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January 09, 2012 8:00 AM Telling falsehoods for no good reason

By Steve Benen

Newt Gingrich’s status in the Republican presidential campaign went from “frontrunner” to “barely hanging on” over the course of about two weeks. There’s no great mystery as to why: $4 million in attack ads from Mitt Romney’s Super PAC tore the disgraced former House Speaker to shreds.

Gingrich, not surprisingly, is pretty unhappy about it, and pressed Romney on the point in yesterday’s debate. The former governor had an interesting response. First, there was this line:

“With regards to their ads, I haven’t seen ‘em.”

That was followed 14 seconds later with this line:

“The ad I saw said that…”

At that point, Romney proceeded to describe the contents of the attack ad that he hadn’t seen in quite a bit of detail.

It wasn’t long before the Democratic National Committee was highlighting the bizarre contradiction.

Of particular interest was a piece from Ben Smith’s BuzzFeed, which noted Romney’s “inexplicable debate fibs” and “odd, small shadings of truth.”

This is a real danger for Romney. Some of his lies are less obvious to campaign reporters, because they require a little fact-checking research. But this one was obvious to anyone awake during the debate — Romney couldn’t possibly know the script of an ad he knew nothing about. And once he develops a well-deserved reputation as someone who’s willing to routinely say things that aren’t true, it has the potential to do significant damage to his credibility.

Also note, Romney didn’t have to lie about this; the truth would have been just as good. But we’re reaching the point at which Romney is telling falsehoods reflexively, without thinking it through.

“Inexplicable,” indeed.

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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  • c u n d gulag on January 09, 2012 8:06 AM:

    The MITT 3.0 cyborg either needs a reboot or a software upgrade.

    On a serious note, he should be a little bit worried that the MSM is starting to notice.

    Usually, they provide cover for Republicans and screw the Democrats Ė like Gore and Kerry, while giving an insecure, petulant, and moronic little sh*t, like W, a pass.

    If the poor little rich kid decides to wear earth tones, or thereís a photo of him windsurfing, it might cause a feeding-frenzy.

    Nah, who am I kidding?
    Theyíll do their best to made this lying cyborg seem like a middle class American man of the people.
    The rubes like their lies easily digestible.
    And besides, it's only Democrats who can be elitist. Or liars.

  • DAY on January 09, 2012 8:07 AM:

    We have just seen the opening volley in the 2012 version of the "Al Gore Treatment".
    Please, Sir, can we have some more?

  • Daniel Buck on January 09, 2012 8:15 AM:

    Steve,
    Inexplicability during a political campaign. We're supposed to be shocked?

    One guy is unhappy about campaign ads he calls lies, but which are probably uncomfortably close to the truth. The other guy says "what ads?"

    The first guy complains about Swif-boating, which he supported when used against Kerry, and negativity in politics, which he has a thirty-year career of fomenting.

    The second guy says, "What ads?"

    The first guy promotes himself as the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan, a president he called a "failure" when he was president.

    The second guy says, "what ads"?

    Inexplicable? More like gambling at Ricks. The norm. Entertaining, too.

    Dan

  • terraformer on January 09, 2012 8:20 AM:

    Telling lies is a feature, not a bug. That is why this is only a problem for rational people, and is why he'll be the Republican nominee.

  • tomb on January 09, 2012 8:33 AM:

    I particularly liked the part where Romney accused Gingrich for over-the-top rhetoric when responding to the ads (which he never saw) but was not bothered by the ads themselves.

    I think is was Karl Rove who pioneered the tactic of accusing your opponent of the biggest weaknesses you have. Romney has learned the lessons well. Accusing Obama of being elitist, accusing Gingrich of flip flopping, accusing Obama of "crony capitalism"; etc.

  • SadOldVet on January 09, 2012 8:36 AM:

    Actually, inexplicable is not an apt description. It is very easily explained.

    Mittens is a habitual liar.

    Let us count the ways that Mitt is the ideal repuknican candidate...

    1) Mittens is part of the 1%
    2) Mittens is committed to saving our economy for the wealthy
    3) Mittens is a habitual liar
    4) Mittens will espose any position needed to achieve his goal of becoming ruler of the United States

    As a person with a pathological personality, Willard is perfect to lead our country into deeper shit than Little George W ever dreamed of!

  • IDTT on January 09, 2012 8:39 AM:

    Romney did the same thing in an earlier debate when Gov Perry called him out for hiring illegal aliens. Replay the tape, he first claimed he had never hired illegalaliens, then a few seconds later gave a detailed defense of his involvement in the hiring of illegal aliens. Unfortunately the shiny object everyone focused on was the "I'm running for office for Pete's sake" line, but i thought the real slip up was him changing his story from sentence to sentence.

  • hells littlest angel on January 09, 2012 9:01 AM:

    Harry G Frankfurt would not find Romney's lies inexplicable.

  • blondie on January 09, 2012 9:11 AM:

    The way to tell an habitual liar? He lies when the truth would serve better.

    That's Mitt!

  • Kiweagle on January 09, 2012 9:13 AM:

    I happened to catch NBC's post-debate analysis before closing the live-stream broadcast online and noted the following: Chris Mathews and Eugene Robinson specifically asked John Sununu (who was obviously shilling for Romney) about this point. Sununu immediately insulted their intelligence and claimed that Romney was OBVIOUSLY referring to summary sheets describing the ad rather than having actually witnessed the ad itself.

    To my great disappointment, Mathews was so gobsmacked by the aggressive attack (which is why cries of victimization by the "liberal media" work so well for the GOP) that he simply let it slide rather than point out precisely what Benen points out, which is Romney's own stated contradiction.

    As the wonderful cliche goes: Who're you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?

  • Anonymous on January 09, 2012 10:38 AM:

    http://depressiond.org/pathological-liar/

    Habitual pathological lying is, as the name suggest, habitual. Habitual liar lies so frequently, that it becomes a habit, as a result, he/she puts very little effort in giving a thought about what the output is going to be, nor does he/she care much to process whether itís a lie or not, itís simply a reflex & very often can be completely unnecessary or even opposite to his/her own needs. If he/she stops & thinks about it, he/she knows clearly itís a lie. ...
    Habitual liars gives very few if any psychical or vocal signs of lying, due to the effortless nature of lying. That said, since he/she gives a very little thought to his/her lies, they are usually inconsistent & obvious.

  • Gregory on January 09, 2012 1:30 PM:

    Some of his lies are less obvious to campaign reporters, because they require a little fact-checking research.

    I see what you did there.

  • Eric on January 09, 2012 10:40 PM:

    I once worked with a Romney type guy, who would lie like Romney did in this debate. The lie was always one other staff knew to be untrue, but was told in a way that none of us could dispute in that forum. It was a way for him to give his co-workers the middle finger. Like a dog whistle, the point is to express his contempt to his targets without being heard by the majority of his listeners. Romney was simply telling Newt, "F**k you!"

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