Political Animal


July 12, 2012 12:02 PM Projecting Mendacity

By Ed Kilgore

The theory that the animating spirit of the Romney campaign is the Rovian tactic of projecting one’s weaknesses onto the opponent just got a big boost, as Team Mitt put out an ad and a press release accusing the president of lying about the GOP candidate’s involvement in outsourcing while at Bain Capital, and of executing policies that encouraged outsourcing of jobs.

There’s not actually much dispute that Bain was in fact an “outsourcing pioneer;” but the key issue is whether Romney can be held responsible for Bain deviltry that occurred after he “left” in 1999 to run the Salt Lake Winter Olympics. I put “left” in quotes because today’s news also includes a report from the Boston Globe on an SEC filing that shows Romney remained as CEO and sole stockholder in Bain until 2002, a little detail that Mitt has failed to mention publicly so far.

Aside from confirming that the Bain/outsourcing attacks on Romney have been having an impact (as Obama campaign sources have been claiming lately), the new gambit from his campaign is probably also designed to (a) chip into Obama’s continuing advantage in personal favorability, while (b) reinforcing among GOP “base” voters the meme that the whole Obama enterprise is a vast Potemkin Village disguising his radicalism and unsavory association with America-haters and Christ-haters.

If you read through all the back-and-forth between the two campaigns, which heavily features quotes from various WaPo stories, the saga also demonstrates that while few people read newspapers these days, they do provide great fodder for campaign ads.

It will be interesting to see if the massively fact-challenged Republican presidential candidate keeps up the Liar! Liar! attack line. It’s not as though he comes to this particular argument with clean hands.

UPDATE: The Rovian hypothesis—indeed, the hypothesis that Romney is performing a Rovian response to a Rovian tactic by Team Obama—was also confirmed by someone who really ought to know, as quoted in this Zeleny/Parker piece from the New York Times:

Conservatives have lit up talk radio programs across the country, worrying whether Mr. Romney’s business record has been “Swift Boated,” referring to attacks waged against Senator John Kerry’s military record in 2004.
The Romney campaign headquarters in Boston has been inundated with advice and criticism from donors and supporters who worry that Mr. Romney has lost an opportunity to introduce himself on his own terms.
“Team Obama is doing just what we did in 2004, which is to define the opposition furiously and early,” said Mark McKinnon, a strategist who worked on George W. Bush’s re-election campaign. “Most voters don’t have a deep sense of Romney other than he’s not Obama. And in this cycle, that may be enough, but it’s a very risky approach.”
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.


  • Steve LaBonne on July 12, 2012 12:06 PM:

    I'm starting to think that Romney's campaign has been heavily infiltrated by Democratic moles. I mean, could it really be this incompetent otherwise?

  • hells littlest angel on July 12, 2012 12:08 PM:

    The Romney campaign needs to get to work on drafting its DNR order.

  • T2 on July 12, 2012 12:13 PM:

    Romney is doing a Rove-inspired campaign. Pretty much goes like this: Bob calls you a liar, you call Bob a bigger liar. Jim says "you suck", you say "Jim sucks more".
    If it sounds like something a 3rd grader would do, you are right. It's a standard child's way of deflecting comments they don't like. But this is all the GOP and Romney have in their trick bag. Acting like a whiny spoiled rich 3rd grader may not be the best strategy to convince people you should be president. Unless the people you are trying to convince have the intellect of 3rd graders.

  • Skip on July 12, 2012 12:14 PM:

    Perhaps its this propensity to consistently blame others for one's own accountability that such unrepentant incompetence continues to haunt the GOP, and this candidate in particular. Wealth cannot buy integrity, but it often sells it.

  • e on July 12, 2012 12:19 PM:

    The Obama Is A Big Liar thing ties in with the whole Obama is a Kenyan Muslim Fascist Communist Whatever meme. He's been somehow lying about who he is, and by extension about everything else too.

    Any time I make the mistake of reading some comments about something Obama related on an attractive to morons site like Yahoo News I see comments about Obama being the biggest liar ever and a dictator to boot. Also incapable of saying two words in public without a teleprompter. From commenters who perhaps didn't happen to notice the previous President's lying us into an entire decade long war, or whose minions developed the ridiculous Unitary Executive (or, the President is really a dictator) theory.

