Political Animal


December 10, 2011 8:10 AM Team Romney borrows from Bartleby

By Steve Benen

This has to be one of my favorite quotes of the week.

A pro-Romney TV spot running heavily in Iowa touts an unproven claim that the candidate “helped create thousands of jobs” as CEO of an investment firm. When we asked the super PAC sponsoring the ad for proof of its claim, a spokeswoman said: “We aren’t supplying that information.” And so far, neither is the Romney campaign. [emphasis added]

As a rule, when candidates, campaigns, and PACs unveil an ad — from either party — they’ll routinely include background information in their press releases to bolster the claims in the ad. It’s their way of saying, “See? We’re not making stuff up.” It’s common for this evidence to be misleading, but it’s nice that campaigns at least try to keep up appearances.

But Romney and his team are relying on a different approach. In this case, Romney’s Super PAC wants voters to believe the former vulture capitalist “helped create thousands of jobs” through his private equity firm. Asked for evidence to support the claim, Team Romney doesn’t want to talk about it. “We aren’t supplying that information.”

It’s as if they’re saying, “We could prove that we’re telling the truth, but we really don’t feel like it.”

I can’t be the only one who sees this and thinks of Bartleby the Scrivener saying, “I prefer not to.”

Regardless, I have to wonder why campaigns haven’t tried this before. Under these standards, campaigns can make up all sorts of nonsense, and when asked for proof to substantiate their lies, they can simply say, “We aren’t supplying that information.”

And what drives this attitude? They’ve already told us why: because to Romney and his boosters, the truth is largely irrelevant, campaign messages necessarily constitute “propaganda” that need not be accurate, televised ads are little more than “manipulative pieces of persuasive art,” and there’s nothing especially wrong with sociopathic standards for honesty in the public discourse.

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 December 10, 2011 8:25 AM:

    "Bartleby, the Scrivner" reference - NICE!!!

    Well, maybe he didn't create THOUSAND'S of jobs, but by laying off when downsizing, he DID create SOME jobs:
    Manpower and Kelly associates.
    Debt Councilors.
    Foreclosure Agents.
    Home furniture movers.
    Suicide Hotline staffers.
    Funeral Home greeters.
    Grief Councilors.

    I'm sure though, that that's not an all-inclusive list.

  • Todd for VT House on December 10, 2011 8:28 AM:

    Vote Romney!

    I would prefer not to, thank you.

  • Folderol And Ephemera on December 10, 2011 8:28 AM:

    Ah Romney! Ah humanity!

  • Danp on December 10, 2011 8:36 AM:

    It meets the Kyl standard - not meant to be a factual statement.

  • DAY on December 10, 2011 8:37 AM:

    I have bedded "thousand of Hollywood starlets", beginning with Ms Garbo, who afterward told me she wanted to be alone.

  • walt on December 10, 2011 8:56 AM:

    Republicans like two things, and they're usually conjoined: chutzpah and belief. It doesn't matter if something is literally true or not. What matters is that they boldly assert something as true in order to dare the other side into a fight. The evidence they'll present at that point may be weak or irrelevant but what really matters is that they get to tell of the other side to go eff themselves.

    Arguments are not meant to persuade. They're meant to overwhelm the discourse and then prevail courtesy of the MSM's False Equivalence standard.

  • Steve P on December 10, 2011 10:29 AM:

    Bartleby? No.
    Bartleby was a forerunner of modern man; Melville created him long before the time that anomie was entering the sociological lexicon. He was a wounded soul; "Romney" and "soul" are words that seldom appear in the same sentence.

    This guy, on the other hand . . .


  • JS on December 10, 2011 11:16 AM:

    The Washington Press Corps utter FAIL with Sarah Palin in '08 was a game changer for Republican politicians. It proved beyond doubt that you can ignore all previous standards of campaigning, yet still generally get let off the hook by the 95% of the professional press who live by the "both sides do it" mantra.

    Newt may well have too much ego to pass it up, but I don't see any scenario where Romney will end up agreeing to debate Obama. (I suppose if he falls in the head-to-head polls by convention time.) The GOP is going to rely on 'Citizens United' unlimited, unaccounted for SuperPAC money to go over the heads of whatever media remains interested in facts over not offending either side.

  • schtick on December 10, 2011 1:49 PM:

    Maybe they should take a clue from a previous adminsitration and just say: "I don't recall."

  • pj in jesusland on December 11, 2011 3:24 AM:


    Thanks for such a concise description of the dynamics of Republican political "dialogue."