Team Romney borrows from Bartleby

This has to be one of my favorite quotes of the week.

A pro-Romney TV spot running heavily in Iowa touts an unproven claim that the candidate “helped create thousands of jobs” as CEO of an investment firm. When we asked the super PAC sponsoring the ad for proof of its claim, a spokeswoman said: “We aren’t supplying that information.” And so far, neither is the Romney campaign. [emphasis added]

As a rule, when candidates, campaigns, and PACs unveil an ad — from either party — they’ll routinely include background information in their press releases to bolster the claims in the ad. It’s their way of saying, “See? We’re not making stuff up.” It’s common for this evidence to be misleading, but it’s nice that campaigns at least try to keep up appearances.

But Romney and his team are relying on a different approach. In this case, Romney’s Super PAC wants voters to believe the former vulture capitalist “helped create thousands of jobs” through his private equity firm. Asked for evidence to support the claim, Team Romney doesn’t want to talk about it. “We aren’t supplying that information.”

It’s as if they’re saying, “We could prove that we’re telling the truth, but we really don’t feel like it.”

I can’t be the only one who sees this and thinks of Bartleby the Scrivener saying, “I prefer not to.”

Regardless, I have to wonder why campaigns haven’t tried this before. Under these standards, campaigns can make up all sorts of nonsense, and when asked for proof to substantiate their lies, they can simply say, “We aren’t supplying that information.”

And what drives this attitude? They’ve already told us why: because to Romney and his boosters, the truth is largely irrelevant, campaign messages necessarily constitute “propaganda” that need not be accurate, televised ads are little more than “manipulative pieces of persuasive art,” and there’s nothing especially wrong with sociopathic standards for honesty in the public discourse.