Political Animal


December 21, 2011 8:35 AM The point at which Mitt Romney loses his mind

By Steve Benen

Mitt Romney unveiled a brand-new stump speech in New Hampshire last night, reading a carefully-crafted, poll-tested text from two teleprompters. Confident that his Republican primarily rivals simply won’t (or can’t) catch him, the former one-term governor ignored the other GOP candidates in his speech, and focused exclusively on attacking President Obama.

Unfortunately for those who have even a passing interest in reality or a civil discourse, Romney, allegedly the responsible one in the Republican field, has been reduced to lying uncontrollably.

“Just a couple of weeks ago in Kansas, President Obama lectured us about Teddy Roosevelt’s philosophy of government. But he failed to mention the important difference between Teddy Roosevelt and Barack Obama. Roosevelt believed that government should level the playing field to create equal opportunities. President Obama believes that government should create equal outcomes.

“In an entitlement society, everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort, and willingness to take risk. That which is earned by some is redistributed to the others. And the only people who truly enjoy any real rewards are those who do the redistributing — the government.

“The truth is that everyone may get the same rewards, but virtually everyone will be worse off.”

It stands to reason that Romney, who’s completed the transition from “progressive” views to far-right hysterics, would present a worldview different from the center-left president’s. But this speech was written in a twisted fantasy land, and it ascribes views to Obama that are simply made up. It’s just madness.

Indeed, Jon Chait saw the same Romney rhetoric and concluded, “This is nuts, Glenn Beck-level insane. Restoring Clinton-era taxes is not a plan to equalize outcomes, or even close. It’s not even a plan to stop rising inequality. Obama’s America will continue to be the most unequal society in the advanced world — only slightly less so.”

Romney seriously wants Americans to believe that the Obama White House wants everyone, regardless of effort or circumstances, to have the same amount of money. This argument is based on … nothing. The president doesn’t believe anything close to this, and has never given his attackers reason to make such an argument. There is simply nothing in reality to suggest the president accepts as true the radical beliefs Romney ascribes to him. For that matter, no Democratic official anywhere in the country would accept such an extremist agenda that would promise identical wealth to all people.

If Romney believes his own garbage, he’s deranged. If he doesn’t believe it, but he’s making the argument anyway, Romney’s a craven con man.

My hunch is that he’s the latter.

One of the problems with lying is how easy it is. When a person wants something badly enough, and knows making stuff up can help acquire it, there’s a temptation to simply ignore the truth, tell the lie, and get the goal. It takes a modicum of strength to see the inherent value of the truth.

And Romney is just a weak man who lacks the courage necessary to have a credible debate over economic policies. Such an argument requires honesty, an understanding of the basics, and a willingness to be consistent and principled — and given Romney’s glaring character flaws, he seems to lack the integrity to engage in such a discussion.

In the presidential speech Romney referenced yesterday, Obama presented an important vision on the economy, one with a pedigree that rests in giants from both parties over the last century. Americans would benefit from a spirited, substantive response from leading Republican voices, and it’s a genuine shame Romney’s cowardice keeps him from being up to the task.

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 21, 2011 8:49 AM:

    I wonder if, like his lies, Mitt's magic underwear is also made up out of whole cloth?

    So, dag-nab it, let's see if we understand this:
    the boy don't swear, the boy don't drink, and he don't hang around on the cheatin' side of town - but he feels free to lie like a rug?

    Good to know.
    Does Jesus?

    And I wonder if the MSM will ever notice?
    Nah, BOTH sides do it!

  • terraformer on December 21, 2011 8:52 AM:

    Telling lies is also made very easy in the presence of a gelded fourth estate who refuses to use the word "lie".

    Instead, we have he said-she said coverage, with the media either bought off or too craven to practice actual journalism by informing people about what is and what is not the truth, for fear of being attacked as biased. "Democrats say that the sun rises in the east, whereas Republicans say that the sun rises in the west." And...that's it. No attempt to go the next step and say, "Democrats are correct." Because that would be bad, attack dogs come, etc.

  • Christiaan on December 21, 2011 9:05 AM:

    The moral hazard of lying.

  • T2 on December 21, 2011 9:10 AM:

    "weak", "cowardly" - gee, this sounds like the perfect figurehead for the Conservative Republican Establishment to have as president.....very easy to control. Now, if only he wasn't a Mormon. I wonder, will it get to the point where he renounces LDS?

  • walt on December 21, 2011 9:13 AM:

    Well, I'm tempted to credit Romney with one thing: if this is going to be the tenor of his general election campaign, he'll lose. Because as idiotic as the average American voter may be, selling them far-right garbage like this still won't cut it. This is simply more red-meat, talk-radio caliber, ooga-booga messaging designed to appeal to a very limited cabal of zany right-wingers.

