Most voters are probably unaware of the fact that Mitt Romney has a well-documented problem with facts. So before we parse his latest lie – uttered on Wednesday – let us quickly review a few highlights:
1. Romney said recently that President Obama “has added almost as much debt as all the prior presidents combined,” whereas, in reality, the accumulated debt from George Washington to George W. Bush ($10.6 trillion) now stands at roughly $15.6 trillion – which means that the debt on Obama’s watch has risen by about half. For comparison purposes, the debt rose by 300 percent under conservative saint Ronald Reagan.
2. Romney says on his website that, thanks to Obama, “federal spending has accelerated at a pace without precedent in recent history,” whereas, in reality (as documented by MarketWatch, a Dow Jones website, using government figures) federal spending on Obama’s watch has jumped at an annual rate of 1.4 percent – the lowest rate since the Eisenhower era. The two biggest annual federal spenders, according to MarketWatch? George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. (Politifact, the independent fact-checking website, ran charts on presidential spending, and concluded that the MarketWatch math “demolishes Romney’s contention.”)3. Romney said the other day, referring to Obama, that “with America in crisis, with 23 million people out of work or stopped looking for work, he hasn’t put forth a plan to get us working again” – somehow overlooking the fact that Obama put forth a massive job-creation plan (the American Jobs Act) in his 2012 State of the Union Speech.4. Romney even lies about himself. He didn’t go to Vietnam when he was young, but said in 2007 that he regretted not going: “I longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam and be representing our country there, and in some ways it was frustrating not to feel like I was there as part of the troops that were fighting in Vietnam.” Yet in 1994, he told the press: “I was not planning on signing up for the military. It was not my desire to go off and serve in Vietnam.” It gets worse. In 1994, he said that he did nothing “to remove myself from the pool of young men who were eligible for the draft,” whereas in reality, he sought and received multiple deferments.And now to Romney’s latest:On the stump the other day, he mentioned a new book, The Escape Artists, which chronicles the turbulent period when Obama’s domestic team was grappling with economic stimulus and health reform. The book’s author, political commentator Noam Scheiber, suggests that Obama might have been wiser to spend less time on health reform and more time seeking a second (and stronger) economic stimulus. In other words, Scheiber basically criticizes Obama from the left.But when Romney brought up the book, he gave its contents an entirely different twist:”A book that was written in a way that’s apparently pro-President Obama, was written by a guy named Noam Scheiber and in this book he says that there was a discussion about the fact that Obamacare would slow down the economic recovery in this country and they knew that before they passed it. But they concluded that we would all forget how long the recovery took once it had happened, so they decided to go ahead. The idea that they knowingly slowed down our recovery in order to put in place Obamacare, which they wanted and they considered historic but the American people did not want or consider historic, is something which I think deserves a lot of explaining, because I think the president’s responsibility is to put people back to work.”Huh? What?It takes a few moments to hack through the verbiage in order to uncover Romney’s big lie, but it’s there. Romney, citing the book, says that Obama “knowingly slowed down our recovery.” He says Obama “knew” in advance that health reform would slow the recovery, but the president supposedly pushed for its passage anyway, knowing all along that Obamacare would result in fewer people going back to work.None of that is in the book.This is actually the second time Romney has told that lie. He did a version of it on May 18: “They (Obama’s advisers) went into this knowing that when they passed Obamacare, it was going to make life harder for the American people.”Author Scheiber is not happy. Speaking by phone yesterday to a reporter from Talking Points Memo, he said: “That (Romney claim) is false, in a variety of ways….Romney’s imputing one big claim that I just do not make and that I just do not believe to be true.” Scheiber never once contends in his book that Obama “knowingly” slowed the economic recovery; he never once contends that Obama pursued health reform while “knowing all along” that Obamacare would slow the recovery. “That, I personally don’t believe,” Scheiber said yesterday, “and I don’t believe (that Obama’s people) believe it.”As for Romney, he is “clearly misrepresenting something that I wrote,” Scheiber said. But Scheiber is being kind. Romney simply made stuff up, inventing book passages that do not exist.Rhetorical exaggeration is common currency in politics. But even if we’re feeling charitable enough to chalk up Romney’s serial lies as mere exaggerations, it’s worth noting the pernicious theme that animates this latest episode. It has long been an article of faith, among the more delusional denizens of the nation, that Obama (as a Muslim/socialist/Other) has been systematically engaged in a four-year project to deliberately wreck the exceptional country to which he has no core patriotic allegiance. The phony claim about Scheiber’s book fits right in – the notion that Obama “knowingly” sought to slow the process of putting Americans back to work.It’s thematically consistent with the phony claim that Obama supposedly circles the globe “apologizing for America” (independent fact-checkers have long refuted that one), and the phony claim that Obama knowingly seeks to weaken our national security by appeasing Iran. (Romney in March: Obama “has failed to communicate that military options are on the table…and that it’s unacceptable to America for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.” Obama one week earlier: “Preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon isn’t just in the interest of Israel, it is profoundly in the security interests of the United States, and that when I say we’re not taking any option off the table, we mean it.”)But, hey, the polls say that the race is basically tied. Clearly, there’s no downside to telling falsehoods if a sufficient number of voters are willing to believe them. ——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1