JIM LEHRER’S RERUN: On MSNBC, the confusion was general!


Part 2—Poisoned fruit of a potted plant: A striking factual misstatement was made in Wednesday’s debate.

We don’t refer to Mitt Romney’s confusing statement about his proposed tax plan. (“First of all, I don't have a $5 trillion tax cut. I don't have a tax cut of a scale that you're talking about.”)

That statement should have been challenged and clarified (see below). But it isn’t exactly “wrong.” It pretty much ain’t a “misstatement.”

No, the factual misstatement to which we refer was made by Barack Obama! Responding to Romney’s representation, Obama made the remarks which follow.

The highlighted statement is wrong:
OBAMA (10/3/12): Let's talk about taxes, because I think it's instructive.


Now, Governor Romney's proposal that he has been promoting for 18 months calls for a $5 trillion tax cut, on top of $2 trillion of additional spending for our military. And he is saying that he is going to pay for it by closing loopholes and deductions. The problem is that he's been asked over 100 times how you would close those deductions and loopholes, and he hasn't been able to identify them.
The highlighted part of that statement is wrong. But before long, Obama repeated himself:
LEHRER: Do you challenge what the governor just said about his own plan?

OBAMA: Well, for 18 months he's been running on this tax plan. And now, five weeks before the election, he's saying that his big, bold idea is, "Never mind.”
The point is relatively minor, but instructive. In fact, Romney has not been promoting his current tax plan “for eighteen months.” In fact, he introduced his proposal in late February, during the Republican primary struggle in Arizona.

Here's the basic chronology:

Romney started his campaign with modest tax proposals. But other Republican hopefuls presented massive, ridiculous tax cut plans, thereby pleasing the base.

Finally, Romney followed suit, offering a crazy proposal of his own. Late in February, John Harwood reported the new proposal in the New York Times:
HARWOOD (2/23/12): Mitt Romney, seeking to kick-start his presidential campaign among recalcitrant conservatives, on Wednesday proposed cutting the top income tax for individuals to 28 percent while holding out the prospect of limiting tax deductions.

Mr. Romney's earlier economic plan called only for preserving the current top tax rate of 35 percent, while holding out the promise of lower rates later in an overhaul of the tax code. But facing a major challenge from the upstart Republican rival Rick Santorum, he chose to outline such an overhaul in Arizona before critical primaries here and in Michigan next Tuesday—and before a televised debate Wednesday night in Mesa, Ariz.


Mr. Romney's top economic adviser, Glenn Hubbard, said the plan would cut all six current tax brackets...by the same proportion of 20 percent...

But echoing the candidate, he added that Mr. Romney was committed to making his plan both “revenue neutral”–meaning it won’t add to the budget deficit—and “distributionally neutral”—meaning that it won’t shift the tax burden from upper-income Americans to middle- and working-class Americans.
Does Obama really think that Romney has been pushing this plan for the past eighteen months? In some ways, this point doesn’t matter a giant amount, although the chronology helps us see why Romney would make such an absurd proposal—a proposal which turned out to be “mathematically impossible.”

Sorry! If Obama didn’t know that chronology, that represents a striking lack of preparation. That said, Obama made a second apparent error in the passages we’ve quoted above—an error which was widely echoed on MSNBC last evening.

In the response to Jim Lehrer we have quoted, Obama seems to claim that Romney abandoned his long-standing tax cut proposal during Wednesday’s debate. In truth, that simply isn’t the case—but a string of pundits didn’t seem to understand this matter last night.

All over The One True Liberal Channel, pundits claimed that Romney had suddenly dumped his previous tax cut proposal. This represented a woeful lack of conceptual smarts—unless these people were simply conning us rubes as part of MSNBC’s ongoing “let’s be like Fox” corporate strategy.

All over MSNBC, pundits advanced this claim—the same claim Obama seemed to advance. Romney has abandoned his plan! For one example of many, here was Rachel Maddow, basically getting it wrong:
MADDOW (10/4/12): We know one way Mr. Romney may be trying to neutralize expected attacks on his economic ideas could be to rob his opponent`s words of any meaning, right?

