The Story of Romney’s Career: “What I Said Is Not What I Believe”
Earlier today, Mitt Romney addressed his well-known 47% remarks and said this:
What I said is not what I believe.
The funny thing about this quote is how often his defenders and supporters would use this same argument during the election to protect him against criticism. Romney supporters often relied on his record as a famously unprincipled political weather-vane to defend him against any substantive criticism of what he said during the campaign on the grounds that he didn’t or couldn’t “really” believe it. Since Romney couldn’t be trusted, it was taken for granted that he never said what he “really” believed, and Romney supporters tried to make a virtue of their candidate’s worst character flaw. This was very often used as a way to get around his awful foreign policy views, but it was hardly limited to foreign policy. If Romney said something awful, it could be written off as mere pandering (which was, of course, simply more proof that he had no political principles that could not be compromised), and if he said something mildly sensible this was supposedly the “real” Romney coming through at last.
Of course, it never mattered whether Romney “really” believed what he was saying, because it became clear years ago that he would have said almost anything to win. In that case, it was a good bet that Romney was always more likely to lie to his audience than not, and for that reason he disqualified himself through sheer, overwhelming dishonesty. When in doubt, it was safe to assume that Romney was lying, and it was usually safe to assume the worst about his intentions. If there was a chance that he might cave in to hard-liners and ideologues in his party, there was no reason to believe that he would ever stand up to them. When the 47% remarks came out, it didn’t matter whether he believed what he had said, because he had been willing to say it and he had done so because he was so desperate to appeal to the worst elements in his party. As it was, everyone assumed that he didn’t believe what he was saying, but we attributed it to his unprincipled willingness to pander, which simply made his awful statements seem that much worse.