Part I -- Earning a Place in the Eighth Rung of HellMitt Romney might be the most brazen political liar since James Polk. Polk, who was the 11th U.S. president (1845-1849), lied through his teeth -- to Congress, to his cabinet, to the newspapers -- in order to get the country into a war with Mexico. Of course, other presidents have lied to this end; for instance, presidents Johnson (Vietnam) and Bush Jr. (Iraq). But Polk had the same audacious, "lying is part of what I do," disposition as does our current Republican candidate.
If one has any doubt about Mitt Romney's mendacious temperament, the first presidential debate should have put it to rest. According to one analyst, Romney let loose with "27 myths in 38 minutes," finishing with a big grin after most of these prevarications. He produced trumped up assertions, false statistics, and wild exaggerations about taxes, energy independence, job creation, the deficit, medicare, "Obamacare," and military spending.
Should Dante Alighieri came back to life today and produce an updated list of lost souls for the "Inferno" section of his Divine Comedy, Romney would certainly earn a spot in the 8th rung of hell. That is where Dante placed, among others, the "falsifiers, those who attempted to alter things through lies or alchemy." Their punishment was "based on horrible...diseases such as rashes, dropsy, leprosy and consumption." I suggest that, come the second debate, we all keep a sharp eye on Mr. Romney's nose and fingertips for signs of leprosy. By the way, there seems to be a suspicion that Romney also cheated during the first debate. The debate rules say that the candidates can not use "prepared notes." However, a video of the debate shows that he had put what looks like a white piece of paper down on his podium, or maybe it was just his handkerchief.
Part II -- Some Specifics
The second debate, scheduled for the 16 October 2012, will be partially about foreign policy. On Monday, 8 October 2012, Romney gave a speech on foreign affairs. It should be kept in mind that between the 8th and the 16th, he might completely change his positions. The man has such a flip-flop record that this is quite possible. However, assuming he doesn't do that, let's take a look at just how truthful are his foreign policy statements.
a. As Robert Parry points out in Consortium News, Romney lied when he said Obama "has not signed one new free trade agreement in the past four years." Obama has in fact signed three (South Korea, Panama and Columbia). He also lied when he said that Obama was "silent" during the suppression of demonstrations in Iran after the reelection of president Amadinejad. Obama spoke out on multiple occasions. By the way, one might not approve of NAFTA-style trade agreements. I certainly don't. But that does not make Romney's lies about Obama's actions acceptable.
b. Parry goes on to detail how Romney's accusation that Obama's foreign policy is "weak" is groundless. After all, he is talking about the man who wages war in Afghanistan, helped bring down the dictatorship in Libya, and took down Osama bin Laden. Parry explains that Romney credits a lot of this to the U.S. military as if Obama had nothing to do with it. Once more, Obama's foreign policy has much about it that can be criticized. Why do it through sheer falsehoods? Perhaps because Romney actually has no problem with Obama's actions, but does not want the public to associate them with the president.
c. Then there is Romney's sudden embracing of a Palestinian state when just a few weeks ago he described such a goal as "almost unthinkable to accomplish." At that time the reason he gave for his position was that Palestinians are not interested in peace. That was an outrageous lie. It is hard to believe that he has now changed his mind. More likely he is attempting to preclude any charge that he has abandoned the search for peace, even as he asserts that Obama has not displayed leadership toward that same end.
d. When it comes to the Arab Spring, Obama allegedly missed "an historic opportunity to win new friends and share our values in the Middle East." Who would these friends be? Those fighting against "evil tyrants and angry mobs who seek to harm us." This is so much gobbledygook. Most of the evil tyrants are our longstanding old friends and the angry mobs are the only hope for any governmental improvement.
Parry points out that the real difference between Romney and Obama is that Romney is much more the militarist. He has embraced neocon advisers, given carte blanche to Israel and verbally attacked Russia as "without question, our No. 1 geopolitical foe." All of this suggests that between Obama (who is certainly no saint and has plenty of blood on his own hands) and Romney, it is the latter who is more likely to get the nation into yet another war. As Juan Cole has observed ..."wars and lots of other conflicts are not a foreign policy vision, they are a nightmare."
Part III -- Does Lying Work?
So, does this serial falsification work? Can it actually help get a mythomanic elected president? It seems that the answer is yes. According to a Pew Research Center poll taken after the first Obama-Romney debate, "It's official. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney...erased President Barack Obama's lead." According to a graph of the poll results Romney's picked up five percentage points to come even with Obama...64% of voters "thought that Romney was more informative than President Obama."
The liar is more informative!? How is that possible? Well, you start with a lot of ignorance. The ignorance is not a function of lack of intelligence, but a function of lack of accurate contextual knowledge. As a consequence, the level of understanding of the average American about government policy on national issues such as healthcare, energy independence, job creation, the deficit, military spending and even taxes is considerably lower than their average IQ. It is even worse when we get to foreign policy and its formulation.
Into the resulting knowledge vacuum comes the misleading statements and assertions of politicians, so-called experts, and media spokesman of all descriptions. Fox TV has made millions of dollars selling advertising that accompanies biased opinion passed off as fact. In the end, what the majority of Americans think they know about both domestic and foreign policy is based on media hearsay. Romney's assertive and stylized lying fits well into this scenario. And his style also passes for strength and self-confidence.
Part IV -- Is it Pathological?
Romney's lying is so pervasive, so ever-present, that one starts to wonder if it is pathological.