From Mitt Romney’s very first ad — the one where he showed President Obama saying that “if we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose” — there’s been something different here. (What the ad did not reveal was that Obama was quoting his opponent’s campaign. Like quoting a film critic saying, “ANYONE will enjoy this film” without the preceding four words: “There’s no conceivable way . . .”)
If you missed it, this post made the case that — uncomfortable as it is for me to say about a fellow Harvard Business School grad (or anyone, really) — and rising to a level significantly above that of normal political double-talk — Governor Romney is not reliably truthful.
Which brings us to:
By RICHARD COHEN
Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at 3:00 a.m.
Among the attributes I most envy in a public man (or woman) is the ability to lie. If that ability is coupled with no sense of humor, you have the sort of man who can be a successful football coach, a CEO or, when you come right down to it, a presidential candidate. Such a man is Mitt Romney.
Time and time again, Romney has been called a liar during this campaign. (The various fact-checking organizations have had to work overtime on him alone.) A significant moment, sure to surface in the general election campaign, came during a debate held in New Hampshire in January. David Gregory, the host of “Meet the Press,” turned to Newt Gingrich and said, “You have agreed with the characterization that Gov. Romney is a liar. Look at him now. Do you stand by that claim?”
Gingrich did not flinch. “Sure,” he started off, and then accused Romney of running ads that were not true and, moreover, pretending he knew nothing about them. “It is your millionaire friends giving to the PAC. And you know some of the ads aren’t true. Just say that straightforward.”
Me, I would have confessed and begged for forgiveness. Not Romney, though — and herein is the reason he will be such a formidable general election candidate. He concedes nothing. He had seen none of the ads, he said. They were done by others, he added. Of course, they are his supporters, but he had no control over them. All this time he was saying this rubbish, he seemed calm, sincere — matter of fact.
And then he brought up an ad he said he did see. It was about Gingrich’s heretical support for a climate change bill. He dropped the name of the extremely evil Nancy Pelosi. He accused Gingrich of criticizing Paul Ryan’s first budget plan, an Ayn Randish document whose great virtue is a terrible honesty. (We are indeed going broke.) He added that Gingrich had been in ethics trouble in the House and ended with a promise to make sure his ads were as truthful as could be. Pow! Pow! Pow! Gingrich was on the canvas.
I watched, impressed. I admire a smooth liar, and Romney is among the best. His technique is to explain — that bit about not knowing what was in the ads — and then counterattack. He maintains the bulletproof demeanor of a man who is barely suffering fools, in this case Gingrich. His message is not so much what he says, but what he is: You cannot touch me. I have the organization and the money. Especially the money. (Even the hair.) You’re a loser.
There are those who maintain that President Barack Obama, too, is a liar. The president’s recent attack on Ryan’s new budget proposal sent countless critics scurrying to their thesauruses for ways to say “lie” — “comprehensively misrepresenting” is the way George F. Will put it. (He also said Obama “is not nearly as well educated as many thought.”) Obama does indeed sometimes play politics with the truth, as when he declared that a Supreme Court reversal of his health care law would be unprecedented. He then backed down. Not what he meant, he said.
But where Romney is different is that he is not honest about himself. He could, as he did just recently, stand before the National Rifle Association as if he was, in spirit as well as membership, one of them. In body language, in blinking of the eyes, in the nonexistent pounding pulse, there was not the tiniest suggestion that here was a man who just as confidently once embodied the anti-gun ethic of Massachusetts, the distant land he once governed. Instead, he tore into Obama for the (nonexistent) threat the president posed to Second Amendment rights — a false accusation from a false champion.
A marathon of debates and an eon of campaigning have toughened and honed Romney. He commands the heights of great assurance and he knows, as some of us learn too late in life, that the truth is not always a moral obligation but sometimes merely what works. He often cites his business background as commending him for the presidency. That’s his forgivable absurdity. Instead, what his career has given him is the businessman’s concept of self — that what he does is not who he is. Business is business. It’s what you do. It is not who you are. Lying isn’t a sin. It’s a business plan.
Richard Cohen is a columnist for the Washington Post.
Which Martin Bashir, citing chapter and verse, argues could be a problem for an elder of the Mormon Church.
And which is also the premise of Paul Krugman’s as-always spot-on post:
The Amnesia Candidate
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: April 22, 2012
Just how stupid does Mitt Romney think we are? If you’ve been following his campaign from the beginning, that’s a question you have probably asked many times.
But the question was raised with particular force last week, when Mr. Romney tried to make a closed drywall factory in Ohio a symbol of the Obama administration’s economic failure. It was a symbol, all right — but not in the way he intended.
First of all, many reporters quickly noted a point that Mr. Romney somehow failed to mention: George W. Bush, not Barack Obama, was president when the factory in question was closed. Does the Romney campaign expect Americans to blame President Obama for his predecessor’s policy failure?
Yes, it does. Mr. Romney constantly talks about job losses under Mr. Obama. Yet all of the net job loss took place in the first few months of 2009, that is, before any of the new administration’s policies had time to take effect. So the Ohio speech was a perfect illustration of the way the Romney campaign is banking on amnesia [continued …]
Guru: “The biota press release says they were looking to raise $50-$55 million in the least dilutive way possible. There are 44.44 million fully diluted shares at Nabi. $30/44.44 = 0.67/share in cash. Then you get 26% of the new company. If you assume that Biota is worth no more than it was before the transaction, then you get 26% of $180 million/44.44 = $1.05/share in newco, so the total is worth $1.72. A takeunder. On the other hand, according to the Biota presentation, they are paying a 19% premium to the $54 million in cash they are getting, or 1.446/share for Nabi, in which case the deal is worth 1.446 + 0.67 = 2.116, or a slight increase over my estimate of the cash in the bank at Nabi as of the end of March 2012. . . . Biota gets royalties from a flu drug licensed to Glaxo. Varies with whether there is a worldwide pandemic. They have a second generation product in development that is longer lasting, could be useful for prevention. They have also completed successful Phase II trials for a rhinovirus (common cold) drug, partnered with Astra Zeneca (AZN). Phase III should start this year. . . . Does this pipeline excite me? Not really. I did expect NABI would pull off some kind of merger like this, but had no idea which one. I’m afraid NABI can be put into the pile of TTNP, FCSC and a number of others that would have been best avoided.”