It’s almost starting to seem as if there’s a clever method underlying Mitt Romney’s nonstop flip-flops, falsehoods and all around dissembling. Perhaps the idea is to simply wear reporters and commentators down by trafficking in them so heavily that they throw up their hands and give up on trying to track or debunk them — in effect surrendering to flip-flop and falsehood fatigue.
My pick for read of the morning is Ron Brownstein’s tough piece on Romney marveling at his “nervy” strategy of painting opponents as ideologically inconsistent, his own most glaring liability:
The most consistent note in Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign is attacking his rivals for their ideological inconsistency. It’s a nervy strategy for a candidate whose own greatest vulnerability is the sense, especially among conservatives, that he has serially reconsidered his positions for political advantage on issues from abortion to gay rights to immigration.
But the former Massachusetts governor is enjoying enormous success in raising doubts about whether the rivals claiming ground to his right are truly committed to conservative principles, with Rick Santorum the latest victim in a one-sided CNN debate Wednesday night.
Romney recently attacked Santorum for supporting No Child Left Behind even though he has sounded supportive of it himself in the past. And Romney recently revealed he believes that “if all you’re thinking about doing is cutting spending, as you cut spending you’ll slow down the economy,” which is at odds with the economic conservativism he professes to believe in. Paul Krugman devotes a whole column today to the meaning of this claim, noting that Romney accidentally admitted that he believes in Keynsian economics — apostasy for the right — before Romney’s spokesperson quickly walked it back.
Some commentators have taken to suggesting that, hey, all this stuff shows that Romney doesn’t actually believe the stuff he’s spewing to get through the GOP primary; he’d govern as a moderate. (Also a surrender to flip-flop and falsehood fatigue.) Krugman rebuts:
The cynicism and lack of moral courage that have been so evident in the campaign wouldn’t suddenly vanish once Mr. Romney entered the Oval Office. If he doesn’t dare disagree with economic nonsense now, why imagine that he would become willing to challenge that nonsense later? And bear in mind that if elected, he would be watched like a hawk for signs of apostasy by the very people he’s trying so desperately to appease right now.
The truth is that Mr. Romney is so deeply committed to insincerity that neither side can trust him to do what it considers to be the right thing.
Fun thought experiment: Imagine the wall-to-wall media mockery that John Kerry or Al Gore would have endured if they’d tried even a fraction of the shenanigans Romney has resorted to so far.
* Romney to defend auto-bailout stance in speech: Relatedly, Romney is set to give a big speech today in Michigan on the economy. He’ll double down on his claim that the auto industry would be in better shape today if it weren’t for Obama’s bailout, somehow proving that government intervention in the economy is inherently bound to fail.
* Union to dog Romney over auto bailout: In response to today’s speech, the United Auto Workers is holding an event atop a nearby garage to draw attention to Romney’s opposition to the successful bailout of the auto industry.
According to a union ally: “Twenty-six American made cars will sit front and center spelling out Romney’s dooming words, `Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.’” The words weren’t really Romney’s, but his op-ed did predict that the bailout would lead to the industry’s “demise,” and this visual should punch its way into coverage of the speech.
* Obama allies push back on Romney speech: Steven Rattner, the lead adviser on Obama’s auto task force, is out with a pre-buttal to Romney’s speech in which he derides the idea that managed bankruptcies alone could have saved the industry as “utter fantasy.”
Rattner: “when markets fail, as they did for both autos and banks in 2008, government should have the ability — in fact, the obligation — to step in.” But the anti-goverment fundamentalism supposedly craved by GOP primary voters doesn’t allow for recognition of this, another sign of how far to the right the primary debate has drifted.
Also: Move On is up with a new ad on Michigan cable attacking Romney for being willing to let the auto industry fail.
* Obama re-elect reality check of the day: Dem pollster Stan Greenberg has released a memo putting Dems on notice that they shouldn’t get too complacent about recent GOP travails, because anger over the economy is still a serious problem for them.
Key nugget: The memo says there’s an “opening for a Republican candidate to challenge the White House on its management of the recovery and whether America is back,” because “two-thirds say America is in decline.”
* Elizabeth Warren keeps hitting Scott Brown over contraception: Warren has published an Op-ed in the Boston Globe today ripping Brown’s opposition to the birth control coverage mandate. Warren rebuts the claim that this is about religious liberty, and frames it as a health care issue for women and an economic issue for families.
Warren will continue to make this argument central to the Senate race — a test case for whether Dems can win by going on offense on the issue.
* Scott Brown continues dissembling over birth control: Brown also has an op ed up on the issue, in which he repeatedly dissembles about Obama’s mandate, falsely claiming it tells religious people “to do what you’re told,” when in fact it exempts religious institutions from covering birth control.
The op ed is a mark of Brown’s effort to drag this fight on to old culture war turf and to advance a subtext about Dems’ supposed hostility towards faith and religious values.
* Birth control battle headed for courts: Seven attorneys general are now suing the Obama administration to block the birth control mandate, alleging First Amendment violations, meaning another health care battle will be hashed out in the courts. The move will require the adminstration to elaborate its legal rationale, further elevating an issue that both sides seem convinced plays in their favor.
* GOP candidates a turn-off to Republican voters? Byron York offers a warning from the right: The antics of the GOP presidential candidates have grown so unsightly that Republican voters are souring on them, imperiling the party’s chances against Obama in November.
Also: Jeb Bush is now gently castigating the GOP candidates for “appealing to people’s fears and emotion,” another measure of rising GOP concern over the 2012 primary field’s drift into bizarro world.
* The politics of rising gas prices: Brian Beutler has an overview of the myths and realities at work in the latest installment of the perennial wars over gas prices, and why the latest political attacks over them are the work of “snake oil salesmen.”
* And gay marriage moves forward in Maryland: The Maryland state senate passes its same sex marriage bill, and the Governor is expected to sign it, another mark of how state-level battles are key to advancing the cause of gay rights nationally.
Also: With the measure facing opposition from African Americans, and facing a referendum fight this fall, gay rights activists will demand that Obama voice strong public support for it, another way the state-level breakthroughs are pressuring him to complete his evolution on the issue already.