THE BLOG
01/18/2008 10:45 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Mitticisms: "Running"

Ever since Tuesday's Michigan Miracle -- when Mitt Romney won his home state, and all it took was outspending his three closest competitors combined -- Romney has a new campaign persona: Shrewd Businessman. Forget the wacko who wants to send Juno to Gitmo. (And she did the right thing in the end anyway, wasn't that cute?) The new Mitt is all about economics. Which is why you keep seeing him make his stump speech in the toner aisle at Staples.

The difference between toner and Mitt's core beliefs? Changing toner takes a little time.

John McCain may have the VFW, and Mike Huckabee has the church; Mitt's America is a place where you can buy Post-Its in bulk.

So you can understand why Mitt got miffed when a reporter ruined his photo opportunity yesterday, by sassing back at a Staples in Columbia. It was like talking in temple.

If you haven't seen the video, here's the exchange:

Romney: "...rather than continuously look for partisan opportunities for score settling and for opportunities to link closer to lobbyists. I don't have lobbyists running my campaign. I don't have lobbyists that are tied to my --"

Glen Johnson (Associated Press): "That's not true governor. That is not true. Ron Kaufman's a lobbyist. How can you say that you don't have lobbyists?"

Romney: "Did you hear what I said? Did you hear what I said Glen?"

Johnson: "That you don't have lobbyists running your campaign."

Romney: "I said I don't have lobbyists running my campaign and he's not running my campaign."

Johnson: "He's one of your senior advisers."

Romney: "He's an adviser, and the person who runs my campaign is Beth Myers..."

It's too bad Johnson cut Romney off before he could finish the sentence: "I don't have lobbyists that are tied to my..." because unless the next word was "car" he was heading for a blatant lie.

Ron Kaufman is the chairman of Dutko Worldwide. They're lobbyists, mostly for HMOs and the telecommunications industry. Another Romney adviser is Vin Weber, of Clark & Weinstock. His lobbying clients include a French bank tied to Saddam Hussein and the UN oil-for-food scandal. He also represents clients in the arms industry and pharmaceuticals - which should cancel each other out, when you really think about it.

When Mitt Romney was born, his father was working as a lobbyist for Alcoa. Does that count as "ties?" And that really happened. There are pictures and everything. Unlike the time he and Rosa Parks went on safari.

But Romney didn't get to finish his thought. So instead, we get to enjoy what Aristotle (yes, him again) called The Fallacy of Accent.

The Fallacy of Accent (350 BC, and still fresh!) is the difference between "Lobbyists aren't running my campaign" and "Lobbyists aren't running my campaign."

(Technically, Aristotle was describing how changing the inflection of a Greek word could change its meaning. But that's not how we use it. Which isn't to say you can't use it that way. Knock yourself out.)

We use it to describe how the emphasis on one word or another in a statement can create ambiguity. What Johnson heard was Mitt saying he didn't like lobbyists. What Mitt meant was he didn't like lobbyists in charge.

Gosh! My campaign is crawling with them like maggots on road kill and I couldn't be happier! But running the joint? Heavens no!

What did you think I meant?

Was ever a conman so misunderstood?

It takes a really practiced scamp to pull off the Fallacy of Accent. But it's sooo rewarding, once you get the hang of it. Let's take a hypothetical example:

"You'll never catch me lying about being a total dick."

It could mean: "There are some people who are total dicks, and they lie about it." The way the lobbyist thing was a dig at John McCain.

But it could also mean:

"You'll never catch me lying about being a total dick."

Okay, I'm a bit of a dick. Aren't we all?

Or:

"You'll never catch me lying about being a total dick."

Yeah, I'm a dick, but at least I'm upfront about it.

Or:

"You'll never catch me lying about being a total dick."

I might be a dick, but I have an escape plan.

Or:

You'll never catch me lying about being a total dick.

I'm a dick, but I'm smarter than you, Glen Johnson.

The possibilites are endless, as long as the truth doesn't matter. So maybe it's okay that Mitt Romney lives every waking minute like a linguistic leprechaun outsmarting treasure hunters; at least it's a change of pace from our current president, Hulk Smash. What gets me down about the new video is how huffy he gets when confronted. That's gonna get old.

WHAT MITT MEANT:

I've got more lobbyists than Grandpa had wives. But running things? That's all controlled by Kolob, through the Quorum of the Twelve.

HOW TO USE "RUNNING" AT HOME:

Was I running around with my secretary? No, of course I wasn't running around. Not with my secretary...