During the Republican presidential primary debates, a telling pattern emerged. Mitt Romney, who first ran for public office back in 1994, called Rick Perry a “career politician.” Mitt Romney, who owned stock in and profited from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, criticized Newt Gingrich for working for Freddie Mac. Mitt Romney, who lobbied for funding for the Salt Lake City Olympics and has many of DC’s top Republican lobbyists intimately connected to his campaign, attacked Rick Santorum as a lobbyist. It seemed that each attack that Mitt Romney leveled at his opponents was done before they had an opportunity to say it about him.
If precedent holds, then the best way to interpret Romney’s charge that Obama will “say things that aren’t true” is that he is attempting to inoculate himself against the abundance of falsehoods he plans on espousing at the debates.
Mitt Romney’s propensity for flip-flopping long ago passed into self-parody, perfectly epitomized by his own campaign’s reference to an etch-a-sketch. But it is important to remember that his ability to say one thing one day and say the opposite the next with a straight face is rooted in his casual relationship with the truth.
Mitt has a long history of mendacity, from trifling personal details (telling Wolf Blitzer his first name was “Mitt”), to blatant pandering (claiming his father marched with Martin Luther King, Jr.; boasting of his hunting prowess), to irresponsible mischaracterizations of policy (welfare’s work requirement; Medicare).
As the challenger, Mitt is the beneficiary of an alienated electorate resigned to saying “both sides do it.” Such false equivalency will be used to blur the distinctions between significant policy differences where the American people side with President Obama and the Democratic Party.
We know that Mitt Romney is going to lie during the debate — it’s just what he does. But it would take some brass to accuse the President of lying, and a healthy dose of skepticism would suggest such an accusation is a combination of projection and dissembling.