If I could sum up my reaction to Mitt Romney in last night’s debate in two words, they would be “wait, what?”
As a person playing the role of a political candidate in a debate, Romney did just fine. Judged by the standards of accuracy, however, Romney let loose time and time again with jaw-dropping dishonestly. It was reminiscent of Paul Ryan’s convention speech in its open contempt for truth.
Tim Dickinson of Rolling Stone identifies five key lies, while Jonathan Cohn at the New Republic points out four broad areas where Romney was misleading. The team at Think Progress put the scale of his dishonesty in sharp relief, noting that Romney touted 27 myths in the 38 minutes he spoke.
On taxes, Romney left out his trillion-dollar corporate tax cut and his advocacy of a “territorial tax system” that encourages the rich to hide their money overseas.
Romney mangled the facts of Wall Street reform, claiming that the bill passed in 2010 to rein in Wall Street was some sort of guarantee of bailouts for too-big-to-fail banks. That’s the opposite of true. In reality, the bill identifies which banks are too-big-to-fail and requires them to submit to tougher requirements and have a plan to wind down so they don’t have to be bailed out. That this accusation comes from the recipient of $28 million from banks like Bank of America and Goldman Sachs is especially galling.
I could go on—Romney’s claims about everything from energy jobs to health care for people with pre-existing conditions would take many blog posts to unpack, and his apparent abandonment of the last 18 months of his campaign agenda is obviously designed to make him seem like a moderate for the last month of the election. As Jonathan Chait notes, it may be a clever strategy:
Romney won the debate in no small part because he adopted a policy of simply lying about his policies. [Obama] was prepared to debate the claims Romney has been making for the entire campaign, and Romney switched up and started making different and utterly bogus ones.
Going in front of nearly 60 million people and dancing around the facts like this isn’t just poor sportsmanship. It’s disdainful of voters. You don’t lie like this to people whose intelligence you respect—and as his now-famous fundraiser comments show, respect for voters is not really his strong suit.
The question, though, is this: will the press cover this debate like theater critics, looking to see who sang and danced better? Or will they look at the substance?