Yesterday, New York magazine's Jonathan Chait called attention to this clip from 2004, in which Mitt Romney defends George W. Bush’s economic record by saying—in no uncertain terms—that the president isn’t responsible for job losses that occurred at the beginning of his administration:
In the video, Romney derides Kerry for blaming the recession of 2001 on President Bush, despite the fact that he just entered office and his policies hadn’t taken effect. Romney's defense sounds a lot like the rhetoric offered by Obama and his backers.
Chait sees this as evidence of deep dishonesty:
Romney’s whole campaign is based on an idea he doesn’t believe. If you held his current campaign to some standard of intellectual consistency and forced him to make arguments about the president’s economic responsibility without shaping those arguments to partisan self-interest, his entire rationale would collapse.
It's true: Romney doesn’t actually believe the central claim of his campaign—that President Obama shoulders the blame for the current state of the economy, including all job losses that happened while he was in office. And in point of fact, there’s no way you can stretch logic to absolve Bush of poor economic performance at the beginning his administration, but blame Obama for the same, especially if you grant—as Romney does—that Obama entered office during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
The most damaging thing about this clip is that it’s one in a series. Two years later, in a press conference, Romney used a similar argument to defend his record in Massachusetts:
Odds are good that this won’t matter for actual voters, but regardless, it’s worth pointing out. Romney is running the most substance-free campaign in recent memory. He forgoes detail, shuns press, and avoids disclosure. His rhetoric is laced with distortions—“Obama has apologized for America”—and as the Tax Policy Center showed last week, his promises don’t add up. And now, with these videos, we know he doesn’t even believe the main message of his campaign.
The only thing we can say for certain about Romney is that his candidacy is nothing more than a vehicle for the right-wing radicals of the Republican Party. The plan is clear: Capitalize on economic discontent, sweep into office, and radically reshape government for the sake of low taxes on the rich, and free reign for powerful corporations. It’s the Scott Walker strategy on a national level. And if Romney can successfully obscure his intentions from voters, it might actually happen.