(image: EN2008/flickr)

I don’t think I’m a stupid person, but sometimes I read what seem to be really stupid things.  At least that’s how I felt after reading a post by Jonathan Chait, entitled “Mitt Romney Lies a Lot, But He’s Not a Liar.” Yes, that really is the title, so let it sink in a bit.

Now there are at least two possible reasons you’d read a post with that title:  (1) it’s so absurd on its face, it must be snark, so maybe it will be fun to read; or (2) there is some hitherto unappreciated, redeeming social value in Mitt Romney’s pervasive and pathological lying that, should he become President, we will not be completely embarrassed or ashamed and want to hide the children every time he opens his mouth.

Alas, no luck on either theory.  After noting that we sometimes see our own actions differently from how we see others’ actions, Chait begins his argument:

This is a useful prism through which to understand Mitt Romney’s propensity to lie. He says lots of things that are obviously false and that he clearly knows to be false – particularly, but not exclusively, about his own record. But it’s not clear that this tells us anything about Romney’s character.

Please get your jaw off the floor; you probably thought persistent lying tells you reams about the man’s character, so we’re not off to a good start.  But maybe Chait’s point will become more plausible as we read along:

Lying is what politicians do when the truth stands between them and their goals. I don’t mean to completely dismiss the role of character here. Some politicians are more comfortable lying than are others. But circumstance plays a powerful role.

Ah, I see where he’s going.  Mitt’s kids are being held hostage by liberal terrorists, and he has to lie and make himself look like an unprincipled buffoon and pretend you are all complete dolts, because otherwise the terrorists will kill his kids, right?  Uh, no; Chait explains poor Mitt has just been unlucky:

It’s Romney’s bad luck that fate has dictated his only path to the presidency lies in being a huge liar. First, he was a Republican running in a heavily Democratic state, which forced him to shade his abortion views rightward, and present himself generally as moderate to progressive, ideologically. After having had to shade his views as far left as he could get away with to win in Massachusetts, he had to obtain the Republican nomination in 2008, making himself acceptable to a dramatically more conservative electorate. And then, four years later, he has had to make himself acceptable to a Republican electorate that has moved further right still.

Huh.  By now, I’m starting to realize I’ve been conned into reading something that no one could possibly accept as an excuse for being unprincipled, unworthy of anyone’s trust and contributing to the nation’s mind-numbing level of misinformation.  Chait is saying that poor Mitt simply had to pander to whatever audience he confronts in whatever era he’s in just to get elected, and now all those lies “have formed an extensive public record that he is forced to deny, revise, and cover up.”  Gosh, what a tragedy.

Finally, we’re told that it’s not personal; it’s just circumstantial and part of the job:  “He wanted a political career, and once he made that decision, he had only two choices: massive dishonesty or certain defeat.”

Here’s a different view.  Mitt Romney lies, because he’s not an honest man.  It shows Mitt Romney’s ambition is far stronger than his character and he has no respect for voters.  Occam’s razor.