By the end of the first presidential debate, conservatives were gloating, liberals were confused, and fact checkers were mainlining caffeine, as they knew that there was a long night ahead. Bloggers like me were busy snatching key quotes from both candidates and using them to press the case for our candidate and against the opposition. As discussed as this debate has been, I found a much more important discussion that occurred two days later on CNN between Soledad O’Brien and Representative Phil Gingrey.
On her show, Starting Point, Ms. O’Brien asked Gingrey about the fact that Romney changed his stance on many of the issues discussed during the debate. She charged that his flip-flop is perceived by the general public as lying. Gingrey attempted to justify this change in policy by saying that it is normal for candidates to campaign on the extreme end of their political spectrum and go back towards the center close to the election. He described this change in philosophy as “good campaign tactics without violating one’s principle.”
Before the thought had even fully formed in my mind, O’Brien said exactly what I feel about this idea. She responded, “For me, regular voter, I hear that and I think this is kind of what is wrong with politics. You just described – we take one tactic and then you are going to change your position when talking to another audience…. I think for a lot of voters it just feels like, so basically campaigning can be lying.”
It disgusts me that the fact that his campaign is full of lies that are meant to pacify whatever audience Romney is speaking to at the time is not only accepted by conservatives, but it is applauded as a good campaign tactic. One of the worst examples of this change came after the debate when Romney’s defense of his 47 percent comment was released.
In mid-September, a video of Romney that had been secretly taken during a private fundraiser for wealthy donors was released online. In response to a question about how he could win the election, Romney stated, “there are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that’s an entitlement….These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax…. And so my job is not to worry about those people—I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
These statements have been widely criticized. When initially confronted about the comments, Romney said that they were “not elegantly stated,” but he also said that, “this is a message I’m carrying day and day out and will carry over the coming months.” In another interview with Fox News, Romney changed his tune, saying that he only trying to make the point that both he and President Obama would get close to 50 percent of the vote, and that he hoped that he would get just over half.
Finally, when his defense of the comments that was prepared for the debates came out, it was completely different. His new defense is that he “said something that’s just completely wrong.” Does that not seem like a complete reversal to anyone? He begins by telling a group of wealthy people that his job is not to worry about the poor people who are depending on government and not paying any taxes. He then defends his position, saying that he would carry the message throughout the campaign. His only justification was that he wasn’t eloquent. Later, he tries to say that he was making a different point entirely. Finally, when confronted with a massive audience, he completely alters his stance and says that he was completely wrong. Is anyone really falling for this? Ironically, according to recent polls, about 47 percent of people have fallen for this “campaign tactic” and are supporting Romney.
As far as I’m concerned, Soledad O’Brien was right; this is what is wrong with politics. Romney and conservatives who have the same mindset are what is wrong with politics. Any group of people who can call lies “good campaign tactics” are not fit to represent the people of the United States. On Tuesday, November 6, We the People of the United States must send a message to Romney and other Republicans who feel that lying to the American public is acceptable by showing up at the polls and casting our vote for someone who will truly represent what it means to be an American. As President Clinton stated, “If you want a winner-take- all, you’re-on-your-own society, you should support the Republican ticket. But if you want a country of shared opportunities and shared responsibility, a we’re-all-in-this-together society, you should vote for Barack Obama.”