now saying the high-end tax cuts that Republicans want more than life itself just won’t happen unless he can come up with revenue offsets that don’t change the tax burden, and also get through spending reductions that he’s consistently refused to identify (yea, promised to oppose when it came to most popular spending categories). It’s all a gigantic house of cards. And even if you buy the ludicrous assumption that Romney was sincere in his desire not to upset anyone with his policies, his party won’t for a moment let him actually “move to the center.” Hell, they spent the entire primary season roping him in, and even if they let him posture and maneuver a bit right now, the rope’s still around his neck and their brand is on his posterior.

Obama continually talked around the central problem, attacking the vagueness of Romney’s policies and near the end, finally just coming right out and saying Mitt’s hiding something. But he could not bring himself to say out loud that Mitt’s a serial dissembler who owes his political soul to extremist ideologues and depends strictly on a hidden-hand presentation of his record and agenda. I guess it wouldn’t have been “presidential.”

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 4, 2012

October 5, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Campaigns Are Like Decathlons”: Romney’s Debate Performance Will Light Fire Under Obama Supporters

A mutual friend told me in 2007 that Barack Obama believed campaigns are more like decathlons than single event contests. In this scenario a candidate doesn’t have to win every event, but has to do well enough for their strong performances to carry them over the top. If that is true Barack Obama did fine in his first presidential debate with Mitt Romney, but he didn’t win. In the long run Romney’s strong performance may be just what Democratic troops need to light a fire under them to volunteer even more for campaign field efforts where the Obama campaign is surely superior.

The president seemed overcoached in his first debate. Maybe the instruction was to stay warm, communicate the facts, and keep from letting any disdain for Romney seep through. If so, that worked, but Barack Obama didn’t give the audience enough energy. He let opportunities to challenge Romney slide by. At one point Romney claimed to be unaware of tax advantages for offshoring plants and lamented not knowing about them. “Maybe I need a better accountant,” he said. That was a great opportunity for President Obama to talk about Romney’s business record offshoring jobs or tax strategies. The president looked at his opponent with a knowing smile as if he knew there was fresh meat on the ground but chose not to pounce.

Despite Mitt Romney lying about his economic plans, the Republican will get a second look from voters this week. Romney was aggressive and he needed to be. Donors who were looking for the exits will probably settle back down. The media loves a horse race, and Romney just excited the Fourth Estate too. Good for him, but maybe good for Democrats too.

As polls got better recently, the whiff of overconfidence began to seep into Democratic groupthink. I plead guilty myself. For Democratic activists who spend a lot of time reading favorable articles about the president and watching TV shows that tend to take his side discounting Mitt Romney was becoming a favorite past time. Romney’s awkwardness and mistakes made it easy. But the likelihood of a Democratic blowout is remote. The demographic and ideological math just doesn’t support it. Democrats will have to gut out this Election Day with sweat and shoe leather just like the last one and the scare we got last night probably helps more than it hurts.

 

By: Jamal Simmons, U.S. News and World Report, Debate Club, October 4, 2012

October 5, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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