I really didn’t intend to return to the subject, but the latest defense from the Romney campaign for its transparent lying is too extraordinary to overlook.

To briefly recap, Mitt Romney’s very first television ad of the 2012 campaign pushes a blatant, shameless lie. In 2008, a month before the president was elected, then-candidate Obama told voters, “Senator McCain’s campaign actually said, and I quote, ‘If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.’” In Romney’s new attack ad, viewers only see part of the quote: “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.”

It’s a cheap, deceitful move, suggesting Romney wants to get his general-election strategy off to as dishonorable a start as possible. And what’s the Republican campaign’s response? It’s a doozy.

Romney senior New Hampshire adviser Tom Rath tells CBS News the ad is “exactly what we want.” […]

Pressed on whether it was unfair to lop off the top of Mr. Obama’s comments — which would show the president was quoting the McCain camp — Rath said, “He did say the words. That’s his voice.”

There’s no way around this — the argument is just blisteringly stupid. Yes, Obama said those words, and yes, that’s the president’s voice, but the whole point of the controversy is that Romney wrenched the words from context, changing the meaning and deceiving the public.

It’s why ThinkProgress put together a video of Romney saying all kinds of interesting things, which, when taken out of context, show the former governor calling for higher taxes, insisting that there’s nothing unique about the United States, arguing that government knows better than free people, and rejecting the very idea of fiscal responsibility.

In each instance, to use Tom Rath’s reasoning, Romney “did say the words,” and that is Romney’s “voice.”

ABC News’ Jake Tapper said of Romney’s ad, “[I]t’s not just misleading. It’s TV-station-refuse-to-air-it-misleading.”

Agreed. Romney’s willingness to lie to voters raises important questions about his integrity, but the question now becomes whether television stations will participate in the lie by airing a spot that’s proven to be deceptive.

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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.