For months now we’ve been talking about “post-truth politics” because of the extent of Romney’s lies, and yet it was still uncanny to watch Romney lie on stage last night about his positions on contraception, Pell Grants, immigration–to the extent this is a close election, it isn’t because Romney’s ideas are winning. His lies are winning.
From the beginning of his campaign, when he took a quote of McCain’s as read by Obama and used it to sound as if Obama had said it, and refused to walk it back, defiantly defending it instead, his has been a deliberate misinformation campaign, daring people to accuse him of wrongdoing. He operates with a lot of cover from the press and the public under the ‘hey all politicians lie’ meme, and calling him a flip-flopper is now almost a term of endearment. He shouldn’t get this pass, though, because he’s so far outside the norm on this, it’s terrifying. I’m glad Candy Crowley fact-checked him on Obama’s Libya comments, but it was one lie out of a storm.
Here’s the way the Romney campaign will work with his performance last night, despite his announced loss in the press–and it is the pattern to the creation of Romney’s surge that emerged in the first debate. There’s no reason to think they’ll abandon this now.
Phase 1: Already begun. Romney lies about his positions on stage at the debates to appear more moderate.
Phase 2: The next morning after the debate the press runs fact-checks on a few items—but already the press is referring to Romney’s so-called brand new position on contraception as of last night, saying he reversed his position. That isn’t true. He called Obama’s statement of Romney’s own stated support for the Blunt amendment a lie. And if you follow that link to the Washington Post, you’ll see it is a clarification from back in February during the primaries, something his own campaign issued after the fact the last time he lied about his support for the Blunt Amendment.
That’s not a position reversal. That’s a fiction, one amid many.
Phase 3: Most likely here’s what will not happen: Romney sitting down with his campaign, saying, “Hey, we really need a new position on contraception, right? So let’s support it.”
Most likely what will happen : ‘“That’s not our position,” a Romney campaign spokesperson said.’
If you Google “Romney Campaign Walks Back”, you’ll see many, many items. So many that it will look as if he is running the first campaign where the candidate and the campaign disagree with each other–it looks at first glance like an inept communications operation, but only if you think it is an operation concerned with getting out the candidate’s actual positions. Because here’s what they want, here’s what comes next.
Phase 4: Last night, perhaps millions of women and men thought, “Oh, Romney isn’t so bad for women’s health issues.” Mind you, this is contraception—birth control! Not abortion. They won’t see the fact-check, they won’t read the “Romney Walks Back” follow-up. They’ll just be left with the memory of what they saw in the debate.
Romney isn’t reversing his positions. He’s really lying–a deliberate feint to the left. He knows it is what people want from him, he also knows he can’t really give it and retain his base support. Thus the bob and weave. Romney’s not a real presidential candidate at this point. He’s a metafiction.