Even a head of lettuce can see what’s happening here, and I am betting that many independent voters are not going to buy it. Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Rommey is actually now laying the ground work for not responding during a debate if Obama answers his charges — saying in effect that Obama will be lying so he might as well just talk about what he wants to talk about. Which will mean ignoring a debating retort and instead doing prepared attack lines (which could themselves be truth-challenged) or talking points. Read it for yourself:
With the first presidential debate less than three weeks away, Mitt Romney is spending lots of time getting ready behind closed doors. In his first comments on that debate prep, he told me that Sen. Rob Portman is a tough stand-in for a president who basically lies in debates.
“I think the challenge that I’ll have in the debate is that the president tends to, how shall I say it, to say things that aren’t true,” Romney said. “I’ve looked at prior debates. And in that kind of case, it’s difficult to say, ‘Well, am I going to spend my time correcting things that aren’t quite accurate? Or am I going to spend my time talking about the things I want to talk about?”
The former governor told me he’s tempted to use Ronald Reagan’s famous line against President Carter in a 1980 debate, “There you go again” — the same line that Bill Clinton turned on Romney and the Republicans at the Democratic convention in Charlotte.
1. This fits a pattern with Mitt Romney that is going to chase away all but his party’s most loyal base. It fits in with the (inaccurate) attack on Obama on welfare, the (inaccurate) attack on Obama on events in Libya and several other (inaccurate) attacks that fact checkers and reporters have debunked.
2. This fits in with his staffers’ comment that they’re not going to change what they’ll say due to fact checkers. In other words, to put it in Daffy Duck language, “Fact checkers schmack cherkers, what does it matter if it gets people angry at Obama?
3. This suggests that the next four weeks will be spent preparing the audience, painting Obama as a liar so that if Obama, for instance, cites Romney’s many positions on issues (Romney has displayed more positions than the Kama Sutra) he’ll ignore it, deliver more attack lines that could be inaccurate or just do his talking points.
4. Presidential debates have long been serious events where voters don’t just cheer on their own political sports team, but where candidates talk to voters in an intelligent way and are FORCED — rpt — FORCED to answer debating points raised by their opponents.
5. If he does “there you go again” there will be collective groan. It’s now a cliche. When Reagan did it, it was an original.
I predict if Romney ignores what Obama says and just does more charges and talking points he will lose and by a bigger margin than would happen if he answered the points.
Romney’s whole problem — as Joe Scarborough and other GOPers have pointed out — is that he’s running a campaign based on slogans, platitudes and negative charges.
He’ll have to engage on ISSUES at some point — and most of the public including many Republicans will expect him to focus on the debate, rather than not regurgitating attack points, parroting lines used on talk shows and/or and ignoring his opponent’s arguments.
And we have to add this:
Since WHEN in our political history has ANY candidate of ANY party going into the debates EVER accused his opponent of being a liar and suggested that his opponent was going to lie due the debates?
Romney has lowered the bar so many times and is doing so once again. And it’s a pity: there are many independent voters and centrist Democrats (they do exist) who are not happy with Barack Obama and they could vote for a thoughtful, serious, content-offering candidate.
And — based on this ABC interview — it sounds as if Mitt Romney during the debates doesn’t plan to be it.
SOME OTHER REACTION:
Psychologists have an acronym for what Mitt Romney is doing here: DARVO. It stands for Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender: Romney on Debates: Obama Will ‘Say Things That Aren’t True’.
The Romney campaign has been nothing more than an attempt to get into Guinness for the most sustained lies in an election campaign, and here is is accusing the President of dishonesty. So, alleged journalists, which one of you is going to ask the Romney campaign for an example of Obama lying in a debate. Anyone? Oh, yeah. Stenographers. My bad.
Confiding to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos yesterday, Mitt Romney explained that one of the biggest problems he’ll have in the upcoming presidential debates — aside from simulating a person-like demeanor for such an extended period of time, obviously — is that, as he says “the president tends to… say things that aren’t true.”
This is a problem. As we all know, Mitt Romney is physically and intellectually unable to lie. He’s never lied. He doesn’t know how to. So dealing with such a shifty maneuver from a professional flim-flam man like Obama will be tough for him to deal with. But he’s considering his options…
And on quoting Reagan:
Don’t do it, Mitt! It’s too big a gun to pull out in a civil debate. They’ll be scraping little tiny bits of Obama off the podium for weeks. Though, I can certainly see why he’d be “tempted” use such a powerful weapon. It’s been proven to work in the past. At least two times, actually.
Still, there’s got to be other — less nuclear — options for presidential quotes to pull out, dust off and repurpose for his own counter-attack. Such as…
* “Mister Obama, tear down this wall… of lies.”
* “I cannot tell a lie. But that guy over there sure can.”
* “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. And also Obama’s blatant disregard for the truth.”
* “Four score and seven years ago, Barack Obama was about four years old. And he was probably a dirty liar back then, too.”
* “The buck stops here. But all the lying stops over there by Obama’s podium.”
* “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what Obama is lying about this time, because he usually is.”
* “I’ve committed adultery in my heart. But Obama just committed lie-dultery right here on this stage.”
* “Read my lips. But don’t read his, because they’re just full of lies anyway.”
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.