Mitt Romney’s strategy for Wednesday’s debate is clear: he will hold President Barack Obama accountable for his numerous lies–especially on Libya and the national debt–in a way that the mainstream media has failed to do. Republicans are uniting around their nominee’s new theme, with New Jersey governor Chris Christie and former Romney rival Newt Gingrich each taking to the Sunday shows to drive home the accusation.
Christie told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week:
Obama ad: …[Romney] doubled down on the same trickle-down policies that led to the crisis in the first place.
Stephanopoulos: If you were on the stage Wednesday night, how would you respond to that.
Christie: Stop lying, Mr. President.
Christie: Yeah, that’s what I’d say.
Stephanopoulos: What’s the lie there?
Christie: Governor Romney’s not talking about tax cuts for the wealthy. In fact, what he said is that the wealthy will pay just as much under a Romney administration as they pay today.
Stephanopoulos: But their tax rate will go down into the 20s.
Christie: Right, their tax rate will go down, but they will lose deductions and other loopholes that will have them paying the same. That’s what Governor Romney’s plan is. And so what I’d say is–you know, I love those ads. I mean, you know, the president gets to say things like: “A million new manufacturing jobs.” Well, how, Mr. President? We’re still waiting. “Four trillion dollar reduction in the debt.” Really, Mr. President? How? Simpson-Bowles? You haven’t endorsed your own plan. Nor has he come forward with a plan….
Likewise, Gingrich told Bob Schieffer on CBS Sunday Morning:
Bob, what struck me–and I have known the Director of National Intelligence for years, he’s a bright man, he’s a competent man–this administration in effect is now saying to us, “Oh, don’t blame the United Nations ambassador. Don’t blame the White House spokesman. Don’t blame the President, because our intelligence system failed so decisively.” Now, I don’t know which worries me more, the idea that the intelligence system took weeks to figure out the obvious–although we are told that in fact they had information the day before the attack, because the video that went out from Al Qaeda asking that the ambassador, [that] somebody be killed on 9/11, was a day earlier–so I don’t know whether I feel more comfortable knowing that the administration was incompetent and lied to us, or I feel more comfortable knowing that the intelligence community was totally out of touch. My hunch is the intelligence community was not out of touch. The ambassador’s own diary, apparently, indicates that he was worried about being targeted for death. You have to ask yourself–surely, the Congress should be holding hearings right now–how could an ambassador be in Benghazi, the hotbed of anti-American sentiment in Libya, how could he be there on 9/11 with no security? This entire incident makes no sense. And yes, I think Romney should be demanding that the President tell the American people the truth.
Romney himself indicated two weeks ago that Obama’s tendency to spin the facts was a central concern of his leading up to the debates:
I think the challenge that I’ll have in the debate is that the president tends to, how shall I say it, to say things that aren’t true. I’ve looked at prior debates. And in that kind of case, it’s difficult to say, “Well, am I going to spend my time correcting things that aren’t quite accurate? Or am I going to spend my time talking about the things I want to talk about?”
The charge of lying is a weighty one–and one that Republicans have felt nervous about ever since the controversy that greeted Rep. Joe Wilson’s famous “You lie!” outburst during President Obama’s address to a join session of Congress to push health reform in 2009 (though Wilson was correct).
What has emboldened them–in addition to the need to make a strong case in the closing weeks of the election–is the brazen nature of Obama’s deception about the Libya attacks, which he claimed were motivated by an anti-Islamic video but which were in fact a premeditated terrorist attack, as the administration now admits.
The Obama campaign has plenty of time to prepare for attack, but whether any of its defenses and countermeasures will succeed is an open question. Obama has not performed well when confronted with facts, as he was during a recent appearance on Univision. Most likely he will counter with attacks on Romney rather than defenses of his own statements. Whether that succeeds will be up to voters to decide.