One of the most dramatic moments of the three presidential debates occurred during Monday night’s foreign-policy finale. In a back-and-forth over diplomacy with Iran, Mitt Romney threw Barack Obama a bone by repeating his persistent claim that the president had gone on an “apology tour” in 2009. The baseless notion of Obama “apologizing for America” has been a central theme from the start of Romney's campaign, and his opponent was ready to jump on it: "Nothing Governor Romney just said is true," Obama said. "Starting with this notion of me apologizing. This has probably been the biggest whopper told during this campaign."
There was more, and it was damning for Romney. But in the aftermath, the Republican’s response set a bold new standard for shamelessness (not an easy thing for a politician to do). This morning, his campaign blasted out a brand-new “Apology Tour” ad—containing zero evidence to support the lie he won’t let die.
Both Romney and his campaign have made it abundantly clear they believe that American voters have grown so cynical about politics and politicians that they don’t care whether a presidential candidate is a bald-faced liar. Which, if it’s true, would be a terrible thing for the country—and a fortuitous thing for Romney, since he has proven himself to be a man who lies as easily and casually as he breathes.
If Romney wins the White House, this will put the country in uncharted territory. Sure, we’ve had plenty of lying presidents (and almost all of them could be called "fibbing presidents," at least). Just in recent decades, we saw Bill Clinton lie about “sexual relations with that woman”; we saw Richard Nixon tell terrible whoppers about Watergate; we watched LBJ lie about Vietnam. But there was a qualitative difference: Those presidents, at least, knew that they were lying. Have we ever had a commander-in-chief who could not distinguish between truth and fiction, as appears to be the case with Romney?
God only knows what kind of president Romney might turn out to be if he's elected—center-right, some believe, or (far more likely) a prisoner of his party's right wing. But there’s one thing we can count on: He will lie to us, and then lie some more. And American politics, hard as it is to fathom, will descend to a whole new, far deeper, level of cynicism.
So They Say
“You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed. The question is not a game of Battleship where we’re counting ships."
—Barack Obama, in the most TiVoed moment of the foreign policy debate
Daily Meme: A Bientot 2012 Debates
- The presidential debate season is now officially over, making it the perfect time to look back at all the memories we've made over the past year. And as is to be expected, the nostalgia grows thickest in remembering all 20 of the GOP primary debates.
- The moment that will live forever in infamy, of course, is Rick Perry's "oops" — a moment which rendered true his wish to be "the Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucuses"—if he was referring to the new, benched version of Tim Tebow, that is.
- Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain had that "modified Lincoln-Douglas debate," which shockingly was nothing like the Lincoln-Douglas debate.
- We learned of Newt Gingrich's abiding love for adverbs, and Mitt Romney's love of high-stakes gambling.
- We had countless mentions of 9-9-9, Ronald Reagan, Obamacare, and the private sector.
- The presidential debates, by comparison, have been quite tame, but they had their moments, like the shocking mid-season reappearance of "ol' Moderate Mitt!"
- The town-hall debates were dominated by a cacophony of Long Island accents, and the two candidates came this close to blows.
- The moderators too, deserve commemorating, from timid Jim Lehrer, to surprisingly tough Megyn Kelly, to stupifyingly bland Anderson Cooper and Brian Williams, to the "Blitz," to the just-right Bob Schieffer.
- So sure, the debates have been wildly—or mildly, depending on how you get your kicks—exciting. But have they mattered? We defer to Beau Biden: "Gosh, I don't know."
- But after all that fun, last night's chewy foreign policy series finale was a bit anti-climatic (Bill O'Reilly was especially bored) ...
- ... although more exciting than the first presidential debate, which was so boring that Obama decided to nap through it ...
- ... despite the battleships and horses and bayonets. But hey, there's only three more years until the next spate of debates begins anew!
What We're Writing
- Matt Duss warns that the fuzzy moderate feelings Mitt has been wearing on his sleeve lately will quickly fade if he wins the White House.
- Jamelle Bouie reports from the key swing district in Virginia.
What We're Reading
- "This year," decrees Nate Silver, "all the clichés about Ohio are true."
- Dexter Filkins: "The economic hole Obama inherited was so vast that he may well lose next month, an outcome that would sustain the G.O.P.’s ideological agenda for years to come—or at least until the next reckoning."
- Jonathan Chait calls Romney's "I'm winning!" bluff.
- Lauren Bans went to Glenn Beck's Patriot Camp and lived to tell the tale.
- The Onion unleashes some scathingly dark humor on the fact that drones were discussed very superficially in last night's debate.
- When it comes to fashion sense, both candidates lost the foreign-policy debate.
Poll of the Day
Twenty out of the 21 countries surveyed by BBC World Service strongly say they want Obama to be re-elected. Pakistan is the only country that broke for Mitt Romney, while France is the most firmly in the Obama camp, with 72 percent favoring the president.
For more polling information, go to the Prospect’s 2012 election map.
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