    It's all a dog whistle of course, representing the real message: he's a you-know-what and the Daddy of the country can't be one of those. He must be Kenyan, or lying about everything, or something. Also you-know-whats aren't as smart as we are, so he didn't even think of any of it himself, but is a puppet of Stalin or the UN or liberals who want to take away your guns or something.

  • c u n d gulag on July 12, 2012 12:26 PM:

    I look forward to the debates.

    The only thing that concerns me, is that if President Obama destroys Mitt too badly, the Conservatives will try to turn him into a Black Chicago street thug.

    Ok, even MORE of one.

    Lies and projection are all they have left.
    They have no ideas, except cut taxes, and destroy all social programs.

    And that's why they have to lie and project.
    They can't tell people that.
    No one besides their rabid base will vote for them.

  • dede21206 on July 12, 2012 12:33 PM:

    @Skip "Wealth cannot buy integrity, but it often sells it"
    Great comment!

  • Anonymous on July 12, 2012 12:36 PM:

    3rd graders for President!! Sandbox politics. Dodge ball accountability. Ant farm foreign policy. Crayola domestic policy, sorted by color. Boyz Only clubs and No Mexicans Allowed tree houses. Secret password is money, and the coded knock is Obama. Idols and education off the Internet. Dreams from DVDs. Sugar is the new health food and science is still the outcast nerd. Family values is Tiffany's, religion is a checkbook, and freedom is throwing a fit in front of the candy store until you get what you want. GOB bless America, Skittles and soda for all.

  • DAY on July 12, 2012 12:42 PM:

    Some of us remember Nixon's deployment of his "secret weapon", the I.R.S. against his foes.
    Obama has the Department of Justice, but I doubt he will use it. (Mitt's SEC sins were in the past, and we need to focus on the future, blah blah blah.)

  • T2 on July 12, 2012 12:54 PM:

    @gulag....the Media will call the debates a "tie". Or give the first to Obama, and say "Romney has to up his game", then they'll award the second to a "resurgent" Romney, and the third will be a tie. That's the way the game is played.

  • stevio on July 12, 2012 12:58 PM:

    Well, well, well...

    Mitt will just take his car elevator up to the ground level and smirk. He's been such a big fat liar for so long he can't tell the difference. I have a colleague just like him (sans the money) and he oft times really thinks he's telling the truth. The "cry wolf" aspects of pathological liars is always the same. Even if they is a modicum of truth in the discourse eventually no one ever believes them.

  • Daddy Love on July 12, 2012 1:04 PM:

    These people are not stupid. If "Bob calls you a liar, you call Bob a bigger liar," it's not because they're trying to "convince" people who "have the intellect of 3rd graders." It is the opposite of convincing. The idea is to confuse low information voters with identical charges flying back and forth between camps that they have no knowledge or capacity to reconcile. It leads those voters to ignore those charges altogether and make decisions based on something else. It defangs strong factual allegations by the president against Romney.

    As I said, they're not stupid.

  • Mimikatz on July 12, 2012 1:18 PM:

    Daddy Love is correct, but it is more than that. The Rovian tactic is meant in the end to demoralize and turn off potential Obama supporters so they just turn the whole thing off and don't vote.

    The one thing that may trip Romney up is that the attacks concern his great wealth, his secretive finances, things that distance him from ordinary Americans, and his consistent gaming of the tax code to avoid paying his fair share.

    Which suggests to me a new line of attack on the tax issue: The GOP refuses to raise taxes on the wealthy when none of them pay that rate in the first place. They all pay preferential rates on dividends, capital gains, carried interest, depreciated this and that etc. And those sources of income aren't subject to payroll and Medicare taxes. They are consistently lowering the rates that apply to themselves and raising the rates that apply to the other 98%.

  • jjm on July 12, 2012 2:05 PM:

    Apparently it is quite a serious offense to lie in an SEC filing.

    Is Mitt's lying a Mormon thing? I've never even heard of someone so cavalier with the truth. Which tells me he doesn't care about real life, only his 'destiny' as a Mormon saint after death, by whatever means necessary.

