But most people, even careful ones running for president, aren’t going to bother to research something of this sort. Romney lived through the event and quite probably takes it for granted that it happened the way he remembered.
There are all manner of myths that are held by supporters of both parties. Hell, there are probably half a dozen or more surrounding Reagan himself, including that he won the Cold War, never supported tax increases, never supported amnesty for illegal aliens, and would never have supported cutting and running from a military engagement.
It’s indisputable that partisans have their favorite political myths, and everyone runs the risk of embracing myths that flatter our assumptions and reinforce pre-existing beliefs. To some extent, this may be unavoidable, and in some cases it can be harmless enough, but it is frequently pernicious and harmful to the quality of policy debate. Almost all of the Reagan myths that James lists are myths that Romney has endorsed in one form or another over the last six years. Each myth tries to attribute a current policy position to Reagan to lend it special authority among Republicans and conservatives, and sometimes modern Republicans want to claim that Reagan held views that he never had to re-imagine Reagan as being more in line with their preferences than he actually was. Such Reaganolatry would be bad enough on its own as a form of excessive hero-worship, but to use it to present a distorted and misleading picture of the past and Reagan’s policy record makes it harder to learn the right lessons from past decisions. Among other things, it allows Republican candidates today to redefine what Reagan meant by “peace through strength” and to turn that defensible principle into little more than a slogan for reckless bellicosity.
I don’t see how it makes it any better that Romney “lived through the event and quite probably takes it for granted that it happened the way he remembered.” Having lived through the event as an adult, he should be more aware of what actually happened than those of us who were just children at the time. Think of it another way. We were all alive for the duration of the Iraq war, but that doesn’t mean that it would be acceptable or defensible for a candidate for high office to perpetuate dead-ender myths about the non-existent WMDs that were supposedly “discovered” in Iraq. We wouldn’t just shrug if one of the Republican candidates started falsely claiming that Iraq’s WMDs were shipped to Syria (another dead-ender favorite), or if he was recycling old falsehoods about an Iraq-Al Qaeda connection. I’m sure there are quite a few people who “remember” these things that never happened. They heard about them somewhere and never bothered to check them out, because these “facts” fit their assumptions that the Iraq war was a good idea. These are political “fairy tales,” too, and they have a corrosive effect on political discourse.
In any case, Romney should be held to a tougher standard because of his tendency to just make things up and tell brazen lies. Given Romney’s record of making statements that he must know to be false, I wouldn’t assume that any of his errors are accidental. He lost the benefit of the doubt a long time ago.