Political Animal


May 08, 2012 5:20 PM Mitt’s Latest “Big Speech:” Big Lie #1

By Ed Kilgore

Mitt Romney gave another much-ballyhooed “big speech” today in Michigan, aimed at clarifying the differences between his approach to the economy and the president’s.

Well, mission accomplished, but not exactly in the way he intended.

There were two “big lies” are the heart of the speech. I’ll discuss them in separate posts.

Here’s number one:

President Obama chose to apply liberal ideas of the past to a 21st century America. Liberal policies didn’t work then, they haven’t worked over the last four years, and they won’t work in the future. New Democrats had abandoned those policies, but President Obama resurrected them, with predictable results.
President Clinton said the era of big government was over. President Obama brought it back with a vengeance. Government at all levels now constitutes 38% of the economy, and if Obamacare is installed, it will reach almost 50%.
President Clinton made efforts to reform welfare as we knew it. President Obama is trying tirelessly to expand the welfare state to all Americans, with promises of more programs, more benefits, and more spending.
Old-school liberals saw a problem and thought a government-run program was the answer. Obamacare is the fulfillment of their dreams. Federal bureaucrats will tell all Americans what they have to have in their health insurance policies. And an unelected board will tell seniors what treatments Medicare will cover….
The liberals of the past raised taxes, often with little thought of how they would hurt small business, and the economy. Like them, President Obama proposes to raise the tax on small business. He wants to increase the marginal tax rate paid by the most successful small businesses from 35% to 40%. It’s a throwback to discredited policies, and it will kill jobs.

So the claim here is that Obama turned his back on the Clintonian “New Democrat” heritage and went back to the bad old liberal ways of the distant past.

Who do you think is the most reliable interpreter of the Clinton legacy? Bill Clinton, or perhaps his wife? Or Mitt Romney? And who do you think is the better judge of whether Obama is going back to the “tired old liberalism” Clinton sometimes derided? This time I’ll give your three options: (a) Again, Clinton; (b) the liberals who disagreed with Clinton’s course for the party, and who disagree with Obama’s just as vociferously, or (c) Mitt Romney?

I take this a bit personally, having been a “New Democrat” myself back in the day, but there are really only two ways to deal with this passage of Romney’s speech: either he (or his speechwriter) hasn’t the slightest clue what he’s talking about, or he’s lying. It’s not real hard to figure out which is the case.

It’s particularly outrageous for Romney to claim that the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act of 2010 was some sort of betrayal of the New Democrat legacy. “New Democrats” (for example, the Progressive Policy Institute, the preeminent New Democratic think-tank) relentlessly agitated for something very like the ACA going back to the early 1990s. Indeed, they differed from the defining New Democrat, Bill Clinton, only in preferring the “managed competition” model to the somewhat more rigid approach embraced by the Clinton administration itself. During the 2008 presidential primaries, the only significant differences between the health care proposals of Barack Obama and of Hillary Clinton (notice the last name again!) was that she insisted on the individual mandate that Mitt Romney had implemented in Massachusetts and that Mitt Romney’s party now denounces as slavery.

These are not obscure facts of ancient history. Nor is the fact that on taxes, another area where Romney is claiming that Obama is repudiating Clinton’s legacy to go back to some ancient hard-core liberalism, the endless and repetitive and redundant Obama proposal is to take income tax rates for the wealthy back to the levels they were when Bill Clinton was president, and, BTW, when America was producing more millionaries than anyone had ever thought possible and the first mass upper-middle-class in human history. Obama’s trying to expand “welfare?” How? By temporarily expanding, in the middle of a Republican-engineered recession, the Earned Income Tax Credit, which Clinton considered the essential tool for making welfare reform succeed, and which Ronald Reagan hailed as “the best the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress”?

Sorry for the rant, but I am beside myself on this one, in part because I fear that a lot of reporters will blandly report on Romney’s speech and not bother to point out that Mitt is making a laughable mischaracterization of political history so recent that even someone right out of journalism school would know it.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Rich on May 08, 2012 5:29 PM:

    "The Big Lie" has been dominating GOP discourse for a several election cycles. It's nice to give it the name,but the press and the Dems have to be serious at pushing back on it.