Now we also know after last night's debate is— The other thing he’s doing is just saying the economic plan he has been stumping for all year long is not his plan at all. Mr. Romney worked both those strategies last night and Mr. Romney, of course, won the debate—he won on style, he won presentation, he won on demeanor.
Soon, Jonathan Alter was allowed to comment for a few moments. He seemed to agree with Maddow’s view.

Or something. We're not quite sure:
MADDOW: The other part of it is Mitt Romney saying that he does not espouse positions that he's been running on all year. The president did try to get him on that, on the $5 trillion tax-cut thing. I’m not sure he effectively pinned him down on that though the Obama campaign was spinning that they did.

ALTER: OK, I think they made a mistake on that issue, the Obama people did, by going with the $5 trillion, because that, you know, policy wonks can debate whether it amounts to $5 trillion or not. What they can’t debate, it’s a 20 percent tax reduction for the wealthiest Americans. That is a plain irrefutable fact and if they used that, it would, first of all, explain more what this is, which is a tax cut for the wealthy, which was one of several points the president wasn’t able to actually convey in a clear way. And would also be, you know, beyond dispute factually.
That’s where it ended. Once again, Maddow claimed that Romney had flipped—that he "said he no longer espouses" his tax cut proposal.

It isn’t clear whether Alter agreed. But Maddow was basically wrong.

Did Romney suddenly disavow his long-running tax cut proposal? Almost surely, no, he did not—though the confusion which has resulted shows why Lehrer should have required Romney to clarify his remarks.

Let’s return to Romney’s fuller statement on Wednesday night. Lehrer should have engineered a clarification of these remarks. But this is what Romney actually said—and no, this isn’t a change in the position he has held for the past seven months:
ROMNEY (10/3/12): I'd like to clear up the record and go through it piece by piece.

First of all, I don't have a $5 trillion tax cut. I don't have a tax cut of a scale that you're talking about. My view is that we ought to provide tax relief to people in the middle-class. But I'm not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by high-income people. High-income people are doing just fine in this economy. They'll do fine whether you're president or I am.


Finally, with regards to that tax cut, look, I'm not looking to cut massive taxes and to reduce the revenues going to the government. My—my number-one principal is, there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit. I want to underline that: no tax cut that adds to the deficit.

But I do want to reduce the burden being paid by middle-income Americans. And I—and to do that, that also means I cannot reduce the burden paid by high-income Americans. So any—any language to the contrary is simply not accurate.
In certain ways, some of those statements don’t seem to make sense. But Romney’s statements in that passage closely track the basic points he has always made about his tax cut proposal, going right back to Harwood’s report. To wit:

Romney has always said that his plan will be revenue neutral. He has always said that the rich will pay the same share of taxes under his proposal.

What did Romney mean when he said, “I don't have a $5 trillion tax cut?” Had Lehrer made him clarify that statement, he probably would have said something like this:

Jim, my tax plan will be revenue neutral. There won’t be $5 trillion lost to the government or anything dimly like that. The president is making it sound like I’m going to cut government revenues by some huge amount to facilitate tax cuts for the rich. But I have repeated tonight what I’ve always said: “There will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit.” And I have repeated something else I’ve always said: “I'm not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by high-income people.”

Almost surely, that’s what Romney would have said if Lehrer had forced him to clarify. And Lehrer should have made him do so. It could have erased a lot of confusion—the kind of confusion which was seen all over cable last night.

Did Romney abandon his proposal in Wednesday night’s debate? Actually, no—he did not. For weeks, Romney and his surrogates have been walking back the hard proposal about the twenty percent cut in tax rates, with Romney insisting that he won’t do a proposal which lowers the share of taxes paid by the rich.

For people who have been following the discussion, his statements on Wednesday were more of the same. Incredibly, Obama didn’t seem to be one of those people.

Last evening, the pundits on MSNBC seemed clueless about this. Or they were heavily scripted, in ways which kept them in line with Obama's remarks.

On the Last Word, it was clear that Ezra Klein does understand that Romney hasn’t abandoned his proposal. But in deference to his pompous host, you could also see Klein couching his language. He struggled to keep his remarks technically accurate while seeming to agree with Lawrence’s characterization of Romney’s remarks as “his $5 trillion lie.” (To watch the full segment, click this.)

