If I were the editor of USA Today or McClatchy or the Associated Press or the New York Times, I’d tell all my writers that they must append the following blockquote to every mention of Mitt Romney from now until twenty years after he passes on. It was written by Steve Benen on November 2nd, 2012.
In a way, I blame my friend Greg Sargent. In the first week in January, he noted, almost in passing, that Mitt Romney seemed to be making a lot of false claims, and someone “really should document them all.” That struck me as a good idea, so I decided to tackle this on my own.
After all, I thought at the time, how hard could this be? Once a week, I’d let readers know about Romney’s whoppers, which I assumed would total about a half-dozen a week, and maybe after the election, I’d do a top 20 list of my favorites. The project would be a nice little Friday-afternoon feature.
Little did I know at the time that Romney would become an ambitious prevaricator, whose rhetoric would come to define post-truth politics. Nearly 11 months after Greg Sargent’s harmless suggestion, I’ve published 40 installments in this series, which, before today, featured 884 falsehoods. (If you include today’s edition, the new total is 917 falsehoods for the year.)
I wish that were a typo. It’s not.
Steve is only human and he missed a lot of lies. What he produced was monumental but still only the result of triage. Romney produced such a highly pressurized hydrant of bullshit that most of it didn’t even make the cut. Never in my life have I seen a man lie so easily and so shamelessly as Mitt Romney did in the 2012 election. Donald Trump?
Not even close.
And let’s be honest. The lies these two men tell are usually different in kind. It’s never easy to tell whether Trump believes what he’s saying or if he’s just repeating what he’s read off his eccentric list of website bookmarks. While some of his lies are witting and cunning and strategic, many of them are simply the ravings of a half-mad moron.
Mitt Romney was susceptible to groupthink, too, but most of his lies were consciously and deliberately made for no other reason than it seemed advantageous at the time to say something factually untrue. His voice and mannerisms never betrayed that he was bullshitting you, while Trump has many tells that help us differentiate between his prevarications. There’s a whole category, for example, which is simple defensiveness and which arises from personal insecurity. There’s another that is obvious vindictiveness. For Romney, he looked the same telling you it was raining on a sunny day as he did lying about the Social Security Trust Fund. Trump is a world-class liar, but it’s actually spite and malice and vanity that animate him. He will never be in Romney’s class because he a has some kind of (admittedly deformed) conscience about the truth. Romney has no conscience that I can detect whatsoever.
I bring this up because there has been an unfortunate and widespread rehabilitation of Mitt Romney ever since he lost and his party followed his queue into full-blown post-fact America.
Trump is so bad, particularly on foreign policy and national security issues, that liberals were pining for Romney to get the job as Secretary of State. For me, this was ludicrous. A man who lies like Mitt Romney cannot be trusted by anyone, including his family and friends. He’s uniquely unsuited to the job of diplomacy where part of the job is to make commitments that allies can trust.
I don’t know why Mitt Romney decided to tell the truth about Donald Trump, but it doesn’t count for anything because he effectively took it all back when he humiliated himself by going to Trump Tower and begging for a job. Anyone could see that Trump was leading him on only so he could deepen Romney’s embarrassment. We didn’t need Roger Stone to tell us this. The second he told Chris Christie to bring him some fries with that shake, we knew that Trump would revel in torturing Romney and make it as painful as possible.
And it was fully justified. Remember, Romney said “the country would sink into a prolonged recession” if Trump’s economic plan was attempted, that Trump is a business failure whose “bankruptcies have crushed small businesses and the men and women who worked for them.” Romney blasted Trump’s foreign policy, his Muslim ban, and said “dishonesty is Trump’s hallmark.” He said Trump’s personal qualities were bullying, greed, showing off, misogyny, and “absurd third grade theatrics.” He said that there is evidence that Trump is a con man and a fake. And he concluded with this:
Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.
His domestic policies would lead to recession. His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president. And his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill.
Why would Mitt Romney think for one moment that anyone, let alone a man as thin-skinned and vindictive as Donald Trump, would not only forgive him for making those personal attacks but give him the single most important job in his cabinet?
It can only be because for Romney words have no meaning. You can just say anything and no one should ever think of holding you accountable if you’re wrong or if it’s demonstrated that you were trying to deceive people. This expectation is evidently so ingrained in Romney’s character that he certainly can’t imagine being held accountable for telling the truth.
Even Mitt Romney’s Facebook post announcing that he didn’t get the job is a lie.
“My discussions with President-elect Trump have been both enjoyable and enlightening. I have very high hopes that the new administration will lead the nation to greater strength, prosperity and peace.”
We all know that’s the rankest bullshit. He didn’t enjoy sitting down with Trump and the only way it could possibly have been enlightening is by confirming his worst fears. Romney has no hope. That was extinguished the second he was passed over for the job.
Trump called Romney a choker, which I never thought was fair. But Romney is worse than a choker. He might as well have left his dignity at the front door of Trump Tower and lit it on fire.
He would have been a terrible Secretary of State and it would have given people a false confidence that disaster can be averted. I’m glad he didn’t get the job. I’ve listened to enough of his lies for this lifetime.