Joe Conason watched the presidential candidates' debate this week, and had a reaction I could relate to.
"'It's not easy to debate a liar,' complained an email from one observer of the first presidential debate -- and there was no question about which candidate he meant. Prevarication, falsification, fabrication are all familiar tactics that have been employed by Mitt Romney without much consequence to him ever since he entered public life," Conason wrote.
Concerns along these lines were not uncommon yesterday. In fact, note David Gergen's take from Wednesday night:
"I think [President Obana] was so surprised, he thought Romney was just flat-out lying," Gergen said. And if the president was thinking that, he had good reason to.
Consider, for example, the 38th installment of my weekly series -- easily the longest of 2012 -- chronicling Mitt's mendacity.
1. In reference to the unemployment rate, Romney said, "The reason it's come down this year is primarily due to the fact that more and more people have just stopped looking for work."
2. On Fox News last night, Romney said in reference to the president, "[W]hat I find so offensive about his tax plan is by raising taxes on small business, as he does, he will kill jobs."
In reality, Obama has repeatedly cut taxes on small businesses -- by some counts, 18 times -- and if given a second term, his tax plan would have no effect on 97% of small businesses.
3. Speaking yesterday at the Colorado Conservative Political Action Committee Conference, Romney said, "this sequestration idea ... came out of the White House."
No, it didn't. This sequestration idea emanated from House Republicans.
4. In the same speech, Romney said Obama "spending more and more, borrowing more and more, putting us on a road to Greece."
5. In Wednesday night's debate, Romney said, "I don't have a $5 trillion tax cut. I don't have a tax cut of a scale that you're talking about."
Independent analysts determined the proposed across-the-board rate cut would cost $5 trillion.
6. Romney said, "I'm not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by high-income people. High-income people are doing just fine in this economy."
That's not true. The wealthy would receive a massive, disproportionate tax break under the Romney plan.
7. Romney said, "[G]asoline prices have doubled under the president."
To blame gas prices on the president's policies is ridiculously untrue.
8. Romney said, "I'm not going to cut education funding. I don't have any plan to cut education funding and grants that go to people going to college."
9. Romney argued, "Energy is critical, and the president pointed out correctly that production of oil and gas in the U.S. is up. But not due to his policies. In spite of his policies. Mr. President, all of the increase in natural gas and oil has happened on private land, not on government land."
10. On taxes, Romney said, "I do want to reduce the burden being paid by middle-income Americans. And to do that that also means that I cannot reduce the burden paid by high-income Americans."
This is ridiculously untrue (and more than a little incoherent).
11. On taxes, Romney argued, "I will not reduce the share paid by high-income individuals. I -- I know that you and your running mate keep saying that, and I know it's a popular things to say with a lot of people, but it's just not the case."
Yes, it is the case.
12. Romney said, "I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans."
That's slightly different than the other lie. It's also equally wrong.
13. Romney said, "I will not, under any circumstances, raise taxes on middle-income families." He cited "six studies" to back him up on this.
There's ample evidence that Romney will have no choice but to raise taxes on middle-income families and the six studies don't back him up.
14. Romney said, "I saw a study that came out today that said you're going to raise taxes by 3 to $4,000 on middle-income families."
The study is wrong, and that's not what it said.
15. Romney said on tax rates, "Mr. President, you're absolutely right, which is that with regards to 97 percent of the businesses are not taxed at the 35 percent tax rate, they're taxed at a lower rate. But those businesses that are in the last 3 percent of businesses happen to employ half -- half -- of all of the people who work in small business."
That's a new one. It's also not true.
16. Romney said, "[Y]our plan is to take the tax rate on successful small businesses from 35 percent to 40 percent. The National Federation of Independent Businesses has said that will cost 700,000 jobs."
17. Romney said, "What things would I cut from spending? Well, first of all, I will eliminate all programs by this test -- if they don't pass it: Is the program so critical it's worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I'll get rid of it."
The implication here is that U.S. debt is financed by the Chinese, but this isn't true -- China only holds about 8% of the nation's debt.
18. In reference to how he'd balance the budget, Romney said he'll "get rid of" the Affordable Care Act.
This is incoherent and absurd. "Obamacare" cuts the deficit to the tune of about $109 billion over the next decade. It's simply incoherent to say you'll cut the deficit by eliminating a law, which would in turn increase the deficit. That's like promising to put out a fire by using more kerosene.
19. Romney said, "The president said he'd cut the deficit in half. Unfortunately, he doubled it."
Maybe Romney doesn't know what "double" means. The deficit on Obama's first day was $1.3 trillion. Last year, it was also $1.3 trillion. This year, it's projected to be $1.1 trillion. When he says the president "more than doubled" the deficit, as he has many times, Romney's lying.
20. Romney argued, "The president's put in place as much public debt, almost as much debt held by the public as all prior presidents combined."
He's said this before, but it's not even close to being true.
21. On subsidies, Romney said to the president, "[Y]ou say Exxon and Mobil -- actually, this $2.8 billion goes largely to small companies, to drilling operators and so forth."
Nice try, but no.
22. Romney said to Obama, "[Y[ou put $90 billion -- like 50 years' worth of breaks -- into solar and wind."
23. Romney argued to the president, "[Y]ou said you get a deduction for getting a plant overseas. Look, I've been in business for 25 years. I have no idea what you're talking about."
Romney's admitted cluelessness notwithstanding, he's simply wrong to argue the tax deduction doesn't exist. It's real.
24. On entitlements, Romney argued, "[N]either the president nor I are proposing any changes for any current retirees or near retirees, either to Social Security or Medicare. So if you're 60 or around 60 or older, you don't need to listen any further."