Inevitably, Romney’s remarks have turned out to be confusing, unclear. But it’s just stupid to call his remarks a “lie.” Did we mention that Klein was speaking with Lawrence O’Donnell?

Plainly, Klein understands the shape of the Romney policies. (He specifically said he wasn't surprised by the things Romney said. Incredibly, it looked like Obama was.) But Klein also knows that he must go along with his channel’s pseudo-liberal herd.

That said, two key points emerged from last night’s ball of confusion. This takes us back to Jim Lehrer’s woeful performance on Wednesday:

First point: It’s damaging for progressive interests when TV liberals can’t articulate such basic matters.

In fact, Candidate Romney’s tax cut proposal was completely absurd from the start. In August, the Tax Policy Center said it was “mathematically impossible.”

But Romney didn’t abandon the proposal on Wednesday; he merely continued a process of smoothing and fudging which has been underway for weeks. And he continued to stress some points he has made all along: His ultimate plan will be revenue neutral. It won’t decrease the share of taxes paid by the rich.

When TV liberals can’t follow such matters, it means that progressives have a set of unskilled players advancing their interests on the TV machine thingy—or pretending to do so.

Second point: The confusion displayed all over cable takes us back to that potted plant, moderator Jim Lehrer.

Romney’s central statement on Wednesday was sure to create confusion. A moderator who wasn’t stuck in soil would have intervened, making him explain what he meant when he said, “I don't have a $5 trillion tax cut.”

Lehrer simply stared into air—and last night, the confusion was general. For decades, our policy discourse has functioned this way. Within the American press corps, the skills are few at the top.

The chaos of our public discourse helps us see what life is like under a press corps which is, at its heart, a D-minus elite. Last night, Rachel and Lawrence were basically wrong.

Then again, so was Obama on Wednesday night. Obama was unprepared!

Next: Lehrer in Gethsemane

What Romney has proposed: Here are some of the facts which might have emerged if Lehrer sought clarification:

Fact: If all tax rates were cut by twenty percent, that would reduce government revenues by roughly $5 trillion over the first ten years.

Fact: Romney has always said that the cuts in tax rates should be accompanied by elimination of loopholes, making the overall proposal revenue neutral.

Fact: The Tax Policy Center said, in August, that there aren’t enough tax loopholes to fully offset that cut in tax rates.

Fact: Romney has been walking back his proposal for weeks, suggesting (among other things) that tax rates might not be cut by twenty percent if his basic requirements can’t be met at that level.

Last night, chaos reigned on MSNBC—unless the children were simply pursuing a Fox-like propaganda campaign. If Lehrer wasn’t a potted plant, clarity might have emerged.


  1. Oh, I get it Bob. Romney gets to propose a 20 percent tax cut for months (be it 18 or 10), but then gets to "walk it back" when his opponent points out that the numbers don't add up.

    Or in the words of the late Leslie Nielson: "Move along, nothing to see here. Move along."

    So instruct us, Bob. What else does Romney get to "walk back" and pretend it was never his position?

    1. I guess we'll have to wait until Nov. 5 to find out what Romney's positions are then before we can cast a truly informed vote on Nov. 6.

    2. I pity the early voters who voted for this Romney. There may be several new Romneys before Election Day that they no longer like.

    3. Indeed, Romney's last line of defense seems to be: 'I misspoke, I didn't mean real tax cuts, just cuts to the NOMINAL (that's important, NOT the effective!) tax RATE, directly balanced by reduced deductions. The resulting federal tax income will stay the same.'

      Well, if that's true, then the Leslie Nielsen quote describes it perfectly! Or, phrased differently: Same old crap in a brandnew package.

  2. "Fact: Romney has been walking back his proposal for weeks, suggesting (among other things) that tax rates might not be cut by twenty percent if his basic requirements can’t be met at that level."

    Really? When?

    Pressed for details about how he was going to fill that $5 trillion hole, Romney has said that he will broaden the tax base by eliminating "deductions, exemptions and loopholes".

    Pressed on which "deductions, exemptions and loopholes" he will eliminate, Romney has been silent.