  • Shem on May 08, 2012 5:30 PM:

    Now I'm envisioning a repeat of that "Annie Hall" scene with Obama pulling Clinton from behind a poster: "I heard what you were saying. You know nothing of my work!"

  • c u n d gulag on May 08, 2012 5:49 PM:

    Mitt Romney makes Joe Isuzu, from those old late-80's car ads, look like Atticus Finch.

    The MSM wants, NEEDS, those "Citizens" dollars - so they'll do the best they can to make this, if they can't make Romney win, at least a very, very close horse race.

  • suekzoo on May 08, 2012 5:51 PM:

    Itís particularly outrageous for Romney to claim that the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act of 2010 was some sort of betrayal of the New Democrat legacy.

    Yes, and especially since he passed a nearly identical program while he was the severely conservative governor of MA.

  • delNorte on May 08, 2012 5:55 PM:

    I just caught a bit of the speech on the evening news here in Michigan - my gut reaction:

    Romney has no clue what the words he's using even mean - he's just mouthing what's being thrown up on the teleprompter in front of him. On top of that, he doesn't seem to care that he has no clue (or, perhaps, he has no clue that he has no clue).

    Oliver Sacks tells a story in one of his books about a few patients with aphasia (unable to understand the meaning of words, but still able to comprehend the emotion behind a person's speech), and how they would laugh at Ronald Reagan's speeches because they thought, through his tone, he was being funny. Reading Romney's tone, I'd say he's full of both himself, and crap, and he's already in over his head.

  • LL on May 08, 2012 6:14 PM:

    I don't have to hear or see that speech to know exactly what it sounded like. I have Romney's entitled, rich-boy patois permanently fixed in my brain, alas.

    The man is patently a joke. I know there are plenty of people who take his candidacy with deadly seriousness (the LDS in particular), but all I can do when I read this kind of utter shit coming out of his moth is sigh, and wonder what in the world our "enlightened democracy" has come to. Guys like Madison and Jefferson and Franklin and Paine would have been torn between laughing themselves sick, or blowing a blood-vessel in an apoplectic fit at what their entitled-classes had wrought.

    Romney cares about two things: power, and money. His power, and his money. Period. And that of his "dear friends" of course, that is, those who are bankrolling him. It is incompetence (his) and corruption (his and theirs) so fetid, so repellent, as to beggar description.

    And, of course, our "media" such as it is, simply ignores it all in favor of the horse-race. And to call Romney a horse is to insult all horses.

    Disgusting. Beyond words disgusting, that man.

  • emjayay on May 08, 2012 6:15 PM:

    The speech starts out by associating Obama with the demise of Oldsmobile and associated jobs in Lansing. Which happened way before Obama was president. Which was a brand of a company that Obama saved, which Romney at the time said wasn't worth it and is now sort of taking credit for. Didn't that kind of make everyone listening to this thing feel like they were all of a sudden on alternative Planet Claire or somewhere?

  • emjayay on May 08, 2012 6:21 PM:

    Then he talks about Obamacare raising the record high 38% involvement of all levels of government in the economy (really? anyone?) to 50%. Involvement? Establishing some rules and subsidies is involvement? You'ld think we were going for a National Health deal paid for by taxes (OK, not that bad an idea...) or something. Which is exactly the idea the speechwriters are hoping to plant in the brains of the ignorant.

  • Joe Friday on May 08, 2012 6:28 PM:

    WILLARD: "He wants to increase the marginal tax rate paid by the most successful small businesses from 35% to 40%."

    Except that only about 1.2% of "small businesses" are even in that tax bracket.

    Once again, it's all about the top 1% for Republicans.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on May 08, 2012 6:48 PM:

    It doesn't matter if it's a Big Lie if the only people who know it's a big lie consists of political junkies, and a miniscule percentage of the population who follow the body politic like we do.

    The press isn't going to push back. It's up to the Dems. Which means the only people who will know the Big Lie is a big lie is a miniscule ...

  • Doug on May 08, 2012 6:59 PM:

    Romney lies because that's all he has. He lies about everything he's said and done since he's entered politics. He has to lie to his "supporters" or they won't vote for him. He lies baldly and badly, apparently confident no one will ever take him to task. So far, he's been correct in that assumption. Based on past experience, I doubt the MSM will ever call Romney out on his lies.
    However, I think I know someone who will...

