Mitt and the Truth

By Emily Theroux

“There are those who tell the truth. There are those who distort the truth. And then there’s Mitt Romney.”

That was how Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson put it, as politely as he could manage in a genuine mainstream media outlet. All political campaigns exaggerate, “dissemble” (a courteous word, by all accounts), and boast, Robinson added, but voters generally tend to put up with it “as long as there’s a kernel of veracity in there somewhere. Even by this lax standard, Romney too often fails. Not to put too fine a point on it, he lies. Quite a bit. ”

As early as last December, liberal blogger Greg Sargent of The Plum Line astutely noted that, while Beltway reporters were predicting that Romney’s $10,000 bet offer to Rick Perry might warrant a national media narrative, something more disturbing about the Mittster seemed more indicative of Romney’s character: the candidate’s “serial dishonesty, his willingness to say and do anything to win.”

Liberal bloggers (and even one conservative one) began to pipe up about Romney “making things up out of thin air,” imparting “highly embellished anecdotes,” blabbing “one massive lie after another,” and finally, the straight dope: “telling bald-faced lies” that “could be easily disproven by an enterprising reporter.” Jack Jodell of The Saturday Afternoon Post said Romney “thoroughly lacks moral character and is completely unstable and untrustworthy.” But Bob Cesca of The Daily Banter blog probably summed it up best when he called Romney “the most lie-based candidate for president ever.”

“The degree to which Mr. Romney lies, all the time, about all sorts of stuff, and doesn’t seem to care when he gets caught, is maybe the single most notable thing about his campaign,” said Rachel Maddow. Blogger Steve Benen, who writes for The MaddowBlog, just published the 20th installment of his weekly tabulation of Romney’s whoppers, “Chronicling Mitt’s Mendacity,” which presented a list of 18 “big lies” that Mitt had told in the previous week alone. Benen debunked every single sham, simulation, or slander as he moved down the line.

Why does Romney lie, so frequently and easily?
He lies because he has to, says J.M. Ashby of The Daily Banter blog. “Running on the record as it stands isn’t an option.”

I’m not convinced, however. I think it’s worse than that. I sometimes speculate that Romney lies because because he CAN – although my suspicion is purely conjecture. No news outlets or pundits that the moderate swing-state electorate pays attention to are making “Mythomaniac” Mitt’s deceit a central campaign theme. “When do reporters start calling Mitt Romney a liar?” asked Paul Waldman of The American Prospect. “And I use the word ‘lie’ very purposefully,” Waldman added. “There are lots of things Romney says about Obama that are distortions, just plain ridiculous, or unfalsifiable but obviously false, as when he often climbs into Obama’s head to tell you what Obama really desires …. But there are other occasions … where Romney simply lies, plainly and obviously.”

When Newt Gingrich admitted on CBS News’ Early Show in January that he was intentionally calling Romney a liar, both Norah O’Donnell and Bob Schieffer appeared to almost swoon from shock. (I consulted the thesaurus: There’s no other word or expression used to describe someone who routinely utters falsehoods that’s quite as powerful as “liar” – unless you call them a “damned liar” or employ an even more profane moderator.) The mainstream media haven’t been holding Romney to account thus far because, in part, it’s simply not something that most reporters would feel comfortable saying on the public record or on camera about a presidential candidate. If confronted, they often temporize, saying “both sides do it,” campaigns “exaggerate” or “misspeak,” candidates are “phony” or use party talking points to represent their views.

The ‘Mitt-thology’ of Mittens meets ‘Bend Sinister’
It has also occurred to me that the reason Mitt may “make stuff up” about his business career, his political record, and even inconsequential things like his given name, is because he is perhaps compelled to. Mitt Romney is not like other politicians; his lying is compulsive, constant, and extreme – and may even be pathological. The chronic nature and frequency of the behavior are hallmarks of this mental disorder, according to Dr. Charles C. Dyke, writing in Psychiatric Times. Pathological liars usually have sound judgment about other matters, although the lies themselves often appear to be rash, risky, random, illogical, purposeless, and easily discoverable.” One surefire verbal sign of atrocious lying is stammering – which The Daily Kos pointed out after Mitt “stumble-tongued his way” into the “blunderful … word salad” he uttered last week:

“Uh, I’m actually going to, I’m not familiar precisely with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was. And with regards to, uh, I’ll go back and take at what was said there.”

“Mitt, you dunce, you have to remember your lies,” the article’s headline blared. “For someone with his assets, you would think he would have hired himself a better coach of effective lying,” the writer mused. The first rule, he added, is, “Don’t deviate too far from the truth when lying. Because doing so will make it hard to follow the second rule, which is: Remember your lies.”

Many pathological liars are narcissists and extreme attention seekers, and some are even capable of criminal behavior, including a prominent California judge, said Dyke. “Why such a successful individual would repeatedly tell lies that could damage his credibility and put him in trouble with the law or other administrative bodies is baffling. Was his lying behavior completely within his control, or was there something different about his pattern of lies?” The crimes committed by some pathological liars include theft, swindling, forgery, and plagiarism. “It is worth noting, however, that some pathological liars are successful professionals without any public record of crime.”

“Welcome to post-truth politics,” wrote Paul Krugman. “Why does Mr. Romney think he can get away with this kind of thing? Well, he has already gotten away with a series of equally fraudulent attacks. In fact, he has based pretty much his whole campaign around a strategy of attacking Mr. Obama for doing things that the president hasn’t done and believing things he doesn’t believe.

Greg Sargent sees a common theme to Mitt’s calumnies: falsely portraying Obama as a bogeyman who doesn’t share American values. “But won’t there be some blowback?” Krugman wondered. “Won’t Mr. Romney pay a price for running a campaign based entirely on falsehoods? He obviously thinks not, and I’m afraid he may be right.”

And why not, when the watchdog website Politifact, purportedly established to enforce truth in politics, proclaimed Democratic “claims” that Republicans voted to end Medicare its “Lie of the Year”? The deceptive voucher system for which the GOP did indeed vote would cost each retiree thousands of dollars more out of pocket each year.

I found only two comments posted under one liberal blog disparaging one of Mitt’s most dastardly prevarications. “Despicable,” wrote the first. “I’m pretty sure that by November, every American voter will know what a hollow liar he is.”

The second commenter, however, disagreed, blaming the usual suspects. “Maybe not,” she warned. “It seems like 90 percent of the supposedly ‘credible’ media is carrying water for Willard. It’s so disgraceful.”

Writer Emily Theroux worked as magazine editor for The Times Herald-Record. Illustrator Lance Theroux was assistant managing editor of The Times Herald-Record before becoming a staff editorial artist for The Record in North Jersey.

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One Response to “Mitt and the Truth”

  1. Gary Miller Says:

    It was Adolf Hitler who said: “The bigger the lie, the more people believe it.” And he got elected.

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