    The flavor, however, is the essence: Obama is a radical socialist BLACK person trying to take away the hard-earned assets of WHITE Americans. Strip away all the lies and hysteria, and that is the Republican message at its dark core. It's been sub rosa racism for over 40 years now and Romney plans to run on that in 2012.

  • JMG on December 21, 2011 9:14 AM:

    Lying works. Voters always fall for the simplest story that appeals to their laziest instincts. Romney's lies will make him the next President. Six months later, he'll be real unpopular, and voters will wonder how they came to elect him.
    As long as we have such a professionally apathetic and uninformed citizenry, lies will continue to dominate political discourse.

  • stevio on December 21, 2011 9:15 AM:

    As I previously posted, I think what we are going to see this election cycle is a full blown 1984 style campaign that will test the limits of journalistic integrity (or lack there-of). Romney hasn't been called on any of his lies by the MSM. He'll continue with this tactic until called or he, as Beck found, disintegrates by the sure weight of the les.

    My guess is that he and his handlers feel that there is not enough time left before the election to be completely exposed given the vast amounts of money that will be poured into the spreading of the lies by the Corporations-turned-people made possible by the third branch of the triad owned by corporate America, the SCOTUS.

    1984 is upon us full of sound and fury.


  • Grumpy on December 21, 2011 9:15 AM:

    FWIW, Santorum is using the exact same line about how Obama wants to equalize incomes. But who cares what Santorum says??

  • Grumpy on December 21, 2011 9:20 AM:

    During the Bush years, liberals sounded the alarm about impending theocracy. That was a wild accusation, but it fired up the base. However, it was not a line used by Democratic policians, as I recall. Romney running against the phantasm of Obama's socialism is as kooky as if, say, John Kerry used the theocracy line against Bush in 2004. Which he didn't.

  • Patrick on December 21, 2011 9:21 AM:

    Well, I'm tempted to credit Romney with one thing: if this is going to be the tenor of his general election campaign, he'll lose. Because as idiotic as the average American voter may be, selling them far-right garbage like this still won't cut it.


    What universe do you live in? If the economy doesn't get much better, the American people will vote ABO...Anyone but Obama.

  • Tony Greco on December 21, 2011 9:23 AM:

    Romney's lie is harder to pin down than you and Chait acknowledge. Romney didn't say that Obama's proposals would create a society of unequal outcomes, as Chait implies; only that Obama wants to do so. Now, Obama never said that he wants that, but who's to say that he has no hidden agenda of advancing socialism by stealth? To call Romney a liar you have to challenge his implicit claim to have deep insight into Obama's "real" objectives.

  • kevo on December 21, 2011 9:32 AM:

    Why do Republicans, beginning with Romney, twist and turn in the labyrinth of lies 24/7?

    Making eight years of American history disappear is a very daunting task! -Kevo

  • Grumpy on December 21, 2011 9:35 AM:

    Tony Greco: "...who's to say that he has no hidden agenda of advancing socialism by stealth?"

    Aha! Just like Obama's lulled us into thinking he won't take away our guns by... not taking away our guns.

  • nerd on December 21, 2011 9:36 AM:

    I see it as we now see his true colors, as if we didn't before with Bain (his own win was more important than the welfare of the companies that Bain bought and then eviscerated), his inability to stand for anything other than the moment, etc.

    Is this really what the GOP is reduced to? Are enough Americans susceptible to such idiocy? Unfortunately we know the answer, see 2001 to 2009.

  • xaxnar on December 21, 2011 9:38 AM:

    But But... what does truth have to do with it? He has central casting presidential good looks. All he has to do is read the scripts from his playbook. What does truth or facts have to do with it?

    It worked for Reagan - and that's what the GOP needs right now: a convincing snake oil salesman. That's what you need when your product line is based on ignorance, ideology, superstition and greed.

  • j on December 21, 2011 9:46 AM:

    Just saw this creep on morning MSNBC and he said, getting Bin Laden was just something any president would have done!!!
    Then - I had to change channel!

  • Hedda Peraz on December 21, 2011 9:47 AM:

    Obama laid out his socialist agenda in full, during his world wide "Apology Tour". The blame rests on the Liberal MSM for not covering it.

  • Ron Byers on December 21, 2011 9:50 AM:

    Romney is telling the deranged base what the deranged base has been conditioned by Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh and to a more subtle extent by the mainstreet media to believe. The problem for Romney is that what his base has been conditioned to believe doesn't resemble reality.

