Political Animal


July 05, 2011 2:45 PM Taking campaign deception to the Inception level

By Steve Benen

Mitt Romney lied when he said President Obama made the economy worse. Then he lied again, claiming he never made the claim. He then executed a rare flip-flop-flip, going back to his original position.

And how, pray tell, does the Republican frontrunner explain this mess?

The Romney camp says Romney only denied saying Obama made things worse in the context of what he understood to be a question about the stock market, which (inconveniently for his larger argument) is up around than 50% since Obama took office. But that spin is hogwash, as a full transcript of the exchange shows.

Oh, for crying out loud. After making the bogus claim repeatedly for weeks, Romney was asked, “You continue to say that the economy is worse, but unemployment is lower than it was in 2009, the stock market was tumbling and it’s now above 12,000, and it is growing slowly, we just had a two percent [GDP] gain this last quarter. So how can you continue to say that things are worse when they really aren’t worse?” He replied, “I didn’t say that things are worse. What I said was that the economy hasn’t turned around.”

To claim that Romney was only responding to a question about the stock market is obviously not true. But just as important, if he was only referring to Wall Street, then why does Romney think the economy “hasn’t turned around,” since the Dow has nearly doubled over the last two years?

What we have here, ladies and gentleman, is a true rarity. Behold, Mitt Romney has taken campaign deception to the Inception level — only instead of a dream within a dream within another dream, we have Romney lying, then lying about the lie, then lying about having lied about the other lie.

A three-tiered lie. It’s rather impressive, in its own mendacious way.

That said, Romney appears, at least for now, to be sticking to his first and third line, with no use for the second.

“He didn’t cause the recession as we know,” Mr. Romney said at a town-hall-style meeting [in New Hampshire]. “He didn’t make it better, he made things worse.”

Romney, doing an excellent imitation of a dumb person, went on to blame a cap-and-trade policy that doesn’t exist for an economic slowdown, as well as provisions of a health care law that (a) haven’t been implemented; and (b) actually help employers.

My straightforward two-question exercise remains.

1. When Obama took office, the economy was shrinking. Now it’s growing. In what way is that “worse”?

2. When Obama took office, the economy was hemorrhaging jobs. Now it’s gaining jobs. In what way is that “worse”?

As best as I can tell, there are basically only three explanations. Romney is either intentionally trying to deceive the public and hoping no one will notice; he doesn’t know what “worse” means; or he considers a healthier economy worse than a deep recession.

Which is it, 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
  • Gummo on July 05, 2011 2:49 PM:

    The Republican base (i.e., "morons") will believe anything negative about Democrats, liberals and Obama. That's who Romney has to woo to get the nomination.

    It's really that simple. Romney will say or do anything for that nomination.

  • bleh on July 05, 2011 2:53 PM:

    Yeah, also Hilary Obamacare Nazi Pelosi! And Kenyan gaymarriage!

  • SadOldVet on July 05, 2011 2:55 PM:

    What comes next?

    When a republican is caught lying, it is reflexive to lie about having lied!

    When a republican is caught lying about having lied about telling a lie, it is reflexive to lie about having lied about having lied about having lied!

    Then, when a republican is caught lying about having lied about having lied about lying about telling a lie, what comes reflexively next is to blame it on Clinton!

    We now await Mittens explanation of why it is all the fault of Billy Bob Clinton.

    Oops! Captcha'd again!

  • kevo on July 05, 2011 2:58 PM:

    Hey Mitt, and the rest of the Republican presidential buffoons. You want spin, you get spin:

    President Obama is a white man disguised as a black man who really is a white/black man! Got that!

    So, say anything you wish, but we all know you're addicted to lies, so we expect you to lie about your lies as you claim to be telling the truth through your lies!

    Oh, this Republican field of presidential candidates is a messed-up lot! How many unassuming Americans do you think they'll be able to hoodwink this election season? -Kevo

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

    Steve Benen wastes way too much column space on Mittens!

    1) Mo Dowd & The Villagers do NOT have an animus toward Mittens like they did toward Al Gore, so the fact that Mittens is a real flip-flop-flipper will never get corporate media coverage.

    2) While Mittens may be the current theoretic front runner among the repuke presidential want-to-bes, he is still a Mormon and the reich-wing religious base of the repuke party will never let a member of a non-Christian sect become the nominee!

  • bdop4 on July 05, 2011 3:10 PM:

    Not that I think we should let Mitt (or any other GOP candidate) off the hook, but even if we did, how would their policies (tax/spending cuts) have stopped a 780K+ monthly job loss in 1/09 and how would they create jobs today?

    To this day, they cannot articulate that. I wish someone would challenge them to do it.

  • markg8 on July 05, 2011 3:20 PM:

    Seriously, this is the best they have?

  • Mike D on July 05, 2011 3:27 PM:

    Very clever with the Inception reference. A lie within a lie within a lie. Well done, sir.

  • Chris- The Fold on July 05, 2011 3:46 PM:

    Sadly, or thankfully, this guy is the probable frontrunner. Then figure his hardest competition might be someone who is even more insane in Michelle Bachmann and you have to think Obama is going to cruise to reelection.

    But if anyone can screw up a wet dream it's the Democrats.

  • Joe Friday on July 05, 2011 4:43 PM:

    This isn't just 'pants on fire' lying. This is 'pants on fire, hair on fire, house on fire, and car on fire' lying, from the Republican front-runner. And the response from the MSM ?:


  • Doug on July 05, 2011 9:32 PM:

    Mr. Romney may well have to pander to his "base" for the Presidential nomination and is willing to issue lie after lie if that's what it takes to get it. It may very well prove to be a winning strategy; after all, we know that Republican supporters can "forget" the past with a speed only dreamed of by Stalin and the editors of Pravda.
    Doesn't mean "independent voters" will, though...

  • bob h on July 06, 2011 7:27 AM:

    You're going to drive yourself crazy, Steve, trying to disentangle all the Romney disingenuity and lies. But perhaps the Obama campaign will find it useful in time.

  • Ohioan on July 06, 2011 1:32 PM:

    When Republicans watch the movie "Inception", they only understand the dream level that they are watching at a particular time. That explains how Mitt gets away with it.

  • toowearyforoutrage on July 07, 2011 7:55 AM:

    Mr. Benen,

    You miss two important details of Mr. Romney's position and thereby misrepresent his opinions to your readers.

    1) Governor Romney was answering a question about the stock market. Ask anyone who knows him and he's a terrible listener and totally tuned out to the rest of the reporter's question. The 50% run up in the stock market, I think he means to explain by assuming that it would have gone up 51% or more if John McCain had won, I assume he meant to say.

    2) Due to spotty listening skills, the governor forgot to wave his hand when he said "I never said President Obama made the recession worse" he forgot to wave his hand in front of the press to properly execute the jedi mind trick that would have had us all forget he ever made the initial claim. Until he masters this skill, he'll stick with the "made it worse" position.

    We've got 16 months before the election, we can give him some slack.