  • bluestatedon on July 12, 2012 2:20 PM:

    "Team Obama is doing just what we did in 2004, which is to define the opposition furiously and early,

    Except for one difference that's irrelevant to Republicans: the Swiftboating of John Kerry was done with bullshit, lies, distortion, and innuendo. There was no credible basis whatsoever for Jerome Corsi's assertions, or those of any of the other clowns in that affair.

    The criticisms of Romney's financial dealings is based on SEC and other official documents provided by Bain and/or Romney.

  • Josef K on July 12, 2012 2:37 PM:

    I fear this will be a very effective move by Team Romney. Reasoned debate doesn't seem to make much of a dent in the public's psyche anymore, and actual evidence is just dismissed out of hand if it discomforts TBTP.

  • rick on July 12, 2012 3:06 PM:

    Its always the cover up that gets 'em. Mitt's meat now.
    Just as long as the Dems feep fanning all those smoking guns.

  • Anonymous on July 12, 2012 3:48 PM:

    As regards jjm's question about whether Mitt's lying is a "Mormon thing," one needs only consider the "creation myth" of that "church" to see that the only bigger set of outlandish lies used to found a "church" are the hackneyed lies of that great con artist L. Ron Hubbard and his Church of Sciencefictionology. Mormons really are morons, to believe that collection of crap, and they really are liars when they say the church no longer practices all the things it still practices. So they have experience with mendacity in many, many ways.

    And T2's comment "Unless the people you are trying to convince have the intellect of 3rd graders," gives entirely too much benefit of the doubt to entirely too many of our fellow "citizens," most of whom would be hard-pressed to pass the Kindergarten-exit exam.

  • TCinLA on July 12, 2012 3:50 PM:

    "anonymous" above was me.

  • biggerbox on July 12, 2012 4:28 PM:

    David Corn in Mother Jones, who has been leading on this story, has more up today, suggesting that Romney was investing in an off-shoring company even before he "left" Bain.

    I wouldn't call the campaign's current theme as Rovian so much as schoolyard. It is getting more "I'm rubber and you're glue" every day.

  • The Obnoxious American on July 13, 2012 3:05 PM:

    Wow, you folks are out of your minds. Across the spectrum, you're bringing up his car elevator, asking if his lying "is a mormon thing," etc, etc ad nauseum. It's disgusting frankly.

    Your guy is presiding over the worst economy I've experienced, and I'm no youth. Lies are his stock and trade, and if we'd like to talk about felonies, I'm pretty sure drug commerce counts as one too.

    Meanwhile, what exactly are you defending? His excellent management of our country and economy? How about his unique ability to heal and unite America? Let's face it, Romney may not be the greatest candidate ever forwarded by the GOP (though it's a bit too early to tell) but he's eons better than what we have currently, and everyone except liberal ideologues can see that.

  • Jonathan on July 13, 2012 3:18 PM:

    Does anybody actually notice that according to Factcheck, none of the "new" reports attempting to exonerate Obama's mendacious attacks on Romney offer any actual evidence? That Romney's response has been deemed 100% accurate, and the Boston Globe article's claims has already been exposed as either flawed or irrelevant?

    Psychoanalyzing why Romney is lying is so much easier than actually finding out whether he is. Psychoanalyzing why Romney is accusing Obama of lying is so much easier than wondering why Factcheck is also accusing Obama of lying--after reviewing hundreds of pages of so-called evidence supplied by the Obama campaign.

  • Peter Principle on July 13, 2012 3:18 PM:

    I know it's petty and childish (politics is a petty and childish sport these days), but as someone with painful memories of the summer of '04, I can't really express how intensely gratifying it is to see a Republican candidate successfully swiftboated -- and, even, better, hear conservatives squeal like stuck pigs about it.

    It's almost enough to make me believe in a just God.

  • Davis on July 13, 2012 3:24 PM:

    I'm beginning to wonder if anyone realizes that the country is going down the toilet. We have less people employed in America since back in the 80s, the debt is growing at a staggering rate while Obama grows government at a faster rate than any previous Administration. Obama is fiddling (with Bain Capital attacks) while the country burns.

    The liberal media (who doesn't seem to care if we become a third world country so long as we become socialists) fixates on trivial issues while the debt skyrockets and Obama extends his imperial presidency.

    Will America wake up before it is too late? Or is it too late already?

