Calling Romney a liar: We knew if we waited long enough, Kevin Drum would be wrong.
Sure enough! In this post, we’d have to say that Drum is wrong about the L-words—liar, lie and lying.
Is Romney lying about his tax proposal? That’s what Drum says. He says he would have liked to see Obama say so last week, except it would have backfired.
We agree that it would have backfired. In part, that’s because the L-word has always been very dangerous politically. In part, it’s because it’s a bit of a stretch to say that Romney is lying.
For one thing, it was Obama, not Romney, who made the proposed cut in tax rates the centerpiece of this debate. Romney didn’t jump up and say he could cut everyone’s tax rate by twenty percent. Obama brought it up.
Here’s what Romney said in his opening statement. Do you see a twenty-percent rate cut floating around in here?
ROMNEY (10/3/12): Ann yesterday was at a rally in Denver and a woman came up to her with a baby in her arms and said, "Ann, my husband has had four jobs in three years, part-time jobs. He's lost his most recent job and we've now just lost our home. Can you help us?"None of his five basic points involved that cut in tax rates. Before that, he specifically said that a tax cut for the rich isn’t what he would do.
And the answer is, yes, we can help, but it's going to take a different path. Not the one we've been on, not the one the president describes as a top-down, cut taxes for the rich. That's not what I'm going to do.
My plan has five basic parts. One, get us energy independent, North American energy independent. That creates about 4 million jobs.
Number two, open up more trade, particularly in Latin America. Crack down on China, if and when they cheat.
Number three, make sure our people have the skills they need to succeed and the best schools in the world. We're far away from that now.
Number four, get to us a balanced budget.
Number five, champion small business. It's small business that creates the jobs in America, and over the last four years, small business people have decided that America may not be the place to open a new business because new business startups are down to a 30-year low.
Now, I'm concerned that the path that we're on has just been unsuccessful. The president has a view very similar to the view he had when he ran four years, that a bigger government, spending more, taxing more, regulating more—if you will, trickle-down government—would work.
That's not the right answer for America. I'll restore the vitality that gets America working again. Thank you.
In truth, Romney has been smoothing back away from his specific rate-cut proposal for quite a while now. Back in February, he pulled this proposal out of his keister when he had to sound like he had a crazy tax plan, like everyone else in the GOP field.
Presumably, it was never a serious proposal—and Romney hasn’t been pushing it in the past month or so. It was Obama who brought it up last week. Romney said nothing till asked.
Drum cites William Gale, whose study showed that Romney’s plan, as originally proposed, is mathematically impossible. Romney has rejected the findings of Gale’s study. But even if you accept the study, that just means that Romney would have to say something like this:
Well, if we can’t be revenue neutral at twenty percent, we’ll have to make the rate cuts smaller. But I’m pledging again that I will not increase the deficit with my tax cut proposal.
Try to find the “lie” in there now! Because this plan has several moving parts, it’s very easy to smooth away from the notion that Romney is lying.
At the Washington Post, Matt Miller warns Joe Biden against calling Romney a liar. In our view, Miller is making very good sense, not unlike Homer’s noble Nestor, the seasoned charioteer who always gave the best advice. (Miller has been on fire in recent weeks.) In fact, we hope someone teleports Miller direct to the White House, or to wherever Biden is prepping. His proposed opening statement for Biden goes straight to the heart of the problem with Romney’s absurd campaign.
In our view, Miller does a brilliant job laying out a theme for tomorrow night. Obama had no theme at all—none. An L-theme would have been a disaster (as Drum notes).
What does Romney actually plan to do with taxes and tax rates? As with everything else this candidate has ever said, there’s simply no way of knowing.
In its original form, that tax proposal is a bit of a joke—“mathematically impossible,” as Gale said. But does that mean that Romney was or is lying? When’s the last time he specifically said what he wants to do with tax rates?
This brings us back to the role of the press corps. When Romney appeared on Meet the Press last month, David Gregory never asked him if he thought he could cut tax rates by twenty percent while keeping things revenue neutral.
Gregory is like that, of course. You mustn’t put Mitt on the spot!
That would have been an obvious question for Jim Lehrer to pose in last week's debate. But the master was busily napping. He may have been following orders!
In our view, Miller has the plan. Could someone teleport him right now?
What Romney said in his convention address: Here's what Romney said about taxes in his convention address:
"And let me make this clear. Unlike President Obama, I will not raise taxes on the middle class of America."
That was it. In focusing on Romney's cut in income tax rates, Obama may have been attacking the candidate he wants to oppose, not the one who's currently out there.