I didn’t intend to return to the subject, but so long as Mitt Romney keeps repeating an offensive lie, I figure there’s some value in repeating the truth.

The Republican presidential hopeful delivered a “major” foreign policy speech this morning — the latest in a series of “major” foreign policy speeches, since the first few didn’t go well — and returned to one of his favorite arguments.

“As President of the United States, I will devote myself to an American Century. And I will never, ever apologize for America…. I believe we are an exceptional country with a unique destiny and role in the world. Not exceptional, as the President has derisively said, in the way that the British think Great Britain is exceptional or the Greeks think Greece is exceptional. In Barack Obama’s profoundly mistaken view, there is nothing unique about the United States.”

The condemnation of President Obama’s stated support for American exceptionalism is pretty foolish on its face, but it’s worth appreciating the point behind Romney’s lie.

Central to Romney’s entire campaign is the notion that the president “apologized for America.” It’s a line that the former governor uses in every speech; he’s mentioned it in every debate; and it’s even in the title of his book. It’s been fact-checked repeatedly, and it’s always been proven false.

If someone makes a bogus claim, he or she is merely wrong. When someone repeats the bogus claim after learning the truth, they’re lying. When someone builds a national campaign message around the obvious falsehood, they’re shamelessly lying.

But what I care most about in this instance is why Romney is shamelessly lying about this. If the GOP candidate were telling whoppers about some routine policy dispute, it’d be fairly routine and unremarkable.

The underlying point of the “apology” attack, though, is far more insidious — Romney desperately wants Americans to question the president’s love of country. The “apology” claim is a lie, but it’s also an ugly smear — those who are patriotic, the argument goes, don’t feel the need to apologize for a country they love.

That the president never did what he’s being accused of is apparently irrelevant. Republicans in general, and Romney in specific, still desperately want Americans to see Obama as The Other, even now.

The fact that Romney repeats this incessantly says a great deal about his character, or in this case, the lack thereof.

Romney will never apologize for America? Fine. But how about an apology to America?

Update: Adding insult to injury, Greg Sargent notes that news outlets are helping Romney spread his lie, without telling the public the truth.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.