“What I said is not what I believe.” –Mitt Romney in interview with Fox
Romney was specifically referring to the 47 percent comment but this quote has attracted considerable attention today for what it says about Mitt Romney’s entire political career. As First Read commented, “Folks, that one sentence sums up Romney’s two failed presidential bids.”
In a polarized political world, disgust over Mitt Romney’s dishonesty is a rare thing which many on the left and right agreed about. Liberals objected to the manner in which Romney repeatedly lied about everything from Obama’s positions to economic statistics to questions on his own background during the campaign. Steve Benen documented 917 falsehoods during the campaign (and over the course of the year I noticed a few more which didn’t make the list).
Conservatives also distrusted him, believing that his conversion to far-right conservatism was opportunistic and not sincere. They were also right to mistrust him. Take this assessment of Romney from Daniel Larison at The American Conservative:
Of course, it never mattered whether Romney “really” believed what he was saying, because it became clear years ago that he would have said almost anything to win. In that case, it was a good bet that Romney was always more likely to lie to his audience than not, and for that reason he disqualified himself through sheer, overwhelming dishonesty. When in doubt, it was safe to assume that Romney was lying, and it was usually safe to assume the worst about his intentions. If there was a chance that he might cave in to hard-liners and ideologues in his party, there was no reason to believe that he would ever stand up to them. When the 47% remarks came out, it didn’t matter whether he believed what he had said, because he had been willing to say it and he had done so because he was so desperate to appeal to the worst elements in his party. As it was, everyone assumed that he didn’t believe what he was saying, but we attributed it to his unprincipled willingness to pander, which simply made his awful statements seem that much worse.
Romney told more falsehoods than most politicians, but other conservatives were coming close. To a considerable degree Romney’s falsehoods echoed the false narratives which are common in echo chamber of the conservative movement, as they falsely portray liberals as supporters of big government and out of control spending when this is a better description of actual Republican policies when they are in power. Newt Gingrich is often as out of touch with reality as any conservative, and at other times provides an accurate insight into politics. He was honest in an interview with Salon:
…I think conservatives in general got in the habit of talking to themselves. I think that they in a sense got isolated into their own little world. So our pollsters, many of whom were wrong about turnout. No Republican pollster thought you could get 87 percent turnout in Milwaukee. You just sort of have to say that to some extent the degree to which we believed that the other side was kidding themselves, it turned out in fact in the real world – this is a part of what makes politics so fascinating – it turned out in the real world we were kidding ourselves.
Reality intruded into predictions of the election outcome. Does Gingrich realize that the same isolation from reality applies to virtually all the noise now coming out of the conservative movement? Being out of touch with reality, as well as the beliefs of most Americans, is why the Republicans are now unable to win a national election.