Political Animal


July 05, 2011 8:00 AM Romney’s rare flip-flop-flip

By Steve Benen

It’s awfully difficult for a presidential candidate, when pushing one of the central themes of his campaign, to make an argument, then take the opposite side of the argument, then go back to the original argument, all in the course of a week.

It’s even more difficult to execute the rare flip-flop-flip, and manage to get the underlying issue wrong in each instance.

But when it comes to shifting with the wind, Mitt Romney is, shall we say, unique.

Let’s quickly review. Mitt Romney aggressively pushed the argument that President Obama made the economy “worse.” Romney was lying, and even after the claim was proven false, the Republican frontrunner repeated it anyway.

A few days after repeating the bogus line, Romney reversed course, telling reporters, “I didn’t say that things are worse…. What I said was that economy hasn’t turned around.” This was a lie about a lie, wrapped in a lie — he had said things are worse, and all available evidence shows the economy has turned around from the crisis levels of 2008 and 2009.

Yesterday, Romney reversed course again.

After disputing whether he had previously said President Obama made the recession worse last week former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts said on Monday that President Obama made the recession worse.

Speaking at the annual July Fourth parade here on Monday, Mr. Romney told a crowd of supporters and passersby, “the recession is deeper because of our president,” adding, “it’s seen an anemic recovery because of our president.”

Think about the logic of those two sentences. Romney is arguing, at the exact same time, that the “recession” is worse and that there’s been an economic “recovery.” How can we have a recession and a recovery simultaneously? It’s tempting to wonder if he even knows what these words mean.

There are two key angles to keep in mind here. The first is that Romney, when dealing with the core issue of his presidential campaign, can’t even keep his own story straight. Even for Romney, who’s flip-flopped more often and on more issues than any American politician in a generation, this is ridiculous. Given Romney’s atrocious record on job creation, this incoherence isn’t doing his campaign any favors.

The second angle is that Romney can’t bring himself to tell the truth, either. 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 improved, even if it’s far short of where it needs to be.

To clean up the mess, Romney first needs to stop flip-flopping — though I suppose that’s like asking a leopard to change its spots — and then he needs to explain why he considers a healthier economy worse than a deep recession.

Good luck with that, Mitt.

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.


Post a comment
  • c u n d gulag on July 05, 2011 8:06 AM:

    This is why I also refer to "Reversible Mittens" as "Fill-in the ___________ Mitt."

    His staff must get up every morning and ask him, "So, Mitt, what do you believe today?", and hope it's not something that Democrats would do.

  • LoveHate on July 05, 2011 8:07 AM:

    Steve, I heard yours and other outlets state that Romney has flip/flopped positions more than any politician in a generation. Is it really possible that any politican from any generation has a record of flipflopery as striking as Romney's?

  • Danp on July 05, 2011 8:10 AM:

    Romney, whos flip-flopped more often and on more issues than any American politician in a generation

    Really? Seems to me like he is part of a pattern. Pawlenty criticized Obamneycare, denied it, then doubled down. Cain wouldn't sign a bill over 3 pages, then denied saying it. Gingrich referred to his quotes as falsehoods. Kyl doesn't intend his quotes to be matters of fact. McCain has taken both sides of pretty much every issue he has ever held dear.

  • Maggy on July 05, 2011 8:29 AM:

    Mittens=empty suit.

  • MEL on July 05, 2011 8:30 AM:

    A short, satirical animation on Romney on YouTube: Will the Real Mitt Romney Please Stand Up.

  • Texas Aggie on July 05, 2011 8:33 AM:

    Everything in this article is true, but it is also completely beside the point. The people that Mitt is talking to are not living in a reality based universe. They do faith based and that has no value placed on consistency or, in particular, on congruence with the real universe.

    All they're interested in is that Obama is bad, and no matter whether what Mitt says is true, false or the opposite of what he said the day before, they hear, "Obama is bad." That's all they care about.

  • bleh on July 05, 2011 8:37 AM:

    What's consistent, though, is the core of his message, and the core of the Republican campaign (which he'll likely lead): economy bad, ditch Obama.

    There's even an advantage to the inconsistency, since people keep repeating his remarks and so keep reinforcing the common theme: economy bad, ditch Obama.

