Mitt Romney often keeps the truth at arm's length.
David Corn covered Mitt Romney's speech to the Newspaper Association of America on Wednesday, and came away gobsmacked -- shocked not only by the Republican candidate's dishonesty, but by the larger context.
Romney stood before a gathering of journalists. He made a series of incorrect and dishonest accusations. And he was not hooted out of the room. He faced no penalty for this -- just a few slaps from those pesky, fact-checking schoolmarms. He will not be banned from similar forums. The politerati is not up in arms. His campaign rolled on. And this may well sum up one of the fundamental problems with American politics.
That's more than fair. Romney's habitual dishonesty certainly deserves to be taken more seriously, and the fact that a likely major-party presidential nominee had no qualms about lying to a room full of reporters -- most of whom, presumably, knew when Romney wasn't telling the truth -- underscores an unsettling degree of brazenness. He seems to tell falsehoods with confidence that there will be no consequences.
This week was an ambitious test of this proposition, with Romney straying from the truth with breathtaking frequency. Those looking for proof need only consider the 12th installment of my weekly series, chronicling Mitt's mendacity.
1. Campaigning in Wisconsin, Romney complained, "The president put an ad out yesterday, talking about gasoline prices and how high they are. And guess who he blamed? Me!"
That's not true; Obama's ad does not blame Romney for gas prices. It simply tells voters that the oil companies are supporting Romney's campaign.
2. In an ad, the Romney campaign argued that Obama "has managed to pile on nearly as much debt as all the previous presidents combined."
That's not even close to the truth.
3. In the same ad, Team Romney claimed, "President Barack Obama named himself one of the country's four best presidents."
That's blatantly untrue, and the campaign knows it's blatantly untrue because it's been told the truth several times.
4. On the campaign trail, Romney told voters, "The president said something interesting over the weekend. He said that 'in an ideal world,' government could spend as much as it wanted.'"
To say this was wrenched wildly out of context would be a dramatic understatement.
5. At a forum hosted by disgraced Republican lobbyist Ralph Reed, Romney argued that under the Affordable Care Act, "The employees of the Catholic Church have to be provided by the Catholic Church with health care that gives them free contraceptive and free sterilization treatments and morning-after pills despite the fact that this violates the conscience of the Catholic Church."
6. At the same forum, Romney argued that Obama doesn't believe in "American exceptionalism."
Actually, he does. Obama is the only president in American history to explicitly endorse the phrase "American exceptionalism."
7. At a town-hall meeting in Wisconsin, Romney said "Obamcare," if it's allowed to be implemented, would mean government would control "almost half of the total economy."
Romney appears to have made this up out of whole cloth. It's based on the notion that the government would control all of the nation's health care system under the reform law, which just isn't true -- "Obamacare" relies heavily on private health insurers, not socialized medicine.
8. On Monday night, Romney talked to Fox News' Greta Van Susteren, and argued, "The economy is nothing but the addition of all the businesses in the country together."
That's not true. The American economy includes the public sector.
9. In an interview with James Pethokoukis, Romney insisted that Obama has "launched an all-out attack on small business."
In reality, Obama has cut taxes on small businesses, eased the process that allows small businesses to be created, and streamlined the patent process.
10. In the same interview, Romney argued, "[C]ontrary to Vice President Biden and President Obama, I am not cutting taxes for the rich."
Contrary to Mitt Romney, he is cutting taxes for the rich.
11. Rolling out his new stump speech this week, Romney claimed, "Barack Obama presided over the first trillion-dollar deficit in American history."
That's incredibly dishonest. The deficit Bush left for Obama to clean up was $1.3 trillion on the day Obama was inaugurated.
12. In the same speech, Romney said the Recovery Act "promised to hold unemployment below eight percent."
Romney repeats this lie often, but it's still a lie.
13. Romney also claimed "this president attacks businesses for making money."
That's simply never happened in this universe.
14. In the same speech, Romney suggested once more that Obama has been "apologizing for success at home" as well having apologized "for America abroad."
It's the most tiresome lie of them all.
15. Romney claimed this week, "We know that under this president, chronic unemployment is the worst it's been in American history."
Asked to substantiate the claim, the Romney campaign couldn't.
16. The Romney campaign argued this week that Romney, during his only term as governor, had "four years of budget surpluses."
Actually, Romney left his successor a $1.3 billion deficit to clean up.
17. Romney argued in his speech to the Newspaper Association of America, "I'd be willing to consider the president's plan [on Medicare financing], but he doesn't have one."
Actually, he does. In fact, Romney knows the president has a plan because in the same speech, he criticized it.
18. Romney added that Obama "has taken a series of steps that end Medicare as we know it. He is the only president to ever cut $500 billion from Medicare."
That's a blatant, and rather ironic, lie. The only plan to end Medicare as we know it is the House Republican budget plan written by Paul Ryan -- which Romney has enthusiastically endorsed.
19. In the same speech, Romney said, "Through it all, President Obama has failed to even pass a budget."
That doesn't even make sense -- presidents don't pass budgets; Congress passes budgets.
20. Romney also argued, "With all the challenges the nation faces, this is not the time for President Obama's hide and seek campaign.... Unlike President Obama, you don't have to wait until after the election to find out what I believe in -- or what my plans are."
Actually, Romney is the only candidate in either party to say he won't share the details of his agenda until after Americans vote for him.
21. In the same speech, Romney said, "As I have said many times before, the President did not cause the economic crisis, but he made it worse."
And as I have said many times before, Romney's lying. He knows he's lying because he's also said the American economy has improved under Obama.
22. Romney also argued Obama approved "a government takeover of healthcare."
That's just ridiculous.
For those keeping score, yes, this 12th edition is the longest of the year thus far. It's discouraging because it suggests Romney is getting less honest, not more, as the campaign progresses.