That's demonstrably wrong. Under Romney's policy, the cost of prescription drug prices and preventive care for seniors would go up immediately -- for current and future retirees. For that matter, since Romney's plan hastens Medicare's insolvency -- soon -- seniors should listen closely.
25. Defending his Medicare plan, Romney said the idea originated in part with Paul Ryan and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), "who's a co-author of the bill."
According to Ron Wyden, that's ridiculously untrue.
26. In reference to Dodd-Frank, Romney said, "[I]t designates a number of banks as too big to fail, and they're effectively guaranteed by the federal government. This is the biggest kiss that's been given to New York banks I've ever seen. This is an enormous boon for them.... I wouldn't designate five banks as too big to fail and give them a blank check."
This simply has no basis in fact.
27. In reference to Wall Street reform, Romney said, "It wasn't thought through properly.... [I]t's killing regional and small banks.
28. In reference to the Affordable Care Act, Romney said, "It cuts $716 billion from Medicare to pay for it. I want to put that money back in Medicare for our seniors."
As I suspect Romney knows -- he'd already endorsed these same cuts earlier in the year -- he's just not telling the truth.
29. In the next breath, Romney says of the health care law, "[I]t puts in place an unelected board that's going to tell people, ultimately, what kind of treatments they can have."
This is getting awfully close to the "death panel" argument, and it's not true.
30. Romney vowed to "sit down with Democratic leaders as well as Republican leaders -- as we did in my state."
That's wildly misleading. In his one term, Romney issued more than 800 vetoes, over 700 of which were overridden, and demonstrated a "relative disinterest in bipartisan collaboration."
31. According to Romney, congressional Republicans unveiled a "bipartisan" health care reform plan in 2010. "It was swept aside."
There was no "bipartisan plan" from GOP lawmakers. Romney just made this up.
32. Asked what he would replace the Affordable Care Act with, Romney's exact words were, "Let, well, actually, actually it's , it's, it's a lengthy description."
That's a lie. Romney's online description of his health care reform plan is just 369 words.
33. Romney said, "Pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan."
I really wish that were true. It's not.
34. Romney, offering "proof" that the president's agenda is "not working," said, "23 million people are out of work."
That's not true. As of the time of the debate, there were 12.5 million Americans unemployed.
35. In reference to public support for green-energy companies, Romney argued, "These businesses, many of them have gone out of business. I think about half of them, of the ones have been invested in, they've gone out of business."
As Romney's own aides later admitted, this is demonstrably false.
36. In a TV campaign ad released this week, Romney said "Obama and the liberals already have ... raised taxes on the middle class."
That's obviously untrue; Obama has repeatedly cut taxes on the middle class. In fact, Romney admitted as much just last week.
37. In the same ad, Romney accused Obama of creating "government-run health care."
As Romney knows -- his own state health care law served as the blueprint for the president's plan -- the Affordable Care Act relies on private insurers, and is not "government-run health care."
38. The same ad claims consumers will be forced to "pay more for your medicine."
Actually, the only change in the cost of medication came for seniors -- and "Obamacare" closes the donut hole to make sure they pay less, not more.
39. The commercial goes on to say the Affordable Care Act "includes a trillion dollars in higher taxes -- even on the middle class."
This is apparently in reference to the individual mandate. And if the claim is true, then Romney's Massachusetts law also includes higher taxes -- even on the middle class.
40. In his weekly podcast, Romney said Obama's vision of international affairs is premised on seeing the United States "as merely one among many nations rather than as an exceptional nation."
Obama is the only president in American history to publicly and explicitly endorse the principle of American exceptionalism.
41. Romney also argued "our moral standing has declined" around the globe.
No, it hasn't. Respect and support for the United States around the world has improved under Obama.
42. Romney went on to say Obama no longer supports "standing with Israel."
43. Romney also said the president "refuses to meet with Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu."
Obama has met with Netanyahu many times.
44. He went on to say, hoping to draw a contrast with the president, "I will never apologize for America."
How is it possible the whole "apology" lie hasn't gone away yet?
45. At a campaign event in Wayne, Pennsylvania, Romney said the president is "planning on cutting our military by about a trillion dollars over the next decade."
No, he's not. Obama is planning to cut defense spending, on the recommendation of the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs, by about $500 billion over the next decade. There are other cuts looming, but they were crafted by Romney's party and endorsed by his own running mate.
46. At the same event, Romney argued, "[T]he president adds about a trillion dollars a year to the national debt."
It's true that in recent years, about a trillion dollars a year to the national debt, but it's not the president who's doing it.
47. Romney went on to say, "Do you realize that our Navy is smaller in terms of the number of ships than any time since 1917?"
This one again? Romney dropped this lie a while back, but it's apparently made a comeback.
48. Romney also vowed, "I will not raise taxes on middle-income Americans."
There's ample evidence that Romney will raise taxes on the middle class.
49. Romney went on to promise, "I've got a plan. I've got a plan to help free people pursue their dreams and get this economy going. And the good news is this: It'll create 12 million jobs."
Putting aside the pesky detail that Romney doesn't actually have a specific jobs plan, the fact remains that if we do nothing, we're on track to create 12 million new American jobs over the next four years anyway.
50. Romney added, "I want to take that big cloud off of the small business world that's hanging over them. Three-quarters of them say they don't want to hire more people because of this cloud and that cloud is Obamacare."
Romney's referring to a "survey" conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce if its members. The claim, however, is a misleading joke -- the Chamber, a pro-Republican lobbying institution heavily invested in helping Romney, put up an unscientific online survey. Treating this as a legitimate poll of businesses is fundamentally dishonest.
Previous editions of Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity: Vol. I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII,XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX, XX, XXI, XXII, XXIII, XXIV, XXV, XXVI, XXVII, XXVIII, XXIX, XXX, XXXI, XXXII, XXXIII, XXXIV, XXXV, XXXVI