Plenty of politicians tell lies, but it takes a truly skillful one to lie and flip-flop on the same topic at the same time. Fortunately, Mitt Romney is up to the task.
This week's most notably Romney tall tale is his reaction to a speech President Obama gave, in which Obama restated, in more colorful, patriotic language, Calvin Coolidge's famous (and usually misquoted) line from 1925. Coolidge said, "After all, the chief business of the American people is business." Obama talked about some of the ways in which our government works hand-in-hand with business--a partnership that has made American businesses the most successful in the history of the world.
And here is what Mitt Romney said about that speech: “I just want to say it exactly as he said it. Speaking about small business and businesses of all kind, he said this: ‘If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.’”
Yeah, only...no. That's not what Obama said. Nor did he say what is quoted--through VERY selective editing--in an ad Romney has put out: "If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen."
I mean, yes, he said those words. He just didn't say them in that order, or mean what he has been edited to appear to mean.
What he really said was this:
"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
"The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.
"So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That's how we funded the GI Bill. That's how we created the middle class. That's how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That's how we invented the Internet. That's how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that's the reason I'm running for President -- because I still believe in that idea. You're not on your own, we're in this together."
Romney hasn't just misquoted the president once, though. What good is a lie if you don't keep repeating it? He's been doing it all week. He also said, "You can look at what he said. And what he said was this; he said, and I quote, and he's speaking, by the way, of business like this one; small businesses, big businesses, middle-sized businesses, mining businesses, manufacturing service businesses of all kinds. He said this; 'If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.'"
And he took it to even more ridiculous extremes: "The idea to say that Steve Jobs didn't build Apple, that Henry Ford didn't build Ford Motor, that Papa John didn't build Papa John Pizza, that Ray Kroc didn't build McDonald's, that Bill Gates didn't build Microsoft, you can go on to list.... To say something like that is not just foolishness, it's insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America, and it's wrong."
It would be wrong to say those things, because they wouldn't be true. What Governor Romney doesn't seem to notice is that HE is also saying things that aren't true, and saying them over and over again. He knows they're not true, but he doesn't let that knowledge stop him. In any universe, that's a lie.
But wait, I said he also flip-flopped on the issue, while simultaneously lying about it. That's what elevates this one to Lie of the Week status. Because in one of those speeches, Romney went on to say, "I know that you recognize a lot of people help you in a business. Perhaps the banks, the investors. There’s no question your mom and dad, your school teachers, the people that provide roads, the fire, the police. A lot of people help. But let me ask you this, did you build your business? If you did, raise your hand. Take that, Mr. President."
In other words, Romney is agreeing with exactly what the president said. The American system, including government, helps businesses thrive. We have a society that works toward that end. That's not a bad thing.
How often do you hear someone claiming not to agree with something that he made up, while at the same time agreeing with it? It's truly an event that will go down in the history of lying. Congratulations, governor. You're the champ.
The runner-up this week was when Governor Romney and others on the right, including Governor Mike Huckabee, flipped out and accused the president of acting illegally and unconstitutionally by offering states welfare-to-work waivers (not forcing them to accept the waivers, mind you, but giving them the option). What makes this a lie? The fact that by offering these waivers, the president was simply responding to a request made by Republican governors for exactly this waiver. Two of the signatories on a letter from 2005, asking for it? Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. Obnoxious and hypocritical, but it couldn't challenge this week's winner for sheer dishonesty.
Finally, our own Senator John McCain told a big, important truth on the Senate floor this week, calling out a big lie spread by Rep. Michelle Bachmann and others of her ilk. Thanks, Senator.