Romney's Endearing Lies

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JONATHAN CHAIT JULY 1, 2011

Romney's Endearing Lies

I've always harbored a strange affinity for Mitt Romney, and his hilarious lies* about how he's described the economy oddly help illuminate why:

Over the last few weeks, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has argued that President Obama's policies have made the economy worse.

Here was Romney in New Hampshire on Monday:

The people of New Hampshire have waited long enough. They want to see good jobs. They want to see rising incomes. They want to see an economy that's growing again, and the president's failed. He did not cause this recession, but he made it worse.

And he said something similar at the New Hampshire debate earlier this month:

He didn't create the recession, but he made it worse and longer.

But at his press conference today in Allentown, PA -- where he was highlighting a company that had closed, after President Obama touted it benefitting from the stimulus -- Romney backtracked on the he-made-it-worse line.

When NBC producer Sue Kroll asked the former Massachusetts governor why he believes that Obama's policies have made the economy worse -- when the economy is now growing (and not shrinking like it was in 2009), when the Dow is climbing (and no longer in a free-fall like it was in '09), and when the unemployment rate is down a full percentage point from where it was in Oct. '09 -- Romney gave this answer:

I didn't say that things are worse.

Imagine George W. Bush in this situation. If confronted with a reporter touting statistics undercutting his economic claim, Bush would simply give a non-quantifiable answer. People are hurtin'. Democrats want to raise yer taxes. Or whatever. Dodging a question like that is not tricky.

But Romney does not, instinctively, want to dodge a question like that. He's not a natural bullshitter. His instinct is to align his position with the facts. Presented with facts demonstrating that the economy is clearly better than it was when Obama took office, he chooses instead to refine his critique.

The result is utterly dishonest, but the instinct underlying the result springs from a desire to engage intellectually rather than deflect the question with nonsensical talking points. I prefer straight-up dishonesty over bullshit. It's evidence of a logical mind at work.

*Update: Tim Carney points out on Twitter that, not knowing Romney's state of mind, "lies" is too strong. Obviously I was being a but flip but that's true. Romney is saying untrue things that may or may not be lies. In all likelihood, he's passing off falsehoods inadvertently.

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posted in: jonathan chait, george w. bush, new hampshire

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