    But this raises an important question about Mitt Romney if you allow him to "walk back" his tax plan.

    Exactly what does Mitt Romney stand for? What are the principles he holds dear that are immutable? Or is he allowed to say one thing in February, the opposite in October, and you're just fine with that?

  3. Many times I have agreed with the DailyHowler's position that skilled politicians are usually able to deceive without actually getting caught in a lie. But if there are not enough loopholes to close (not that Romney actually plans to close any at all), then the appealing 20% tax cut that is somehow revenue neutral is not just absurd--it is intentionally false. That's a lie.

    And it didn't begin when outsiders to the Romney campaign pointed out the obvious impossibility of the math--economic advisers like Hubbard and Mankiw may be craven opportunists, but they knew that Romney's proposals could never be scored as revenue neutral. So the "walking back" aspect is more like "attempting to cover his tracks."

    1. Exactly, and the only way you can possibly explain Romney's failure to realize from the get-go that his numbers don't add up is that both he and his economic advisers are incompetent.

      Now if you don't accept that, then you are left with the proposition that Romney was proposing a plan he knew wouldn't work merely to win votes in the primaries, then deny later it was ever his "real" plan.

  4. Tax reform and tax rate relief going hand-in-hand in a way that is revenue neutral? What's the point? Ah, the magic of the marketplace deciding where the money goes instead of Leninist central planning

    Reagan's tax cut was 30 percent across the board over three years. It sounds like Romney's plan could amount to the biggest redistribution plan in history. But to whose benefit?

    Most of us get to deduct charity, mortgage interest, and medical costs. Does Romney trade that for lower rates?

    Do the guys who pay the lawyers and CPAs the big bucks to minimize their tax bites get the biggest rate cuts in exchange for all those deductions? It's all becoming clear.

    Romney doesn't want to borrow money from China (Americans are still the biggest buyers T-bills), he just wants to let fat cats invest more of their excess capital there.

  5. If Romney has been "walking back" his 20% tax cut proposal, perhaps he should walk it back on his web site, where it remains a central part of his brilliant plan to re-energize the economy. Ultimately, anyone who thinks anything Romney says at any point should be given any credence at all is behaving like a fool, Bob included.

  6. In these debates no issue is ever clarified. The various important issues are relatively complex, and there are many of them, and in the 90 minute format, it's impossible to cover them meaningfully.

    That said, I thought Obama did make the point that with Romney's 20% across the board tax cut,it would be impossible to make the decrease revenue neutral by abolishing tax deduction without increasing taxes on the middle class. He said the 20% would total 5 trillion ($5,000,000,000,000). Romney claims that the tax cuts would be revenue neutral over all, and also would be tax neutral for the "wealthy" by virtue of eliminating various tax deductions. One question that Bob raises, does reducing all taxes by 20% add up to $5 trillion, the answer to which might be out there but I don't know. Is Romney's plan on reducing corporate taxes, corporate dividends (I believe), and the estate tax (a republican wet dream that benefits the rich exclusively, will increase wealth disparity enormously and never even gets discussed)included in the $5 trillion? What loopholes and deductions are going to be eliminated to make the whole thing work is a big issue and could have enormous consequences. It is incredible that these questions aren't the main focus of the press.

    I'm from Massachusetts where after electing him governor, romney is expected to get 37% of the vote. He is a skilled snake oil salesman.

    AC/ MA

    1. "What loopholes and deductions are going to be eliminated to make the whole thing work is a big issue and could have enormous consequences."

      Lordy yes. If the devil was ever in the details, this is it.

      But I will disagree to a degree about the press. They -- including Fox News -- have been asking this question of Romney, and of his running mate for quite some time, and they both simply refuse to be specific.

      Romney's answer has been: "That will have to be worked out with Congress."

      Ryan's has been: "It's a lot of complicated math that I don't have time to explain now."

      Now if you know a way to force a guy to answer a question he has refused to answer for months, please pass it along.

  7. I agree with TIL. See http://www.mittromney.com/issues/tax
    "Make permanent, across-the-board 20 percent cut in marginal rates"
    "Cut the corporate rate to 25 percent"
    I don't see any mention about offsetting corrections to maintain revenue neutrality.
    This has to be one of the worst of Bob's I'm-smarter-than-everyone-else moments.

