Mitt Romney lied to an audience in Iowa on Tuesday by spouting one of his favorite falsehoods: the Environmental Protection Agency wants to regulate farm dust.
Romney has been repeating this particular lie since at least late 2011. He has been corrected again and again, only to reiterate the lie again and again, just as he did on Tuesday.
What does it say about the character of a presidential candidate that he would lie to Americans and try to frighten farmers with proven falsehoods? Even if one were to be more generous and lay the blame with the campaign, is it ineptitude or cynicism that allows that lie to be repeated so persistently? Or is this just evidence of the alternative reality for facts that have become a defining feature of Romney's campaign?
The paranoid urban myth (perhaps rural myth is more accurate) about farm dust was hatched by industry lobbyists back in 2011, then began to circulate among conservative bloggers, then was repeated by Republicans in Congress.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson immediately set the record straight by making clear the EPA was not going to regulate farm dust. She indicated the agency would not even propose taking the action that critics were claiming - falsely and mendaciously - would result in regulating farm dust. The head of EPA's air program testified in Congress that it was a myth that the EPA was planning to regulate farm dust.
Senator Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), the sponsor of a Senate bill to exempt farm dust from regulation--non-existent regulation, mind you--announced himself satisfied that the EPA had no plan or intention to regulate farm dust: "EPA has finally provided what I've been asking for all along: unequivocal assurance that it won't attempt to regulate farm dust."
In June, true to Jackson's word, the EPA proposed not to change the Clean Air Act's "coarse particle" pollution standard at all, which should have put to rest once and for all any rumor that the EPA planned to regulate farm dust. The agency said that it would continue to maintain the standard set in 1987 by the Reagan administration, a standard that also does not regulate farm dust.
Now that Mr. Romney has been caught in this flagrant lie, it will be interesting to see how his campaign apparatus will respond. Maybe they will stir up fears about the EPA's wicked heart:
"How do you really know EPA does not want to regulate farm dust and destroy capitalism?"
Maybe they will pivot with evasions that build on the original lie as fact: "Oh, EPA wanted to regulate farm dust all right until Republicans stopped them, but they still want to and will jump at the chance unless I am in the oval office."
The frustrating truth is the campaign will probably display a "What, me worry?" attitude about getting caught lying. Again. If he has done it before and he has gotten this far, then it must be working, right?
Knowing the futility of what I'm about to ask, I have to pose this simple question anyway: Mr. Romney, you say that the EPA "wants to regulate dust" from farms. Prove it, please. Where has EPA said that? Document and page number?
In the meantime, please stop lying to us. Please stop throwing dust in our eyes and pretending Americans deserve a president who evidently will say anything to get elected.