Winston Churchill once called a political opponent “the greatest living master of falling without hurting himself.” GOP presidential aspirant Mitt Romney has achieved a similar feat. He has flip-flopped more than once within a single week — breaking, or re-breaking, an ankle each time.
If Romney’s performance wasn’t so comical and misleading, I’d almost pity him. Instead, I feel sorry for Republicans who have been disappointed by this crop of candidates.
This group reminds me of a tweet from a young pro-democracy Egyptian I met recently while traveling through Israel and the West Bank: “Our candidates are disappointing us even before they’re elected.”
Romney said recently of President Barack Obama, “He made the recession worse and the recovery more anemic.”
Romney’s Republican audience ate up his statement. But shortly after spewing those words, he had to eat them.
Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler reminded Romney that the National Bureau of Economic Research officially declared the recession over six months after Obama took office.
And The Associated Press declared that, “Obama did not, as Romney alleged, make the economy worse than it was when he took office.”
Here are some more truths for Romney:
— Private-sector employment increased during the last 15 consecutive months. (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
— Obama’s policies have increased the number of people employed during the first quarter of 2011 (Congressional Budget Office).
— The Recovery Act added 2.4 to 3.6 million jobs during the first quarter of 2011 (Council of Economic Advisers).
Confronted with these facts, Romney flipped, but not in the way you might expect. He didn’t retract his original statement or comments; he simply claimed never to have made them.
“I didn’t say that things are worse,” Romney told a reporter. “What I said was that the economy hasn’t turned around.”
Mr. Romney, you do know that folks tend to take notes during these kinds of events? You claimed on the record — more than once — that President Obama had made the recession worse. By suggesting he never made these comments, Romney is pushing the limits of the GOP silliness.
Caught with his facts down, Romney flopped back on the Fourth of July. He claimed, before a group of voters, that, “the recession is deeper because of our president.”
As political columnist Steve Benen observed, “Romney is arguing, at the exact same time, that the ‘recession’ is worse and that there’s been an economic ‘recovery.’”
Another example: The Republican National Committee recently put out a statement suggesting that the stimulus cost thousands of dollars per job created. Yet, at the same time, Republican talking heads suggested that the stimulus did not create a single job.
Of course, among Republicans, flip-flopping well is merely a venial sin. Doing it badly is a cardinal one. If Romney keeps flopping over his flips, Republican primary voters may begin to doubt his ability to run against the well-tuned Obama campaign in 2012.
Say what you will about GOP primary voters, they know how to sniff out a lack of authenticity. They also recognize that the problems our country faces are serious ones. It doesn’t matter if you’re a conservative Republican in Iowa or a liberal Democrat in Nevada, you know that we need more responsible adults in the room to get things done.
If Candidate Romney wants to be President Romney, he should put hyper-partisan politics aside, show some genuine leadership, and be truthful about the state of the economic recovery. American voters of all stripes will respect him the more for it.
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