Is Romney a Habitual Liar? Or Is He Instead Something Even More Dangerous: God-Awful Stupid? [Updated]

At his press conference, Romney accused Obama of “having that embassy reiterate a statement effectively apologizing for the right of free speech.” Romney claimed that the embassy had said, in his paraphrase, “We stand by our comments that suggest that there’s something wrong with the right of free speech.” This, too, was a Romney lie. The embassy had declared five times in writing that free speech was a universal right.

What made Romney’s statement and press conference disturbing, however, was his repeated use of the words sympathize and apology to conflate three issues the Cairo embassy had carefully separated: bigotry, free speech, and violence. The embassy had stipulated that expressions of bigotry, while wrong, were protected by freedom of speech and didn’t warrant retaliatory violence. Romney, by accusing the embassy of “sympathizing with those who had breached” the compound, equated moral criticism of the Mohammed movie with support for violence. In so doing, Romney embraced the illiberal Islamist mindset that led to the embassy invasion: To declare a movie offensive is to authorize its suppression.

“The Embassy of the United States issued what appeared to be an apology for American principles,” Romney asserted at the press conference. “It’s a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values. … An apology for America’s values is never the right course.” Lest anyone miss his buzzwords, Romney called the embassy’s comments “a disgraceful statement on the part of our administration to apologize for American values.”

What, exactly, does Romney mean by “American values”? The embassy never apologized for free speech or diplomatic sovereignty. The only American offense it criticized was the movie’s “bigotry” and “efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” Does Romney regard this criticism as an “apology for American values”? Is bigotry an American value? Is it weak or un-American to repudiate slurs against Muslims?

I don’t know where you were born, Mr. Romney (just kidding!), but where I come from, there’s nothing more American than recognizing the idiocy of a man’s views and, at the same time, his right to express them. If you can’t tell the difference between those two things, the main threat to our values right now isn’t President Obama, the Egyptians, the Libyans, or our diplomats in Cairo. It’s you.

— William Saletan, Slate, today

The political punditry and news media is finally catching on that Romney’s bizarre modus operandi of habitually mischaracterizing the meanings of basic statements of others (mainly, of course, of Obama) pose the question: Is Romney a habitual liar, or is he instead so dumbfoundingly stupid that he regularly misunderstands even completely clear statements and the definitions of common English-language words, and that he habitually conflates separate concepts and therefore misinterprets even the clearest of statements or comments?

I’ve hoped for a long time that the Obama campaign would pretend to take Romney at his word: Rather than suggest that Romney’s a habitual liar; just point out that, taking him at his word, he’s profoundly, dangerously stupid.

I mean … good grace.

I read somewhere last night—I can’t remember where—that members of Romney’s campaign team told reporters that he was genuinely outraged on Tuesday night by the Cairo embassy’s criticism of “efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims,” and that it was phrase “hurt the religious feelings” that really set him off.

This focus by Romney on a single word or short phrase, removed from its context and redefined—this treatment by Romney of serious issues as cutesy word play—has been a real hallmark of Romney’s campaign throughout.  Hopefully, Obama and the news media will now point out truly dangerous it would be to have a president who either can’t understand and accurately interpret basic words, statements and concepts. Leave it up to Romney to protest that, no, he’s not really that dumb; he’s just playing games about the most serious of matters, presuming that a majority of voters won’t notice. 

The most important aspect of what has transpired in the last two days is that now a majority of voters are likely to notice.

I’m pretty sure that the game’s over, and that Romney lost.


UPDATE: Just to clarify, I want to repost here a comment I made in the Comments thread in response to reader PJR about whether Romney is a liar or instead just stupid.  I wrote:

Romney’s a liar, PJR. A casual, habitual liar.  That’s his modus operandi; it’s what he thinks gets him the love of the Tea Party folks—his bald willingness to regularly lie as a matter of campaign strategy.

My point, though, is to encourage Obama and the media to decide to take Romney at his word—that he’s not lying; he’s just stating things as he understands them.  Which, if so, is a HUGE problem. Even George Bush wasn’t as jaw-droppingly stupid and routinely confused about the meaning of words and statements as Romney either is or feigns. 

The bottom line, I think, is that Romney is a liar and is also too stupid to recognize that eventually people were going to figure that out.