The Joe McCarthy character in The Manchurian Candidate can’t keep track of how many Communists he’s claiming have infiltrated the government, so his wife – also his KGB handler – picks the number 57 off a Heinz ketchup bottle and tells him that’s the official number.

It’s been clear for some time that Mitt Romney’s “100,000 jobs created” number has essentially the same provenance as “57 Communists.” When challenged on the number earlier, the surrogate super-PAC that was running ads based on it simply said “We aren’t supplying that information.” Now the campaign claims that the figure is a gross figure, based mostly on job growth at Staples, while the candidate himself insists that it’s a “net-net” figure.

Too much to hope, of course, that reporters other than Glenn Kessler and Calvin Woodward will do actual reporting on this, but it’s possible that the Democrats will be able to keep it alive. I like Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s “job cremator” line, and I hope we hear more of it.

Of course in real life “job creation” is a slippery concept, and how Romney operated his vulture-capitalist enterprise isn’t all that relevant to his potential as a President. But his utterly post-modern attitude toward fact – leading him to make what Orwell referred to as statements not even bearing as much relationship to the truth as an ordinary honest lie – is a central character issue. It is no accident, comrades, that Romney is Karl Rove’s favorite candidate.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Mark Kleiman

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.