  • Cas47 on July 13, 2012 4:02 PM:

    You must be joking. When even the Washington Post - one of the house organs of the Obama White House - and Democrats who work at Bain are calling you a liar, then, you must be a liar. Obama lies just about every time he opens his mouth.

  • cordell esplin on July 13, 2012 4:06 PM:

    The main differences are:
    1) Obama is really lying.
    2) Romney has a clean past, no drugs, mob ties etc. that Obama has.

    It really is the opposite of what this author proposes. Obama is the one that really does not want you to look at his past.

  • alisabetcha on July 13, 2012 4:51 PM:

    Don't blame Mitt for the lies, rather, come down on MItt for having no recognizable backbone. Mitt is flippitty flip flop about everything and there is video evidence abound about him repudiating today what he vehemently fought for 20 years ago (abortion rights). Mitt can stay quiet as long as he wants. Meanwhile, the world is spinning around him, life is going on. It's surprising to me that anyone would want a President who is above accountability as Mitt has proven to be with his evasive maneuvering. It's surprising that anyone would actually want someone who takes a week to answer something with a response like "no, you lie!". Is this a guy who can actually handle the very real and abundant problems our president has handled if he can't even handle disclosing his tax forms? My bet is absolutely not.

  • jbenson22 on July 13, 2012 5:11 PM:

    Romney doesn't have to worry about anything. None of the outsourcing documents have hi name on it. He was only a figurehead at that time. obama is toast and everyone who isn't younger than 30 knows it. Black Pastors have are signing a traditional marriage pledge, to now vote for him. Black Christians, who put him in office, won't vote for him, either will libertarians, or independents. With Rubio as VP, obama doesn't have a chance. He will lose by at least 4pts.

  • Jerry John on July 13, 2012 7:00 PM:

    Romney lies not on purpose but unconsciously. He has no concept of truth.

  • Jim on July 13, 2012 7:04 PM:

    @T2 - With Bush being elected twice, unfortunately "the intellect of 3rd graders" reflects approximately half of the voters at large.

    @Davis - When will you wake up? Who put us in this mess in the first place? Which party believes just let corporations do what they want, they know what's best... The Fortune 500 (Yes, these are US companies) made a record PROFIT last year. Sounds like they're doing very well. How did they do this? One of the reasons is that they've learned if you lay off American workers, you can increase your bottom line. You think keeping this policy of letting the rich get richer is going to help the US economy?

    I feel fortunate that I only have about 5 more years to go before I enjoy an early retirement with about $2M in equity. You know who I feel sorry for the most? Your children. Because they will have to somehow live in this dog-eat-dog rat race, they can work hard, and then still get laid off because some corporation wants to increase their net revenue from $1.1B to $1.12B. I work for a company which is making billions in PROFITS each year but still are laying off American workers. Great model...

  • TycheSD on July 13, 2012 7:52 PM:

    I agree with T2 that the Romney campaign seems like it's trying to copy whatever Obama does. This was especially noticeable when they dispatched Pawlenty and Jindahl to Ohio right before Obama launched his bus tour of the state. Maybe all campaigns to that, but I don't recall them doing so in the past.

  • Briton on July 14, 2012 12:38 AM:

    Romney said he was not involved in Bain.
    He was only listed as the "Sole shareholder, Sole director, Chief executive officer and President."
    Don't you understand?

  • Rapper on July 14, 2012 2:34 AM:

    Funny to read comments like the one from T2. Its ironical that you are accussing Romney of "3rd grader" whinning campaign, when the great Hopey and Changey uniter has nothing else to offer except for charecter assisination. Funny, I thought an incumbent would have a record to run on. But when your record is as trashy as O's, then I guess all you have is attacking the charecter of your opponent and oh yeah..all O's problems are GWB's fault. Pathetic! To think I donated to O's campaign four years ago. I'll make sure I do everything in my power to get Republicans elected at every level.

  • Pusch on July 14, 2012 2:50 AM:

    As I understand it, Mitt outsourced the running of Bain after 1999. Where it all began.

  • joanne on July 14, 2012 7:18 AM:

    To e-
    What planet are you on?? Obama has put his foot on the accelerator in demolishing our great country. Obama is a community organizer-king.
    No one I know is not full of angst, and fear.
    This ball of destruction has got to be kicked out in November on his arrogant a**.

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