    Romney sounds more and more like the NRA telling its members that Obama wants to take away their guns and using his failure to even try to take away their guns as proof of his stealth plans. Its just nucking futs.

    Sadly when you talk to Republicans these days you think they have lost their minds. I know I don't talk politics these days with my Republican friends and family. I sort of wonder if they aren't all feeling diminished and on the wrong side of history these days.

  • Josef K on December 21, 2011 10:03 AM:

    If Romney believes his own garbage, he’s deranged. If he doesn’t believe it, but he’s making the argument anyway, Romney’s a craven con man.

    My hunch is that he’s the latter.

    Based upon what, for gods sake? The fact he can speak in complete sentences and gets the placement of nouns and verbs correct?

    I'll be mildly amazed if the suicide rate in this country doesn't rise by the end of next year, given how a good portion of the electorates seems to have gone 'round the bend and taken the rest of us with them.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on December 21, 2011 10:04 AM:

    JMG FTW. Sums it up in one short paragraph.
    America - too stupid for democracy.

  • Anonymous on December 21, 2011 10:17 AM:

    'The flavor, however, is the essence: Obama is a radical socialist BLACK person trying to take away the hard-earned assets of WHITE Americans.' Thanx Walt. This is the TRUTH and they will lie and whine and snivel until they make YOU believe it. Yes, I just saw Romney on MSNBC and he actually said that 'any President would have gotten Bin Laden' in his supercilious, arrogant rich boy tone. REALLY ROMNEY??? Then in the SEVEN YEARS y'all had to 'get' him, why DIDN'T you??? Oh and if OBAMA is trying to make everything 'equal' in an 'unequal' society then why are you tryiing so HARD to make everyone believe that all you boys WANT is to extend the tax cuts for the middle class for a YEAR and those pesky Dems are only creating uncertainity??? You are a lying ahole.

  • Krowe on December 21, 2011 10:26 AM:

    Romney didn't lie, so much as offer conjecture as to Obama's motives and goals. In that spirit, I'd like to mention that Mitt wants to become president so that he can eat your babies.

  • emjayay on December 21, 2011 10:31 AM:

    Did anyone catch the Mittster on Charlie Rose Monday night? I heard some of his first answer and turned it off in disgust (also it was getting late, after the excellent Eames documentary). I know, he's a politician, and we all know his ability to completely change positions on anything over the years, but I it's way worse seeing it up close. I didn't expect professional PBS fawner Charlie Rose to call him on anything.

    Mitt is sorta like a lawyer giving his arguement to a jury, but worse because he's spinning and bullshitting to a single person. Well, Charlie Rose and by extension single person me.

    Maybe it's a corporate deal making sorta thing. You know this is bullshit, I know it's bullshit, but were sitting in our bespoke suits in this expensive restaurant or walnut paneled office, this is how it's done, and we both makes lots of money in the end. Or something.

    Anyone got more, please?

    (Version of previous comment no one commented on. Maybe this is a better place for it).

  • biggerbox on December 21, 2011 10:35 AM:

    I don't know which makes me sadder: a) that Romney chooses to use such nonsense in his speech, or b) that he thinks his audience is so dumb/partisan to accept it as true, or c) that he's probably right.

  • MsJoanne on December 21, 2011 10:38 AM:

    Has Mitt told us that Morgan Fairchild was his girlfriend yet?

    (Whoops, my age is showing.)

  • MBunge on December 21, 2011 10:54 AM:

    The default attitude toward Mitt from our political elites is that he's "one of them" and, therefore, simply MUST be a relatively reasonable and decent sort of fellow. The reality is that his advocated policies are only, at best, slightly less disasterous than the other GOP candidates, he's running the most demogogic and deceitful campaign of the bunch and that any Republican who wins the Presidency next year will totally validate everything conservatives have been doing and saying for the last 3 years.


  • Rich on December 21, 2011 10:56 AM:

    Of course he's a craven con man. It doesn't take many paragraphs to suss out that assessment. He's part of the shift from capitalism being about the creation of capital to it becoming a matter of buying and selling businesses and crippling them (and firing their workers) to pay for the effort.

  • Gene O'Grady on December 21, 2011 11:30 AM:

    You know, I'm one of the few people who has actually read Roosevelt speeches like The Strenuous Life, which is quite different from popular impressions of the guy (a history professor is leading a strenuous life, a football player -- Roosevelt hated football -- probably isn't), and I'm quite sure that Roosevelt would hate a guy who took his inherited privilege and started Bain Capital far more than Obama does.

