Mitt Romney turned 65 today, and decided to celebrate his Medicare eligibility by ... lying about Medicare.
As part of an effort to reverse the public's perception of the parties' positions on Medicare, Mitt Romney's campaign is appropriating a common Democratic attack and using it against President Obama. To wit, it's Obama, not Romney and the GOP, who plans to "end Medicare as we know it."
Brian Beutler does a nice job taking apart Romney's Medicare claims in great detail, noting among other things that Romney has endorsed Paul Ryan's budget plan, which scraps the existing Medicare program and replaces it with a voucher scheme, making the larger argument rather ironic.
It's also worth mentioning that Romney's new offensive repeats a bizarre contradiction from a month ago: Obama is "cutting" Medicare while also doing nothing to cut Medicare. (The Republican campaign should pick one or the other, but let's not forget that the "cut" claim is itself a lie.)
And while we're at it, it was especially entertaining to see the Romney campaign say the president's re-election campaign should "have the courage" to put forward Obama's real intentions on Medicare -- this from the candidate who won't put forward a detailed plan of its own.
But there's a larger context to all of this. Greg Sargent explained, "This is all about muddying the waters in advance of a debate that could cut badly against Romney. The GOP primary forced him to embrace Ryancare; Dems are going to hammer him over it. So the Romney camp is trying to get out front by blurring lines and sowing confusion over who actually is defending traditional Medicare and who would end the program's fundamental mission as we know it. The question is whether this, too, will be treated as just part of the game."
Right on cue, Ben Smith joked about Romney's Medicare deceptions, writing, "Exposed: There is gambling going on in this establishment."
I can appreciate why the Romney campaign's dishonesty on Medicare is dismissed as yet another eye-rolling development. After all, the GOP frontrunner has chosen to run a campaign that's not exactly truth-oriented.
But when we're dealing with one of the year's most important policy disputes, and the leading Republican contender gets caught lying blatantly, media professionals are making a mistake when they do little more than shrug their shoulders. When reporters get so inured to Romney's dishonesty that it no longer seems interesting or noteworthy, it sends a signal to the political world that facts and honesty simply don't matter anymore, and campaigns should come down to which candidate can tell better lies.
When Romney sees his misleading rhetoric met with "Casablanca" jokes, it only encourages him to see what else he can get away with.