WASHINGTON -- Former White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Sunday lit into Mitt Romney's recent debate performance, calling the Republican presidential nominee's claims "fundamentally dishonest" and "absolutely crazy."
"The underpinnings and foundations of that performance were fundamentally dishonest," Gibbs said on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." "He walked away from the central tenet of his economic theory by saying he had no idea what the president was talking about. Ten minutes after the debate, even his own staff is walking back his answers on health care and preexisting conditions."
During the debate on Wednesday, Romney insisted that there is no tax break for corporations sending jobs offshore. In fact, there are several tax perks associated with offshoring. Moving costs can be explicitly deducted from a company's tax bill, and corporations do not have to pay tax on revenues earned overseas in tax havens until they bring the money back to the United States -- giving businesses an incentive to move work abroad and keep money offshore.
Romney's own campaign adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, also quickly walked back Romney's debate claim that the former Massachusetts governor's health care proposal will guarantee affordable insurance for people with pre-existing conditions.
President Barack Obama, in a performance that was widely panned, failed to correct Romney on the distortions he presented during the debate. The Obama campaign has been doing damage control in the days since, belatedly challenging Romney's assertions and highlighting lies he told.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), a top Obama surrogate, blasted Romney's tax and budget proposal during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday."
"We saw Big Bird meet the big lie," O'Malley said, noting that Romney has voiced his support for expensive tax rate deductions, while refusing to specify loopholes and other tax breaks that he would end to pay for the new perks. "There are costs to those tax cuts … Governor Romney has not said what his secret plan is for paying for these $5 trillion in tax cuts. Just like he will not talk about where his tax returns have been or how much money he has offshore."
A non-partisan analysis from the Tax Policy Center found that there is no way to pay for the tax rate reductions Romney has proposed without raising taxes on the middle class. Those rate reductions would cost $5 trillion, according to the analysis, and Obama characterized Romney's plan as a $5 trillion tax cut during the debate. That statement that has drawn fire from conservatives who note that Romney has also proposed closing loopholes and ending deductions in the tax code, and the Romney campaign is currently running a television ad accusing Obama of misrepresenting Romney's plan by using the $5 trillion figure.
Romney adviser Ed Gillespie, appearing on "This Week," repeated Romney's debate claim that six other studies back up his contention that he can pay for the tax cuts without eliminating benefits for the middle class. As HuffPost reported in mid-September, however, three of the so-called studies are blog posts or opinion columns, and others say that Romney would have to eliminate perks for those making $100,000 a year in order to pay for his plan. Romney, meanwhile, supports extending the Bush-era tax cuts for those who make over $250,000 a year, which means he would have to raise taxes on people making between $100,000 and $250,000 while explicitly maintaining tax breaks for people making more than $250,000.
Gibbs echoed the idea that the numbers don't work out.
"I mean, let's be clear, Paul Ryan a week ago was asked about the math for this, and Paul Ryan said, look, the math takes too long," Gibbs said. "Well, Mitt Romney’s solution is he just decided there wasn’t math involved in this problem, and that’s absolutely crazy."
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), appearing alongside Gibbs, argued that Obama's efforts over the past four years have not cured the country of its economic malaise.
"The policies this president put in place actually made [the economy] worse," Ayotte said. "Gas prices have doubled, the middle class is being buried."
"The president, because he has the responsibility of office, has been specific about what he proposes," O'Malley responded. "And Mitt Romney tells us to trust him. His plan is hiding behind door number three with Carol Merrill and his undisclosed tax returns."