    1. Interesting point.

      Paul Ryan has said that the math explaining how the Romney tax plan works is "too complicated" to explain in a TV interview. Or on stage at a rally.

      Do they attempt to explain it on their Web site, where they have unlimited time and space?

  8. So, you understand the (deliberately?) confusing Romney statements this way: He wants to reduce the tax RATES paid by everybody, fund this by eliminating loopholes, in a way that the share the top 1% contribute to the federal income stays the same (so, the share of the 99% has to stay the same, too!), and this whole shenanigan is also to be "revenue neutral". Uh huh.

    Well, if you think this through, this would simply be a COSMETIC change to the tax policy, with cuts being directly balanced by decreased deductions. There wouldn't be any resulting TAX CUT at all but just new lipstick on the same old pig, since everybody would still more or less pay the same sum to the IRS! The 1% wouldn't pay less, the 99% wouldn't pay less. Where shall the supposed boost for the economy come from, then? Not from this pseudo reform that doesn't seriously change anything, that's for sure! If that's the Romney reality, it's the biggest joke of his ridiculous campaign yet.

    And if this is true, he is a liar for daring to talk about "tax cuts" at all. His "revenue neutral" and "same share" promises, when taken for serious, consequentially lead to tax payments that are rather similar to those already in place (minor adjustments WITHIN the 1% and 99% groups). That's the only possible way to bundle all those promises together, and if that's the explanation, then Emperor Romney has no clothes on, pure and simple. Much ado about nothing!

    But wait, didn't he also say nobody in the middle class will have to pay more? If that's true, his "reformed" scheme will have to be even more similar to the existing one! So, this is really ridiculous, and probably a total waste of time, since he certainly will ignore all those inconvenient promises if he really becomes elected.

    1. Oh, you forget! All those Mom and Pop "small businesses" will be paying far lower taxes, and as a result the economy will soar.

      And of course, since his proposal is "revenue neutral" who makes up the revenue from lowering the tax burden on small businesses?

  9. As I recall, Romney said the tax rate reduction would be offset by eliminating loopholes AND by growing the economy. Whether the math works or not depends on how much the economy grows.

    To call it a $5 trillion dollar tax cut, you have to assume that there will be no economic growth over the next 10 years. Or you apply the same logic that says an increase in spending is really a spending cut if the increase isn't as big as some wanted.

    , or you Since Romney clearly believes this growth will happen if his policies are enacted, If you believe the growth will happen, there is no proposed cut in taxes or revenue. Since Romney clearly believe

    1. Not true. The estimate of $5 trillion lost in revenue from a 20 percent cut in the tax rates also takes into account modest economic growth over the next 10 years, or as well as it can be predicted.

      And the myth that revenue losses from tax cuts can be made up by growth in the economy was tried in both the Reagan and Bush administrations. Didn't exactly work out very well, did it?

    2. "And the myth that revenue losses from tax cuts can be made up by growth in the economy was tried in both the Reagan and Bush administrations. Didn't exactly work out very well, did it?"

      No, it did not...except for the 1%.

      It's called "betting on the come" in poker.

    3. For the economy to grow stronger than normal, you have to stimulate it with an inflow of money. But since the Romney tax reform allegedly is revenue neutral, there is no time gap at all, no stimulus effect. So, this can't work as described.

      To create growth, Romney would have to lower taxes (or increase spending on job projects) for at least a year or two. But then, this either wouldn't be "revenue neutral" or it wouldn't be decreasing the deficit. Any which way you look at it, Romney's statements contradict each other and prevent any reasonable plan for recovery. He's simply promising too much to too many people!

  10. Predicted by who?

    And yes, the Reagan and Bush tax cuts did work out well.

    1. For those at the top.

    2. Depends on your definition. The top now pays a higher share of total taxes than ever.

    3. Right. Except for that little economic crash in September 2008, it all worked out swimmingly well.

    4. "The top now pays a higher share of total taxes than ever."

      And that is because their share of the total wealth has grown even faster their share of the total tax burden.

