Political Animal


July 01, 2011 8:00 AM Romney ‘makes it worse’ with obvious falsehood

By Steve Benen

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has focused most his message on attacking President Obama’s economic record. To that end, the former governor has repeated a specific phrase over and over again: “He made it worse.”

“He” in this sentence is the president, and “it” references the economy. Romney has used the exact same line, word for word, in debate appearances, press releases, exchanges with voters, and even his campaign kick-off speech, when Romney said of the president, “When he took office, the economy was in recession. He made it worse.”

This is, in other words, one of the driving messages of Romney’s presidential campaign. Unfortunately for the GOP frontrunner, it’s also a lie.

With that in mind, Romney held a press conference yesterday in Pennsylvania, and NBC’s Sue Kroll, to her enormous credit, asked the candidate the question no other reporter has been willing to pose.

[Kroll] asked the former Massachusetts governor why he believes that Obama’s policies have made the economy worse — when the economy is now growing (and not shrinking like it was in 2009), when the Dow is climbing (and no longer in a free-fall like it was in ‘09), and when the unemployment rate is down a full percentage point from where it was in Oct. ‘09.

Romney offered a response that was nothing short of extraordinary.

“I didn’t say that things are worse…. What I said was that economy hasn’t turned around.”

When a candidate lies, it’s a problem. When a candidate lies about lying, it’s a bigger problem.

Even for Romney, who’s flip-flopped more often and on more issues than any American politician in a generation, this is ridiculous. He’s argued repeatedly that Obama made the economy worse, and when asked to defend the bogus claim, says he never made the argument in the first place.

Romney does realize that Google exists, right? That it’s pretty easy to find all kinds of examples of him saying exactly what he claims to have never said?

What’s more, as part of his defense, Romney’s new line — the economy “hasn’t turned around” — is itself wrong. The economy was shrinking, now it’s growing. The economy was hemorrhaging jobs, now it’s gaining jobs. The stock market was collapsing, now it’s soaring. When compared to where things were when the president took office, the economy has obviously turned around, even if it’s far short of where it needs to be.

I’m not sure why this isn’t a bigger deal this morning. It was amusing when Michele Bachmann falsely characterized John Quincy Adams as a Founding Father, but Romney getting caught telling a blatant falsehood about one of the central themes of his presidential campaign is infinitely more important.

Remember when John Kerry, talking about Iraq funding, said he was for it before he was against it? Romney’s incoherence yesterday is every bit as interesting.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • joan on July 01, 2011 8:09 AM:

    So why don't the reporters mention Romneys
    record on job creation?

  • Josef K on July 01, 2011 8:09 AM:

    I'm starting to think it would be less painful for us all if the GOP would simply nominate President Obama as their candidate. We could forego this campaign entirely, and thus spare our discourse another 16 months of torture and madness.

  • c u n d gulag on July 01, 2011 8:10 AM:

    Now, if only Mitt would provide us with a nice visual - like him tacking this way and that while he's windsurfing.

    CAPTCHA - traval pol
    Yes, Mitt is a pol who travels. What's your point, CAPTCHA?

  • Eeyore on July 01, 2011 8:15 AM:

    In 1967, Romney's father George was running for President. His candidacy imploded after he was quoted as saying he had been "brainwashed" about Viet Nam by the military and the Johnson administration.

    Senator Eugene McCarthy, running against Johnson for the Democratic nomination, said that in Romney's case, "a light rinse would have been sufficient."

    Like father, like son.

  • DAY on July 01, 2011 8:17 AM:

    Shorter joan: "Why don't reporters-?"

    Captcha: ionerni (irony?)university
    I suspect many of us here are grads!

  • Jim on July 01, 2011 8:18 AM:

    Good for NBC's Sue Kroll in questioning Mitt Romney on his lies. It seems, however, her colleagues are incapable of asking Romney the tough questions, particularly his record or lack their of creating jobs.

  • hell's littlest angel on July 01, 2011 8:18 AM:

    Get used to bullshit, incoherence and inanity for the next 17 months. Anyone with any sense knows that Obama will win easily in 2012. So, excluding those who are doing it to position themselves for 2016 (Huntsman), only fools will be running against him.

  • M.S.Huiner on July 01, 2011 8:22 AM:

    Good for Sue Kroll. Here's to hoping that other MSM folk will hold Romney's feet to the fire.

    Steve, did you mean to say: When a candidate lies ABOUT lying? ("When a candidate lies and lying, it's a bigger problem.")

    Josef K, that is a great suggestion!

    "43 sarpro"--how much is that in american dollars?

  • beejeez on July 01, 2011 8:23 AM:

    Yes, it is shocking that a member of the national media asked a relevant question. But before we short-list Kroll for the Pulitzer, let us ponder how the standards have fallen. Once upon a time, candidates were terrified of being busted for such obvious double-talk. Now they're shocked when it happens.

  • Mudge on July 01, 2011 8:26 AM:

    When a Republican opens his/her mouth, a lie comes out. This should be everyone's default position. Now, let's see if Sue Kroll is sent on special assignment to Afghanistan. I suspect Romney will want to remove her from his press pool.

  • SkJL on July 01, 2011 8:39 AM:

    Their strategy is to keep telling this lie over and over - it's about what people will believe even though he's a liar. That's what the Romney camp is counting on...

