Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mitt Romney And The Odor Of Mendacity

Didn't you notice a powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity in this room?... There ain't nothin' more powerful than the odor of mendacity... You can smell it.  -- Tennessee Williams from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Several months ago, Paul Krugman wrote about Mitt Romney's dishonest campaign and penchant for uttering false and fraudulent statements:  "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."

Krugman went on to predict that "Romney will probably be called on some falsehoods" but "most of the news media will feel as though their reporting must be “balanced,” which means that every time they point out that a Republican lied they have to match it with a comparable accusation against a Democrat — even if what the Democrat said was actually true or, at worst, a minor misstatement."

Fast forward to last week's article in the New York Times, "Fact-Checking Obama and Romney," which stated that:
Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney are filling speeches with facts and figures designed to enhance their case and diminish the other guy’s, in the process often making assertions fundamentally at odds with one another. Along the way, both candidates are at times stretching the truth, using statistics without context, exaggerating their own records and misrepresenting their opponent’s. 
A classic example of balance and false equivalence, the article concluded that "[d]etermining who is the worse dissembler can be a subjective exercise, even in an age when news organizations, blogs and partisan groups blitz out regular fact-checks.

But while the Obama campaign's rhetoric can be at times misleading, it cannot be compared to Romney's incessant lying.  Steve Benen at Rachel Maddow's blog has been chronicling Romney's lies for months.  (See his 23rd weekly installment here.)

As Michael Cohen of the Guardian summarizes Romney's "cavalcade of untruths" and concludes:
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.
And how can Romney get away with it?  Cohen explains:
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.
Pollsters and pundits seems to agree that the election will be extremely close.  Whether the media will ignore the powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity that surrounds Mitt Romney will be a key factor in the outcome.

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