Mitt Romney's Lying Game

We expect him to lie to hardline Republicans; now he's lying to the rest of us, too.

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The open secret about Mitt Romney is that he'll say anything secure the GOP nomination. Over the course of this primary campaign, Romney has spoken in favor of hard-right propositions ranging from the flat tax to constitutional amendments granting rights to zygotes. But it's difficult to credit that the formerly prochoice Massachussets governor who once railed against flat taxes as favoring "fat cats" truly endorses these ideas in his political heart of hearts. In a strange tick, when Romney says he "absolutely!" believes something, that seems to be a pretty good indication that he believes nothing of the sort.

For political moderates, Romney's transparent pandering to the GOP base is supposed to be of some comfort. Sure, he says he's for that crazy stuff, but he doesn't actually mean it. Down deep, he's really a sensible centrist.

But as Romney begins to set his sights on the general election, shifting his attacks from his Republican opponents to President Obama, a disturbing pattern is emerging. Romney is moving from making false promises to bearing false witness, suggesting that the person at Romney's core isn't a moderate. It's a liar.

Twice in recent days Romney and his campaign have repeated President Obama's words in a false context. Romney didn't shade their meaning, or twist the words in a hey-it's-politics way. He lied about what the president said.

Exhibit A:

In an open letter to the president, Romney wrote: "It is not America’s laziness that is the problem, as you recently suggested. It is your policies."

It's true that the president did utter the words "we've been a little bit lazy" recently. But the "we" in question was not America or its workers. It was D.C. policymakers that Obama suggested had not done enough to promote America to the rest of the world as a good place to do business.

Here's the full quote:

But we've been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We've kind of taken for granted — well, people will want to come here and we aren't out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America. 

Obama was faulting U.S. trade representatives, not U.S. workers, whom, not one sentence later, he called "outstanding."

Exhibit B:

Romney's newest ad uses the same trick, taking the president's words violently out of context to create a brand new meaning. As the voice-over progresses you hear the president say, "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose." Interesting, except Obama wasn't president when he uttered that phrase. He was a candidate in 2008. And Obama didn't say that about his own campaign, he was repeating the gaffe by an adviser to John McCain who'd said that about about the Republican's campaign.

Romney's a clean-cut, straight-laced guy, who projects a solid moral character. But with these latest moves, he is revealing himself to be the kind of politician who is not only committed to lying to the far right. He's committed to lying to everyone. Voters of all political persuasions should take note.