    5. How was that related to tax rates?

    6. "And that is because their share of the total wealth has grown even faster their share of the total tax burden."

      Like I said - depends on your definition. But now you're talking about wealth distribution, and not revenue. I will take that as agreement that lower tax rates can be offset by economic growth.

    7. In any case, they are paying at lower rates for earnings, capital gains and dividends than they did in 2000, when the economy was humming, unemployment dipped as low as 3.7%, we were collecting enough tax revenues to register multi-year surpluses, and the wealthy were actually wealthier because of stronger markets despite paying somewhat higher taxes because of somewhat higher rates.

      For the economy to succeed, the great mass of Americans must have a good amount of discretionary income. Restoring the capability of the great mass of Americans to buy goods and services (offered by the wealthy) is the main thing that matters right now. But we also have to think about the deficit from a long-term standpoint. Restoring the previous, more progressive tax rates (and keeping lower rates from both Bush and Obama for other than the wealthy) is a way to re-structure tax collections to address the deficit on a long-term basis without -- because the wealthy don't spend much of their high marginal incomes, and even less of what they do spend in the U.S. -- retarding the economic growth we desperately need.

    8. So... Lower tax rates on the wealthy retards economic growth? Because the government will spend it more productively? Because loopholes handed out to favored businesses is better at creating wealth? Is that it?

    9. Bush's job growth was below average! And even that small scale "success" was created by the housing bubble. And don't forget the huge costs of this "tax stimulus"! Instead of reducing the debt, he increased it, and didn't even create SUSTAINABLE growth in future oriented industries with it, but only a straw fire. Failure!

  11. I think the press and Obama had bought into their stupid Romney is a bumbling out of touch plutocrat who will be crushed by our suave brilliant president storyline. Obama may have prepped for the debate more than any other sitting president, but he seemed, as Bob says, woefully unprepared. A disastrous performance.

  12. I am tempted to think of Mitt Romney the same way Mark Twain thought about Missouri weather:

    "If you don't like it, wait five minutes and it will change."

  13. Obama and, presumably, "his people" lost track of what the hell they want to get across about the Romney tax plan. Is it that he is proposing something that, according to policy wonks (who happen to be pro-Democratic), doesn't add up (even though Romney predictably will be able to cite policy wonks who say it does add up)? Or is it that he wants once again to make tax cuts that will benefit wealthy people immensely while benefiting middle and below-middle class people not so much? If he drops tax rates 20% across the board, the person with $10 million in taxable income above the next highest rate, will get approximately $700,000 in lower taxes. A family making $75,000, with, say, $50,000 in taxable income, might get lower taxes of about $2000.

    So what message do you want to say? Do you want to make the debatable and unresolvable point Romney has a plan to reduce your taxes that doesn't add up when you do the math, or that Romney's plan will, as with all Republican tax plans, mainly benefit the wealthy -- and that we have already seen from the Bush tax cuts mainly benefiting the wealthy that they do not help the economy?

    Romney the Liar or the Prevaricator is not a winning strategy, but that's where all the emphasis went. Neither is Romney the Irresponsible because he doesn't "pay for" his tax cuts. Sorry, Mr. President, but most of us don't even know what it means, and depp down, we don't give a shit if he can "pay for" them or not.

    The lack of preparation was, indeed, epic. Obama's communication team is beyond incompetent in this setting. If you go into a "debate" with pre-prepared focus-group-laundered talking points that are disconnected from your strategy and what the opponent is likely to say (and how he will respond to what you say, and how he probably will respond to your response, and so on and so on), this is what you get.

  14. Well, Bob's good day has come and gone fast, as Mitt has walked back his 47% "gaff", or as it should be called, "the mother of all flip flops." I hope you liberal Daily Howler fans
    didn't work to hard on your penance, or whatever the hell it was you were supposed to
    do to prove you weren't just as bad as them. As with Rush, The Daily Howler's reaction to
    47% should now be reviewed. Will he be as "what me worry" about this insincere apology as he was about Romney's sleazy little insult to half the country?

    1. Interesting to attempt to square the "47 percent" tape with the new "walked back" Romney tax plan.

      Romney said then that he's got to get all his votes from the 53 percent, since the 47 percent pays no taxes and won't benefit from his tax cuts.

