In the halcyon days of TV there was a game show, "To Tell The Truth," in which contestants bluffed – even lied – their way through their résumés, claiming experiences and expertise they did not have. The object of the game was to fool the panel into voting for the bogus contestants, instead of the one who really was who (s)he claimed to be.
This seems to be the strategy Mitt Romney (R-MA) is using to get to the White House. Romney has falsely claimed to have been a hunter "pretty much all my life"; to have been "endorsed" by the National Rifle Association; to have "made it tougher for people with meth labs" when he was governor of MA; and to have seen his father march with Martin Luther King, Jr. (in a 1978 interview with the Boston Herald, Romney had also claimed, "My father and I marched with Martin Luther King Jr. through the streets of Detroit.")
The New York Times asks whether Romney has a "problem with blurring the truth":
Some of the instances when Mr. Romney has tripped up on his facts show that he is prone to exaggeration, taking what is essentially a kernel of truth and stretching it to bolster his case. ...
Indeed, with many of these instances, there has often been at least an element of his truth in his claims. But for a candidate who has featured his business background and made much of his propensity for careful analysis of data, he is not always precise.
Not always precise? The Times must mean that, um, figuratively. Here's how Romney explains why no contemporaneous news accounts place him or his father at any of King's civil rights marches:
Mitt Romney acknowledged yesterday that he never saw his father march with Martin Luther King Jr. as he asserted in a nationally televised speech this month, and historical evidence shows that Michigan's Governor George Romney and the civil rights leader never did march together.
Romney said his father had told him he had marched with King and that he had been using the word "saw" in a "figurative sense." "
If you look at the literature, if you look at the dictionary, the term 'saw' includes being aware of in the sense I've described," Romney told reporters in Iowa. "It's a figure of speech and very familiar, and it's very common. And I saw my dad march with Martin Luther King. I did not see it with my own eyes, but I saw him in the sense of being aware of his participation in that great effort."
As Michael Dobbs, who writes The Washington Post's Fact Checker blog points out:
Mitt Romney was 16 years old in 1963 at the time that Martin Luther King organized a series of "Freedom Marches" through American cities, including Detroit. At the time, the Mormon Church, of which the Romneys were prominent members, still maintained an official ban on the full participation of African-Americans in religious rites, a ban that was not lifted until 1978. Nevertheless, the senior Romney sympathized with the Civil Rights movement and issued a proclamation in support of a civil rights march through Detroit in June attended by King.
According to researchers at the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University, George Romney declined to attend the first march on June 23, a Sunday, on the grounds that he would not take part in political activity on the Sabbath. Susan Englander, who is associate editor of the King papers, said that Romney participated in a different march six days later through the suburb of Grosse Pointe. She believes that it is unlikely that King was present on that occasion, as contemporaneous newspaper reports fail to mention him.Though the participation of the Romney père et fils at any of King's civil rights marches is a figment of the candidate's overactive imagination, he was nonetheless so moved by the thought of racism, that his eyes welled with tears (video) on NBC's "Meet the Press" as he recalled hearing a news report on this car radio in 1978 that the Mormon Church would no longer discriminate against blacks, telling Tim Russert that he "pulled over and literally wept."
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That's not how Romney played this supposedly seminal moment during his unsuccessful 1994 race against Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, reports Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi:
Joseph P. Kennedy II, Kennedy's nephew and a congressman at the time, criticized the Mormon Church for its policy of racial exclusion. The Romney campaign angrily noted that the policy changed in 1978. Romney said he was greatly relieved, but said nothing about weeping for joy when he learned about it. During a press conference, Romney also accused Kennedy of betraying his brother John's victory in 1960 when JFK faced voter skepticism about his Catholic religion.
Mission accomplished: Joe Kennedy apologized, and Senator Kennedy backed off, too. Romney's Mormon faith was off the table, where it belongs. Romney never delved any deeper into his feelings about his church's past policy, saving a Bill Clinton moment for national TV and his presidential quest.