    By all means, call attention to the flip-flopping. But be sure to salt it with other examples, eg how he was for Obamacare before he was against it.

  • Ron Byers on July 05, 2011 8:52 AM:

    At a basic level every successful candidate has to have iron in his words. His words have to reflect a level of perceived truth. In this case Romney is tied in knots by the nutty politics of the Republican base, and he lacks the courage to tell the nuts they are crazy.

    The argument he wants to make is that obama hasn't done enough to make the recovery robust, an argument that might resonate with a lot of people, but an argument a Republican candidate can't make without alienating the nuts. In the crazy world of Republican base politics the strongest argument implies Obama deserves some credit. The Republican base will never allow one of its candidate to ever give Obama even partial credit for anything.

    Poor Romney is trying to pander to people who won't count in the general, because that is the only way he can be nominated. He hasn't figured out how to make the argument he wants to make. I don't know if he can. In the process he comes off looking like the political coward.

  • Danp on July 05, 2011 8:58 AM:

    The argument he wants to make is that obama hasn't done enough to make the recovery robust Ron Byers

    Yes. How do you make that argument when the party mantra is "government is bad."? Somehow, "do nothing" isn't very reassuring.

  • Frank Lynch on July 05, 2011 9:27 AM:

    What I think Romney is trying to say - - as I wrote here, http://www.samueljohnson.com/blog/archives/110704b.html - - is that Romney thinks the economy is worse than it should be, not worse than it was.

    In making comparisons, people leave out the "than" because it's too clunky or they don't understand the importance of stressing it.

    That's about as charitable as I can be.

  • rbe1 on July 05, 2011 9:55 AM:

    Won't matter. Americans are too dim witted to notice anything as complicated as this. Three step flip flop ? Forget it. Maybe if there had been only one step to his flip flops, the American voter would have comprehended it.

  • Esspiff on July 05, 2011 10:25 AM:

    I agree with Frank Lynch here..I think more credit should be given to Romney here.. He would have parsed this line and he knows exactly what he is saying

  • Anonymous on July 05, 2011 10:44 AM:

    Indeed, the economy is worse than it should be, because the Obama administration didn't provide an adequate stimulus package. Of course that is very different from Romney's own, quite inane, economic prescription.

  • Steve on July 05, 2011 10:47 AM:

    How can we have a recession and a recovery simultaneously? Its tempting to wonder if he even knows what these words mean.
    How many of his listeners know the meaning?

    It doesn't matter as long as he has good hair and a white smile. If the electorate can get past the Mormon thing, it really doesn't matter.

  • emjayay on July 05, 2011 11:16 AM:

    Yeah, all his seemingly contradictory comments aren't QUITE that TOTALLY contradictory, if you interpret his words very specifically. Political campaign speech is not heard that carefully however, and he knows it. He should just go with Dump Obama, Vote For the White Guy.

    Besides, almost every economist will tell you that the part of the stimulus (money)that he would tell you he doesn't like is many times more effective than the part he would tell you he does like (tax cuts) and even more so given the specifics of this particular recession. So if the current version of Romney had been president, the recession would no doubt be worse.

    If Obama had gotten the whole thing in money the recession would be closer to being over. If Obama had gotten a stimulus package twice as big, and all in money, as many economists insisted was necessary, the recession would be over.

    I'm sure that responsible members of the media will discuss these issues with him in detail....oh, wait, that's right, sorry, I forgot.....

  • exlibra on July 05, 2011 1:47 PM:

    Mitt Romney... a weathercock, or just a dick?

  • Lance on July 05, 2011 2:21 PM:

    How, exactly does Mitt PROVE that Obama didn't get us out of recession fast enough or strong enough?

    How, exactly does Mitt PROVE it was Obama's policies that failed to get us out of the recession fast enough and strong enough?

    And considering that in 2008-2009 Mitt was suggesting that we should have let 1,000,000 MORE AMericans lose their jobs rather than bail out Chrysler and GM, who exactly is he to complain?

  • Frank Lynch on July 05, 2011 9:54 PM:

    First, based on what he said today in MA, I have to retract my charitable characterization above.

    To Lance: that's the clever rhetorical beauty; it can't be proven or disproven.