Romney won’t let reality get in the way

Mitt Romney campaigned in Concord, N.H., talking to employees at the Lincoln Financial Group about his agenda. It was an odd choice of venues — Lincoln was a major beneficiary of the 2008 bank bailout, which Romney claims to have opposed.

Stranger still was the former governor’s choice in rhetoric. “The Obama Administration has not been able to deal with the number one issue the country was concerned about when he became president, the economy,” Romney said. “He did not cause the recession, but he made it worse.”

Greg Sargent explained that the “made it worse” argument has been repeatedly fact-checked, and repeatedly proven false, but it doesn’t stop Romney from “cheerfully repeating the bogus claim.”

Again, what we’re seeing here are the limits of fact-checking — something we rediscover every cycle. Candidates, party committees and outside groups make false claims. Media fact-checkers go to work and debunk the claims. The candidates and groups go right on making them anyway. Reporters stop pointing out that they’re false.

No question, unemployment remains chronically high, and this is a major political problem for Obama, but has anyone asked Romney on the trail to justify his continuing assertion as outright fact that Obama made the recession “worse”? It has now become absolutely central to his campaign message, yet it’s finding its way into story after story and segment after segment with no rebuttal whatsoever.

Let me make this easy for Romney and the reporters who cover his campaign. It’s a surprisingly straightforward exercise, consisting of two short questions:

1. When Obama took office, the economy was shrinking. Now it’s growing. In what way is that “worse”?

2. When Obama took office, the economy was hemorrhaging jobs. Now it’s gaining jobs. In what way is that “worse”?

As best as I can tell, there are basically only three explanations. Romney is either lying and hoping no one will notice; he doesn’t know what “worse” means; or he considers a healthier economy worse than a deep recession.

Which is it, Mitt?