There's a must-read diary by News Corpse which details Steve Benen's list of the top ten lies told repeatedly by Mitt Romney - among the many, many, many lies he tells all the time. Over at the Guardian, Michael Cohen has written an excellent piece - "Mendacious Mitt: Romney's bid to become liar-in-chief" - that helps explain why Mitt Romney seems to be getting away with being the biggest liar we've ever witnessed in a presidential candidate.
For starters, Cohen makes it clear that Mitt Romney is lying more than any other presidential candidate we've ever seen - by many degrees of magnitude. Romney is lying so much, Cohen points out, that he makes John McCain's lie about Obama supporting "comprehensive sex education" for children seem quaint in comparison:
Granted, presidential candidates are no strangers to disingenuous or overstated claims; it's pretty much endemic to the business. But Romney is doing something very different and far more pernicious. Quite simply, the United States has never been witness to a presidential candidate, in modern American history, who lies as frequently, as flagrantly and as brazenly as Mitt Romney.What's new about Romney's out-of-control lying, Cohen writes, is not just that he tells so many lies. But that he keeps repeating the lies over and over again, even after major media outlets have repeatedly debunked his statements. And then he lies about his lying!
This is perhaps the most interesting and disturbing element of Romney's tireless obfuscation: that even when corrected, it has little impact on the presumptive GOP nominee's behavior. This is happening at a time when fact-checking operations in major media outlets have increased significantly, yet that appears to have no effect on the Romney campaign.The Romney campaign's deliberate strategy, according to Cohen, is to lie so much and so often that the media simply can't keep up with the fact-checking and debunking. In the meantime, the lie becomes an ingrained part of the campaign narrative, truth be damned.
What is the proper response when, even after it's pointed out that the candidate is not telling the truth, he keeps doing it? Romney actually has a telling rejoinder for this. When a reporter challenged his oft-stated assertion that President Obama had made the economy worse (factually, not correct), he denied ever saying it in the first place. It's a lie on top of a lie.
Now, it's certainly true that on the campaign trail, facts can be stretched in many different directions – and both parties, including President Obama, frequently make arguments that are misleading, lacking in context or simply false. But it is virtually unheard of for a politician to lie with such reckless abandon and appear completely unconcerned about getting caught.
Cohen also points out that Romney is taking full advantage of the unwillingness of the pundit class to ever accuse a politician of lying (at the risk of appearing partisan), and of the tendency of most reporters these days to simply be stenographers for the candidates:
Romney has figured out a loophole – one can lie over and over, and those lies quickly become part of the political narrative, practically immune to "fact-checking". Ironically, the more Romney lies, the harder it then becomes to correct the record. Even if an enterprising reporter can knock down two or three falsehoods, there are still so many more that slip past.I guess the point here folks is that we need to realize we're dealing with a completely new animal here in facing the Romney Lying Machine and we have to figure out new ways to deal with it. As Cohen says, Romney is "charting new and untraveled waters in American politics." We've all known for some time that the MSM is no longer able to hold politicians to task for their lies and deceit, and that it's been up to the blogging community to be holders of the truth. But now that Romney has taken lying to a whole new level, we have to figure out a new way to respond, and a response that doesn't just get dumped into the "he-said, she-said" pile. I don't have the answers on how to do this, but I know that together we can figure it out. Please share your ideas in the comments.
It's reminiscent of the old line that a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on. In Romney's case, his lies are regularly corrected by media sources, but usually, in some antiseptic fact-checking article, or by Democratic/liberal voices who can be dismissed for their "partisan bent". Meanwhile, splashed across the front page of newspapers is Romney saying "Obamacare will lead to a government take-over of healthcare"; "Obama went on an apology tour"; or "the stimulus didn't create any jobs". Because, after all, it's what the candidate said and reporters dutifully must transcribe it.
Pointing out that Romney is consistently not telling the truth thus risks simply falling into the category of the usual "he-said, she-said" of American politics. For cynical reporters, the behavior is inevitably seen to be the way the political game is now played. Rather than being viewed and ultimately exposed as examples of a pervasive pattern of falsehoods, Romney's statements embed themselves in the normalized political narrative – along with aggrieved Democrats complaining that Romney isn't telling the truth. Meanwhile, the lie sticks in the minds of voters.