Ten Miles Square


March 15, 2012 2:09 PM Why Romney Won’t Get a Gore-Like “Liar” Rep

By Jonathan Bernstein

Various liberals have been arguing that Mitt Romney is an unusually dishonest politician, and wondering when and whether he’ll wind up developing a reputation for it. David S. Bernstein (my brother), a veteran Romney-watcher, made the case that the press is starting to catch on; Greg Sargent is not as optimistic; and Paul Waldman just asks: “When Do Reporters Start Calling Mitt Romney a Liar?

My guess? They’re going to have to wait a long time. Partially, it’s because I think that to some extent the things they identify (the “apology tour”, for example) are really Republican, rather than Romney, inventions. As long as there are birthers out there, it’s harder for Romney to look all that truth-challenged. Partly, it’s because he’s running for president against noted snake-oil salesman and serial fabulist Newt Gingrich. Don’t get me started.

But the main thing is that I think the press really has limited capacity for these kinds of stereotypes, and they’ve already cast Romney for his: he’s Richie Rich. And of course, his constant gaffes in support of that image, from the $10K bet to his friends who own NASCAR and NFL teams, just help nail it down.

So Romney isn’t going to be cast as Pinocchio, pretty much whatever he does.

We know that these sorts of media-created images effect the way candidates are covered; in 2000, the same exact misstatement would have been covered as an example of George W. Bush’s (supposed) stupidity or Al Gore’s (supposed) dishonesty. What I’m curious about, however, is how this all plays out with how reporters do the work of covering candidates. Other than finding examples of Gore’s “lies” that they could turn into stories, did reporters covering Al Gore in 2000 actually act more suspicious of everything he said? Or was that mostly just for show? You can see where I’m going here — could Romney develop a reputation for casual  dishonesty among the press corps, even if it’s not the way they portray him? I don’t really know the answer to that one, but I’d like to know.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.


  • howie on March 15, 2012 9:21 PM:

    The War on Gore is what convinced me that the establishment press was pretty despicable. They still are. They won't ever call ANY republican a liar, much less Romney.

  • jlt on March 16, 2012 2:36 PM:

    Horse puckey! Mr. romney was a prevaricator before the latest round...He erased his Mass gov email records at the taxpayers expense to cover his tracks!

  • Cha on March 16, 2012 5:47 PM:

    Is that right? Well, it interests me when someone is a sociopathic, pathological LIAR and from what I've read.. more than a few others.

    So please, quite pushing this meme and deal in the reality of the lying willard like Steve Benen does who's making a list that never ends.

  • WRGerman on March 22, 2012 2:46 AM:

    Wash Monthly has really gone downhill, and this fact-less article is further evidence of that.

  • June on March 23, 2012 12:30 AM:

    I was heartened to see Rachel Maddow unapologetically devote a segment of her 3/21 show to illustrating the stunningly shameless way that Mitt Romney tells lie after lie after lie after lie after lie after lie after lie - his entire campaign strategy seems to be repeating over and over: "I'm a bid'ness man" and following that up with open mouth, tell lie.

    I hope the MSM follows Rachel's lead. It may be an unfortunate fact that truth has a liberal bias, but the flip side of that seems to be that utter lies have a "conservative" bias. I suppose Mitt Romney is doing his best to convince the Republican base that he's a "severe conservative" by being a relentlessly "severe liar."

  • Jim Williams on March 31, 2012 11:05 AM:

    Of course he won't as long as that mythical "liberal" media provides justifications for why he shouldn't, as opposed to making and sustaining the charge -- something a child could do.

    Just because rightwingers in this country provided their pols and pundits a license to lie without fear of reprisal long ago, ending the reign of the concept of "agreed upon facts" that served not only as a way a means of maintaining an informed electorate, but also kept civility managable -- "Have you no shame, sir?" anyone? -- is no reason that allegedly omnipotent "liberal" media can't insist upon its return.

    And it was Romney's kinda lying that led to liberals being ashamed of the label as a self-description, unlike the way the lying cons find so much pride and strength in theirs, and the easy way out of actually accomplishing something positive for this country.

    The reality is, there is no "liberal" media working in concert with one another of sufficient size in terms of viewership and readership, to overcome to overcome the Doubting Thomases posing as such that really serve as little more than rightwing enablers. This is not unlike the faux duopoly seen in DC -- the crew they play ball/golf with literally and figuratively -- which is why as the studies show, this country and it's politics in that town has drifted slowly rightward -- like the court soon to decide the fate of that evil socialistic bill known as "Osamacare".

    The modern mythical, and so-called omnipotent "liberal" media is a complete fabrication and an illusion, as the march to war with Iraq demonstrated, and it is every bit as responsible for that rightward shift as the monied masterminds behind it.

    Your effort here brings to mind that old adage "Can't never could do anything.".