Mitt Romney is not the most honest man in politics, but he may be among the smartest. Kevin Drum explains:
Blatant lying has always been routine in local races that don’t get a lot of press coverage, but the brighter media spotlight kept at least a bit of a lid on it in higher profile races. However, with the splintering of the mainstream national media in recent years and the rise of the web and social media, national politics is local again. And being called on your lies by the occasional earnest fact checker now matters about as much as it does when a local columnist for a weekly newspaper calls you on it.
It takes a while for people to realize that norms have changed and to take advantage of it. Lots of politicians are probably still reluctant to lie too brazenly because they’re still working under the old rules, where the national media might call you on it and it might actually make a difference. The smart ones have figured out that this isn’t how it works anymore. Romney’s one of the smart ones.
I’m not quite as pessimistic as Kevin: I think Romney’s standing has suffered at least a little bit because voters don’t trust him. But overall that diagnosis seems right to me.
In related news, Andrew Sprung, whose excellent blogging on health care policy I haven’t given nearly enough attention, developed a list of twelve rules that Romney seems to think should govern campaigning. For starters:
1. Context doesn’t matter. Anything you say I may use against you, e.g., by making it sound like you said the opposite.
2. My record shall be judged by different standards from that of my opponent. For example, job losses in my first year in office don’t count; in his, they shall define his entire record.
3. What I said 18, 10, 4, or 3 years ago doesn’t matter. Erase it from your mind. I’ve been as consistent as human beings (all three of me) can be.
4. When confronted directly with past positions that seem to contradict current ones, I may so thoroughly bend the positions back against each other that none shall be able to penetrate my paradoxes.
The whole list is worth reading.