"Me, I would have confessed and begged for forgiveness. Not Romney, though -- and herein is the reason he will be such a formidable general-election candidate. He concedes nothing. He had seen none of the ads, he said. They were done by others, he added. Of course, they are his supporters, but he had no control over them. All this time he was saying this rubbish, he seemed calm, sincere -- matter of fact.
"And then he brought up an ad he said he did see. It was about Gingrich's heretical support for a climate-change bill. He dropped the name of the extremely evil Nancy Pelosi. He accused Gingrich of criticizing Paul Ryan's first budget plan, an Ayn Randish document. ... He added that Gingrich had been in ethics trouble in the House and [Romney] ended with a promise to make sure his ads were as truthful as could be. Pow! Pow! Pow! Gingrich was on the canvas.
"I watched, impressed. I admire a smooth liar, and Romney is among the best. His technique is to explain -- that bit about not knowing what was in the ads -- and then counterattack. He maintains the bulletproof demeanor of a man who is barely suffering fools, in this case Gingrich. His [Romney's] message is not so much what he says, but what he is: You cannot touch me. I have the organization and the money. Especially the money. (Even the hair.) You're a loser."
Other commentators have made the same point about Romney and his readiness to seize on any distortion relating to President Obama if it helps reinforce one of Romney's campaign themes.
As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman noted earlier this year, Romney's whole campaign is based on a cynical belief that Americans suffer from "amnesia" about what caused the nation's economic mess and that they will simply blame President Obama for not quickly fixing it.
To illustrate the point last April, Romney staged a campaign event in Ohio at a shuttered drywall factory that closed in 2008, when Bush was still president and when the housing market, which had grown into a bubble under Bush's deregulatory policies, was collapsing.
"Mr. Romney constantly talks about job losses under Mr. Obama. Yet all of the net job loss took place in the first few months of 2009, that is, before any of the new administration's policies had time to take effect. So the Ohio speech was a perfect illustration of the way the Romney campaign is banking on amnesia, on the hope that voters don't remember that Mr. Obama inherited an economy that was already in free fall."
Krugman added that the amnesia factor was relevant, too, because Romney is proposing more tax cuts and more banking deregulation, Bush's disastrous recipe. In other words, Romney's campaign is based on the fundamental lie that the cure for Bush's economic collapse is a larger dose of Bush's economic policies.
Romney's speech at the shuttered drywall factory in Ohio was a precursor to a similar misrepresentation at the Republican convention when Rep. Paul Ryan, Romney's vice presidential running mate, blasted Obama over the fact that a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, which stopped production under President Bush, had not been reopened -- as if it were suddenly the role of the federal government to make such detailed decisions for corporations.
The convention itself was a remarkable exercise in dishonest propaganda, focusing on two accusations against Obama that lacked any credibility. One was the repeated use of the misplaced antecedent in the "you didn't build that" quote. Obama's "that" clearly referred to roads, bridges and other public infrastructure that help business, not to individual businesses, as Romney and the Republicans pretended.
The other was a racially tinged claim that Obama had gutted the work requirement in welfare reform when his administration responded to a bipartisan request from some governors to give them more flexibility to make the work requirement more effective.
Both lines of attack originated in the world of talk radio -- and then were adopted by the Romney campaign. But Romney's dishonest attack lines sometime merge with his own ever-shifting positions on key issues.
For instance, on Sunday, Romney seemed to reverse his oft-stated pledge to repeal all of the Affordable Care Act, known as "Obamacare." In an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," Romney said he would keep some of its popular provisions, such as the ban on insurance companies denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, though presumably without the individual mandate to buy insurance, which makes the reform economically feasible for insurance companies.
Of all people, Romney surely understands this link between mandates and pre-existing conditions since he addressed that issue as governor of Massachusetts in passing "Romneycare," which became the model for "Obamacare." However, just as voters were trying to figure out Romney's new position on health care, he reverted back to his previous promise to repeal "Obamacare" in its entirety.
Then, on Tuesday and Wednesday, Romney's flailing efforts to land a knock-out blow on Obama went to new extremes amid unrest in Egypt and Libya over a provocative video produced in California and posted on "YouTube," presenting the Prophet Muhammad as a buffoonish sex pervert and sadistic mass murderer.