  • mallen on May 08, 2012 7:47 PM:

    Romney's life experience: Born rich. Ivy League. Adult life: Mormon missionary and private equity takeover guy.

    Being a Mormon missionary and being a high level corporate guy have a lot in common. Both involve ignoring the obvious truths and telling lies you pretend are true to get what you want. Both are basically salesmen.

    Romney to business he's bought out: We're gonna modernize this failing company and reform things and inject a bunch of money to get this company ready to compete in the changing modern world.

    Truth: We borrowed a shitload of money at high interest rates to buy this place and now we're gonna cut out research and development and maintenence, lower wages, fire a bunch of people, and spend half of what we borrowed on fees for ourselves. Then when the company looks OK to an investor we're gonna dump it. If it goes bankrupt, the feds will cover your pensions, partly. Good luck guys, you're gonna need it.

    Mitt the candidate is just more of what he is.

  • Anonymous on May 08, 2012 10:32 PM:

    hey, didn't obamacare model after Romneycare?

    as a campaign tactic, it makes sense for Romney to attack Obama as far left by comparing with popular Democrat president Clinton just as Obama has attacked him for being too far right compared to "true conservative" Reagan.

    It's just too bad for Romney that Mr and Mrs Clinton have worked closely with Obama, showing mutual respect for the last 4 years, but Reagan is dead.
    Bush Sr, Reagan's vice president, endorsed him (he looked like he did out of sense of duty as a Republican anyway) but do people even know that?

    Bill Clinton is showing up everywhere to support Obama and attack Romney's "tried and failed" supply side economics.

    What Romney is trying to avoid is that He is right to Bush Jr.

  • boatboy_srq on May 09, 2012 9:10 AM:

    1) The only believable thing that Romney has said, ever, is that he wants to be pResident. Why, how, all the other trappings of public statements are "as will please his listeners" and carrying less weight than a hydrogen molecule.

    2) It's possible that Obama is using "liberal ideas of the past" - provided of course that "the past" ended just before I hit "Post" on this comment. Romney, in contrast, is using capitalist ideas of the 19th century - presumably because he thinks our past is our future. It's like he read Dickens and saw him as prophet instead of critic.

    Romney robber baron offspring born two centuries too late.

  • DRF on May 09, 2012 9:46 AM:

    I just wonder if any of this means anything from the perspective of the election. Does any of this really resonate with voters---in particular, those voters who may be undecided? It seems a little to "inside baseball" to me.

  • DHFabian on May 09, 2012 10:22 AM:

    Reality: the "masses" who voted for President Obama were NOT Clintonian anti-New Deal "New Democrats." There remains a stunning disconnect between most of the "leading intellectuals" that retain their admiration for the Clintons, and those progressives in the real world who have had to live with the results of the policies of "New Democrats." We see is how both Clintons worked to encourage the exporting of jobs, leaving so many unemployed, and then responded to the growing poverty by sinking the lifeboat.Clinton's greatest policy successes, from NAFTA to welfare "reform," have been powerful tools for dividing the non-rich (between "middle class workers" and the millions who are far less fortunate), blocking unionizing efforts, wiping out workers' protections and suppressing wages. Clinton actually created the closest thing to indentured servitude ("workfare") to be found among the modern nations. When you have powerful New Democrats who are well to the right of both Eisenhower and Nixon, it's time to re-evaluate the nation's priorities.The LAST thing we would want is for President Obama to embrace the Clinton agenda.

  • Joe Friday on May 09, 2012 12:31 PM:


    "We see is how both Clintons worked to encourage the exporting of jobs, leaving so many unemployed, and then responded to the growing poverty by sinking the lifeboat."

    * There were 23 million NET new jobs added to the national economy during his two terms, the most jobs ever created under a single administration, while Unemployment declined to the lowest level in four decades.

    * Poverty DECLINED each and every year for eight years from 1993 through 2000, to the lowest levels in more than four decades.

    "Clinton's greatest policy successes, from NAFTA to welfare 'reform,' have been powerful tools for dividing the non-rich (between 'middle class workers' and the millions who are far less fortunate), blocking unionizing efforts, wiping out workers' protections and suppressing wages."

    The Standard of Living of the vast overwhelming number of American workers INCREASED every year of his two terms, with the longest consecutive increase of real wage growth in four decades.