Four years ago, when I was writing about the 2008 presidential campaign, I wrote with dismay and surprise at the spate of falsehoods coming out of John McCain's campaign for president. McCain had falsely accused his opponent Barack Obama of supporting "comprehensive sex education" for children, and of wanting to raise taxes on the middle class, while his running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, took credit for opposing the so-called "Bridge to Nowhere", which she had actually supported.
At the time, such false and misleading claims from a presidential candidate seemed shocking: they crossed an unstated line in American politics – going from the usual garden-variety campaign exaggeration to wilful lying.
Ah, those were the days … after watching Mitt Romney run for president the past few months, he makes John McCain look like George Washington (of "I Can't Tell A Lie" fame).
Granted, presidential candidates are no strangers to disingenuous or overstated claims; it's pretty much endemic to the business. But Romney is doing something very different and far more pernicious. Quite simply, the United States has never been witness to a presidential candidate, in modern American history, who lies as frequently, as flagrantly and as brazenly as Mitt Romney.
Now, in general, those of us in the pundit class are really not supposed to accuse politicians of lying – they mislead, they embellish, they mischaracterize, etc. Indeed, there is natural tendency for nominally objective reporters, in particular, to stay away from loaded terms such as lying. Which is precisely why Romney's repeated lies are so effective. In fact, lying is really the only appropriate word to use here, because, well, Romney lies a lot. But that's a criticism you're only likely to hear from partisans.
My personal favorite in Romney's cavalcade of untruths is his repeated assertion that President Obama has apologized for America. In his book, appropriately titled "No Apologies", Romney argues the following:
"Never before in American history has its president gone before so many foreign audiences to apologize for so many American misdeeds, both real and imagined. It is his way of signaling to foreign countries and foreign leaders that their dislike for America is something he understands and that is, at least in part, understandable."
Nothing about this sentence is true.
President Obama never went around the world and apologized for America – and yet, even after multiple news organizations have pointed out this is a "pants on fire" lie, Romney keeps making it. Indeed, the "Obama apology tour", along with the president bowing down to the King of Saudi Arabia, are practically the lodestars of the GOP's criticism of Obama's foreign policy performance (the Saudi thing isn't true either).
But foreign policy is a relatively light area of mistruth for the GOP standard-bearer. The economy is really where the truth takes its greatest vacation in Romney world. First, there is Romney's claim that the 2009 stimulus passed by Congress and signed by President Obama "didn't work". According to Romney, "that stimulus didn't put more private-sector people to work." While one can quibble over whether the stimulus went far enough, the idea that it didn't create private-sector jobs has no relationship to reality. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus bill created more than 3m jobs – a view shared by 80% of economists polled by the Chicago Booth School of Business (only 4% disagree).
Romney also likes to argue that the stimulus didn't help private-sector job growth, but rather helped preserve government jobs. In fact, the Obama years have been witness to massive cuts in government employment. While the private sector is not necessarily "doing fine", as Obama said in a recent White House press conference, it's doing a heck of a lot better than the public sector.
And the list goes on. Romney has accused Obama of raising taxes – in reality, they've gone down under his presidency, and largely because of that stimulus bill that Romney loves to criticize. He's accused the president of doubling the deficit. In fact, http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2012/jun/01/scorecard-economy-obama/" target="_blank">it's actually gone down on Obama's watch.