  • Texas Aggie on December 21, 2011 11:39 AM:

    Mitt is like W in that both of them are the sons of accomplished fathers and they themselves don't amount to diddly. They both realize that and resent it to the point that they will do whatever it takes to show that they ARE as good as their fathers. Since they, in their "inferiorness," can't do that honestly, they are reduced to subterfuge and deceit

    You will notice that neither of them has a particular affection for truth, and in the case of Romney, he has gotten to the point that he no longer knows what truth means anymore.

  • Jn on December 21, 2011 11:51 AM:

    "Craven con man," definitely. Is there really any debate about that? Even his own party has trouble stomaching him, he'll play great in the general.

  • busbus on December 21, 2011 12:20 PM:

    Somewhere I read that one of the problems with Willard "Mitt" Romney is a matter of trust. I, for one, do not trust him; in fact, I have never trusted him.

    In my opinion, Willard "Mitt" Romney is only in this presidential race to try to obtain the prestige and perks that come with the office of the Leader of the Free World. He does not plan to govern! He will serve as a puppet for whoever helps him to achieve this goal. In this case, it appears to be the the extreme right-wing in this country.

    The more that I watch his campaign, I truly believe that he will be no better a leader than John Boehner. John Boehner is serving as the puppet for the extreme right-wing in his caucus. It's horrifying to imagine that our country could be lead by two puppets in powerful positions. They will do what they are told to do...anything and everything to retain their position.

    Between these two, this country would be no better than any third world country.

  • Quaker in a Basement on December 21, 2011 12:47 PM:

    "Equality of outcomes" is one of the right's favorite pet strawmen. Rush trots it out constantly. It's a featured player in Bork's "Slouching Towards Gomorrah." Ie could be mistaken, but I think Hayek might have fathered it.

    Mitt is just trying--and once again failing--to convince movement conservatives that he's willing to let him into the secret clubhouse.

  • Quaker in a Basement on December 21, 2011 12:48 PM:

    Bah! Sloppy edit. Strike "that he's willing" above.

  • jjm on December 21, 2011 1:50 PM:

    I simply do not 'get' this reversion to fear of communism, socialism, etc. : Romney yells at a questioner--go back to Moscow, which is no longer communist. I don't see the American people falling for a red scare and McCarthy a third time...

    Could it be that they are following the insane Koch brothers' playbook, and trying to resuscitate a long dead issue. People heard for themselves what Obama actually said in Kansas, and it is very, very far cry from what Romney is pretending.

    The other thing I just don't 'get' is the absolute FEAR the 1% has of even a nickel going to those not already wealthy. Mayor Bloomberg the other day spoke out against the 'living wage' proposal for NYC as if it would be a looming disaster for the city.

    Do those whose only focus in life is the accumulation of vast pools of capital fear that one hole in the dike, one penny going out to the people instead of remaining in their vast treasuries, will cause it all to drain out?

  • chi res on December 21, 2011 2:15 PM:

    "There is not a man of us who does not at times need a helping hand to be stretched out to him, and then shame upon him who will not stretch out the helping hand to his brother."
    Theodore Roosevelt, Pasadena CA, May 8, 1903

  • Kane on December 21, 2011 2:32 PM:

    Team Romney appears to have adopted a familiar theme similar to the one often offered by Bush and McCain and others for the defense of their Iraq policies. Instead of wrapping himself in the American flag and accusing critics of the war of being unpatriotic dividers, Romney is wrapping himself in the flag of "Free Enterprise" and arguing that any criticism of his actions at Bain of destroying American jobs and outsourcing jobs abroad is an attack on free enterprise itself and that you're dividing Americans.

  • DRF on December 21, 2011 2:48 PM:

    Well, I think it's pretty obvious by now that, in his quest to be elected President, Romney has completely abandoned any sense of integrity, honest and principle. He will do and say anything he thinks will help him get elected.

  • Doug on December 21, 2011 10:26 PM:

    "The other thing I just don't 'get' is the absolute FEAR the 1% has of even a nickel going to those not already wealthy." jjm @ 1:50 PM

    The 1% is composed mostly of people who DON'T or CAN'T create wealth, so any nickel going to someone else must, in their eyes, come from THEM! And if they have their way, they'll be the only ones with anything to tax.
    Mittens made millions gutting and then selling the corpses of companies, but how much better off would he, and this country, be had he spent time, effort and money in actually fixing those companies? How many thousands of people would be better off financially had those companies still been in existance? How much more would those companies have contributed to the overall economy, as opposed to what little dribbled into it after the stockholders and management of Bain took advantage of tax shelters and Heaven knows what other tax schemes available to them?
    If it was ANY other group of people, I'd suggest it was due to a sense of shame, but this is Mittens & Co, so THAT'S out...