  • TR on July 01, 2011 8:40 AM:

    Repeat "Good for Sue Kroll" as much as you can.

    Reporters are shallow careerists. If they think they can make a name for themselves by actually doing their job and asking hard questions like this, maybe they'll finally do it.

  • Ron Byers on July 01, 2011 8:41 AM:

    beejeez is spot on. Let's see if Kroll's question is an aberation or if the working press begins to, you know, work. I would love for candidates to be terrified of being caught telling a lie.

  • Shelly on July 01, 2011 8:43 AM:


    CAPTCHA is annoying at the bottom of the comment box. Seeing it again the bottoms of your comments is IRRITATING AS HELL.

  • Ron Byers on July 01, 2011 8:46 AM:


    In Romney's case people will believe he is a liar. He has spent the better part of the last decade cementing that reputation. He has done a good job. That he is in the race at all tells you how low politics as sunk and how bad the Republican field.

    At this momement the Republican candidate with the best shot at the nomination is Michele Bachmann. That she is incapable of winning more than 35-40% of the vote on her best day tells just how weak the Republican field is.

  • Texas Aggie on July 01, 2011 9:47 AM:

    What does it say that a simple question is regarded almost as a badge of courage? And if Ms. Kroll is in any way retaliated against, that has to be publicized to the heavens on a daily basis.

    I would love to see some reporter ask Mitt if he plans to retaliate against her. And then they can ask him how a person who made a bucketful of money by buying businesses, firing people, and then selling the businesses can claim to be job creation oriented. And how is it that MA had such an awful job creation record during his term as governor?

  • sparrow on July 01, 2011 11:25 AM:

    So much of the media is now just one big steno pool and the public isn't being well served, but that's just where we are today.

  • Jose Padilla on July 01, 2011 11:28 AM:

    Romney gets away with it because the economy still sucks and everything else is nuance. Yeah, the economy's growing, but at less than two percent a year. Yeah, jobs are being added, but unemployment is still at 9.1%. If the economy had been growing at 4% a year for the last two years and unemployment was 7%, Romney wouldn't be able to get away with it.

  • bdop4 on July 01, 2011 12:58 PM:

    I think Dems should re-litigate the 2008 meltdown and make republicans explain how they would have stopped the hemorraging. It really cuts to heart of what distinguishes the parties.

    At the time, candidate McCain's solution was tax cuts and spending freezes. Assuming that's the party position, make them explain what they would have done differently and exactly how it would have prevented 25,000+ people from losing their jobs each and every DAY.

    Another thing: when the republicans talk about making the economy worse, they're talking about taxes and spending. They don't give a fuck whether ordinary people keep their jobs.

  • ed on July 01, 2011 2:26 PM:

    The best part of this recent Romney flip flop is how it plays in the next Repub debate. How does he defend his walk back statement that President Obama has not made the economy worse, when the other Repub banshees start beating on him as an Obama supporter?

  • Teamfrazer on July 01, 2011 2:51 PM:

    President Obama is currently polling under 30% and dropping........the ONLY hope for Democrats in the next election is that Obama announce he will not seek the party's nomination and endorse Hillary as the candidate.
    Otherwise, after this debacle, the Republicans sweep both houses and control the White House as well. America needs proactive participation by its leadership....there has been none of that so far by th President.

  • Lin Griffin on July 01, 2011 7:06 PM:

    This is how rethuglicans think they should talk to people. On the other hand, dumbocrats can't seem to talk at all.

  • Squeaky McCrinkle on July 02, 2011 12:59 AM:

    I guess that when they saw that nobody formed a lynch mob to string up Alan Greenspan, they figured they could get away with anything.

  • SamLowery on July 02, 2011 3:05 PM:

    Yeah, and the media calls Obama out when he lies?

  • Daniel Garcia on July 02, 2011 4:56 PM:

    Why are we talking about Romney as if he's the best candidate Republicans have to offer? We should be talking about the only real choice... The only candidate with a proven track record, who isn't part of the status quo. Defender of the Constitution and liberty! He's against war and for sound money, RON PAUL 2012!!

  • MaxVeritas on July 03, 2011 10:00 AM:

    Romney, is pro-homosexual marriage as evidenced by his unlawful executive order in 2004. He's pro-abortion and pro stem cell. These are views that are NOT Christian in nature. As to being republican, like Arnold he's a RINO, who exceeds Arnold's deception of his true nature. Lastly, as to religion, be it Christian or otherwise it's fruit is eternal separation from God. True Christianity is the absence of religion, it's an eternal relationship with Him, by faith and that not of ourselves, lest we should boast.
    PS-The most religious people on the planet at the time killed Christ, which was bad news that ended up being eternal good news for those of us who love our Lord,God and Savior, Jesus Christ. PS-In short to simplify it, religion is works based, true Christianity is faith based, in Christ. May the Holy Spirit quicken the truth to ALL who read this, leading to salvation, Amen...

  • Brian on July 03, 2011 11:29 AM:

    MaxVeritas, you highlight the main problem with American politics today. Actually, you epitomize it in your belief that all Republicans must march lock step to the tune that you approve of. This thought process is indicative of a closed mind.