The Obama campaign failed to prepare for Mitt's mendacity. That might have been a forgivable sin if it had been the first time. But, Romney did last night exactly what he had done in the primary to Newt Gingrich who, after discovering that Romney could lie even more blatantly than he does, went on national television and called Romney a liar, but by then it was all over.
Let's face it. Anyone who can stun Newtie to silence by the depths of his lying is one helluva prevaricator.
This tactic was so obvious that I had predicted exactly what Romney would do. It was apparent from his trial ballooning for the last two weeks, and the right wing's lack of response to Romney's abandonment of everything he had promised them that he could do this, and they would have his back.
Note: Had Romney just strung together his responses into a speech that were not part of the debate, the headlines would have been akin to Paul Ryan's coming out of the Republican National Convention speech--nearly everything he said was a lie. Instead, because it was a debate, our lamestream media (and, thanks, Sarah, you got that one right!) focused on who won the accolades, not what they said. One suspects that the Obama camp, not distinguishing what he could get away with in a debate versus a speech, discounted the likelihood that Romney would be so consistently outrageous because it would be detrimental to him. That is why following polls or the DC punditry can be dangerous to a campaign's health.
From a candidate's perspective, that complaint is hollow. A campaign needs to take the environment seriously, no matter how irrational or distasteful it seems. The political "pundits" are into the horse race, so one has to gear the performance to the standards. Moreover, the race was getting too far out of reach for Romney, and the media prefer close races to boost viewership.
Now, suddenly, Romney is not a right-wing zealot. Now, suddenly, he is going to keep parts of ObamaCare (however, it is not possible without causing his friends in the insurance industry to go bankrupt, but I suppose Bain could take them over then). Now, suddenly, he is not handing the rich another juicy tax cut. Now, suddenly he thinks the President should have done for the country what he did in Massachusetts, but he will still repeal ObamaCare.
It was surprising that the President's answer to why not repeal ObamaCare wasn't, "for 100 years, 7 presidents have tried to get healthcare for Americans. Finally, we did it. After a 100 year battle, of course you go forward, not backward. Of course, you keep equal treatment for women, of course you continue all the insurance reforms including pre-existing conditions, no dropping coverage, no lifetime caps, of course you keep Medicare solvent until 2024 whereas repeal would make Medicare insolvent in a few years, of course you keep coverage for women's reproductive health....need I go on. Why would any American, except a politician looking for a way to fool you, want to go backward?
I am most surprised, however, that the President did not present a single salient fact that would have rescued the performance: that by repealing ObamaCare, Medicare goes bust in 2016, so seniors over 55--do NOT turn off the sound!
But, pathological liars wear people down, and responding would certainly wear down the television audience. In that format especially, it is difficult to respond to all the lies, or abrupt changes in position.
The DC "pundits" also missed it. None of them looked at Mitt's recent history, or contemplated that Mitt was raising trial balloons prior to the debate. Yet, there they were, waxing eloquent into the wee hours of the morning, stating that now Romney is going to have to get specific, and that Obama should depend on Joe Biden to staunch the bleeding when he debates Ryan in 10 days. GMAFB.
Please, Obama campaign, don't listen to any of them.
Pointing out the litany of Romney's lies does not do it either. The key is for the public to "get", in the deepest recesses of their psyches and bones, that Romney is a liar, a man who cannot be trusted about anything, certainly not your future. With the start made on Romney's taxes, Bain Capital, engrafting "pathological liar" onto his character should not be difficult.
But, unlike Newtie, whose run was over before it began, neither the President nor the campaign can call Romney a liar. All that does is provoke an escalating war of words, and all Romney needs to survive such a character test is confusion among the public.
What we need is a well-respected arbiter who can make the case, and not be a target.
Enter, William Jefferson Clinton.
Former President Clinton is today's Walter Cronkite ("the most trusted man in America"). The former president needs to make two points:
1. Never in the history of presidential campaigning has anyone lied so blatantly, repeatedly and seemingly without embarrassment. That type of person is a pathological liar. You cannot trust a pathological liar; and,
2. Romney is running a stealth campaign. Not only will he not tell you what he wants to do, he is masking what the Republicans will do if they gain control. Look at what they have done to women, to voting rights, to workers rights, to the environment when they gained control of state governments, but having run on none of it, saying they wanted to create jobs.
If Clinton made an ad in which he says, "never in the history of presidential campaigning, has anyone lied so blatantly, repeatedly and seemingly without embarrassment". And, while he is at it, he might mention that Republicans have long based their policies on making up facts and ignoring reality. "My fellow Americans, we learned in the last 10 years that you cannot eat, drive, fill up your tanks or go to school with fairy dust. Nor does it cure your illnesses".
President Clinton should also ask the American people to stop a moment and think--are the billionaires who are paying hundreds of millions of dollars to get Romney elected, are they doing that because they care about your jobs?
And, then he should close: "anyone who would do what Mitt Romney did last night cannot be put in a position of trust. You cannot entrust your lives or your children's future to him. He does not deserve your trust. And, you cannot risk what he would do with it."
Do not wait until the Vice-President's debate. Do not wait until the next Presidential debate.
This is no trivial matter. On President Clinton's words may rest the future of Social Security, the future of Medicare, the future of Medicaid, peace in the middle east, workers' rights, the health of our environment, and the chances for the middle class to recover from the debacle of his successor.
Why? Because mendacious Mitt will scuttle all of them if he is elected. Has he ever said what he would sign, or not sign, if Jim DeMint's gang presents him with laws to abolish the EPA, Regulatory Reform, A Personhood Amendment for DC, repeal of Lily Ledbetter Act, repeal of the Voting Rights Act, and so forth?
Once former Clinton's words seep into the general psyche, Democrats will actually gain an advantage from tonight's debate. Democrats are the party of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. By lying so blatantly, Romney can now be challenged directly on the issue of trust. Voters were unlikely to trust Romney and Ryan on these programs anyhow, now there is footage galore that can be interwoven without distortion to show people how risky a bet Romney/Ryan is.
And, take the 47% Ad, for example, and alter it slightly by saying, "this is what Mitt Romney says in public", followed by a quote from the debate about his caring for people, and then say, "but this is what Mitt Romney says in private", followed by part of the 47% tape. The announcer should then say, "Can you really trust Mitt Romney when he says......[fill in the blank].
The same can be done with other issues from taxes, to Romney/Obama Care, to Medicare and so forth.
But, first things first. The nation needs Bill Clinton, again.
[p.s. Joe Biden ought to go after trust strongly--and with Paul Ryan, he has a ready-made foil for it. "He follows an alien philosophy, from novels of a Russian philosopher, Ayn Rand. Of course, he tries to run away from that now, but ask his staff why he hands out Ayn Rand books to them".]