      Now it seems that under the new "revenue neutral" plan, neither will the 53 percent.

  15. Interesting discussion, but it is worthwhile to go back to Bob's line of reasoning: We liberals would do better if our political and media leaders were better prepared and focused on effectively countering politically successful Republican strategy. As O'donnell implies we've seen this gambit before and Republicans swear "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today". but conveniently forget to pay the bill. IMO it is no accident that Romney's plan on taxes makes NO mention of those revenue neutralizing measures (NONE, not even a mention he will do so! Only some anondynes - you won't find the words deficit, debt, 'revenue neutral')

    What I saw was O'donnell's clumsy attempt to frame the political reality of Republican tax cuts behind a framework that Romney can easily deny(wax on / wax off).

    Ezra Klein's lucid description of Romney's tax proposal and history was not matched by a much needed corrective so I agree with Bob here.

    1. Joseph, embellishing, stretching, and sometimes even lying has been part of politics since the vote was invented.

      But I don't think I have ever seen a candidate do it so shamelessly and nakedly as Mitt, and I have lived through Richard Nixon.

      It's one thing to put the onus on our political and media leaders, but good grief, Romney has been called out multiple times for this, and he still forges ahead with his Etch-A-Sketch, totally unconcerned with fact checkers.

      This is the real danger of this election. If Romney succeeds, then why should any candidate in the future be bothered with such things as integrity when he gets to say anything he wants, and to "walk back" everything he has ever said previously?

    2. Anon,

      Thanks for your reflection on what I wrote. I can see I left out the implied word 'liberal' in the phrase which should read 'liberal political and media leaders'. And here sadly we are talking about our diffident, deficient liberal media like MSNBC that lets these deceptive republican frameworks thrive. And consider our hopefully temporarily absent president; Obama is usually more skillful than what I saw Wednesday evening; but good lord what a risk he took underestimating Romney's ability to come back.

      I am lamenting how often our side fumbles when it comes to challenging and talking back the walk back. If we liberal/progressives don't create a more powerful framework for neutralizing Mitt's temporizing and the general media's adoration of scripts in lieu of understanding the impact of preexisting conditions to millions of our people who do not have 'continuous coverate' - we will be staring at another eight years of wars, deficits and looming economic collapse.

      If I have learned one thing from Bob it is that we must never settle for comfy scripts especially if they are spun by our side.

      By the way - your last graf says something that appears to me to be already a common practice and like you I am deeply dismayed. Because our liberal elites have been drawn away from the hard work of practicing journalism and formulating tougher, more aggressive frameworks. It seems to me they have been lulled to sleep or seduced by $$, hobbies and acclaim. Thus our side grows less and less able every year to disinfect our political discourse from Mitt's cynicism.

    3. I recall the line from Julius Caesar, Act 1, scene 2: "The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings."

      Or the quote that has been attributed to many: "In a democracy, we get the government we deserve and deserve the government we get."

      It's easy to blame a "deficient liberal media" or the President for not being as feisty as we wished on Wednesday night.

      But the truth is, if Romney succeeds with the most blatantly dishonest campaign in history, and calculated from the get-go to be such (Remember "Etch-A-Sketch"? I translated that into: "What we say now can always be denied later because they won't remember" and that is what Romney is counting on) then our descent into plutocracy will be complete -- until another major economic collapse that we won't recover from, perhaps for decades, gives us another wake-up call.

      This is the Information Age. We have been given educations and functioning brains. It is time we used them.

    4. How would you characterize the difference between what the two of us has been saying?

      I emphasize the failure of responsibility by our liberal media elites and political leaders; you focus on the failure of responsibility by 'we the people'. These two are not mutually exclusive and in fact dove tail.

      Both groups above can be dinged for a generalized lack of attention to what is important, a bad memory of political history and a general lack of analytic skills.

      So I will leave the 'easy' path but tell me how do we the people, collectively, attend, remember and disect?

      In my opinion That would involves a partnership of self education in conjunction with much more incisive efforts by elites to frame effective political talking points to neutralize Republican flimflamery and save the american political center from being mislead.