“Mr. ‘Severely Conservative’ wants you to think he was severely kidding about everything he said over the last year.... We’ve got to name this condition he’s going through. I think it’s called ‘Romnesia.’”
— President Obama, Oct. 19, 2012
In his stump speeches, President Obama has added a light-hearted attack on Mitt Romney that argues that the GOP presidential candidate suffers from “Romnesia” — an ailment that Obama mischievously adds is a preexisting condition that would be covered under the new health-care law.
Early in the election campaign, Democrats tried to make the argument that Romney is a flip-flopper, and we took an extensive look at their claims. (We found three correct statements out of ten items.) But then Democrats dropped the idea--until now.
Obama is fairly specific in his examples, so here is a quick round-up and analysis of Obama’s claims of “Romnesia” made during in appearance in Fairfax, Va., earlier in October.
“If you say you’re for equal pay for equal work, but you keep refusing to say whether or not you’d sign a bill that protects equal pay for equal work, you might have Romnesia.”
Obama is referring to the Lilly Ledbetter Act, the first bill he signed as president. The law updated the statute of limitations for wage discrimination claims, making it easier to pursue such claims.
The Romney campaign did not answer a question about whether Romney would have supported the law during a conference call with reporters last April. Then, in a later interview with Diane Sawyer, Romney declined to say whether he would have signed the Ledbetter Act but added that he had “no intention of changing that law.”
Similarly, the Romney campaign has said that the candidate supports “pay equity” for women but has refused to answer questions on whether he backs a bill touted by Democrats called the Paycheck Fairness Act. So, this claim is largely accurate.
“If you say women should have access to contraceptive care but you support legislation that would let your employer deny you contraceptive care, you might have a case of Romnesia.”
Romney says he believes all women should have access to contraception but has made it clear he opposes a mandate in the health- care law that requires employers to provide contraceptive care to employees. He also supported legislation, known as the Blunt amendment, that would have allowed employers to opt out of the mandate if it went against their “beliefs or moral convictions.” (The Blunt amendment was killed in the Senate.)
Obama misleadingly frames this as denying contraceptive care, but actually it is a question of providing the option as part of a health plan. Even before passage of the heath-care law, more than half of the states already required such coverage. (We had earlier rapped Democrats for over-the-top rhetoric on the Blunt amendment.)
“If you say you’ll protect a woman’s right to choose but you stand up at a primary debate and said that you’d be delighted to sign a law outlawing that right to choose in all cases then you definitely have Romnesia.”
Obama sets up a bit of a straw man at the start.
Romney has flipped his position on abortion, but says he is now opposed to abortion rights, with specific exceptions. He has not said recently that he would “protect a woman’s right to choose,” but rather that “there’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda” — awkward phrasing that his campaign later had to clarify. “Mitt Romney is proudly pro-life, and he will be a pro-life president,” a spokeswoman later said.
As for the comment at “a primary debate,” this was a primary debate in 2007. Moreover, Obama is relying just on a snippet of Romney’s answer to a question, in which Romney made clear he believed that the nation is not ready to repeal Roe v. Wade.
As we have noted, Romney’s official position is that abortion should be legal in instances of rape, incest and when it’s necessary to protect a woman’s life.
“If you say earlier in the year I’m going to give a tax cut to the 1 percent, and then in a debate you say, ‘I don’t know anything about giving tax cuts to rich folks,’ you need to get a thermometer, take a temperature, because you’ve probably got Romnesia.”
Obama catches Romney on some of his shifting rhetoric on his plan to overhaul taxes. During the GOP primaries, Romney emphasized the tax-cut part of the plan, including this quote at a debate in February: “We’re going to cut taxes on everyone across the country by 20 percent, including the top 1 percent.”
More recently, Romney has stressed that the plan is revenue-neutral, thanks to eliminating tax deductions for the wealthy that he has declined to identify. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has calculated that there are not enough deductions to fill the revenue hole from cutting tax rates by 20 percent — a finding the Romney campaign disputes.
“If you say that you’re a champion of the coal industry when while you were governor you stood in front of a coal plant and said, ‘This plant will kill you,’ that’s Romnesia.”
Romney, as Massachusetts governor, supported clean-air regulations that placed new emissions standards on power plants. When the owner of a coal-burning Boston area power station sought an extension, Romney held a news conference in 2003 near the plant saying he would stand firm on the deadline: “I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people, and that plant — that plant kills people.”
But in the 2012 presidential campaign, Romney had sought support in the coal-industry areas by decrying Obama’s so-called “war on coal,” because of federal emissions standards. The Columbus Dispatch recently noted that “emissions from the Salem Harbor [Massachusetts] plant that ‘kills people’ were lower than many of the Ohio coal-powered plants that are now choosing not to retool to meet federal standards.”
The Pinocchio Test
The overall scorecard for Obama’s “Romnesia” jabs is not bad. He pushes the envelope when talking about contraception and especially abortion, potentially the Three Pinocchio category, but nails Romney on his shifting position on taxes and emissions — and his nonposition on pay equity. Overall, the president’s riff earns One Pinocchio.
Check out our candidate Pinocchio Tracker
Track each presidential candidate's campaign ads