Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a man drowning: arms flailing wildly, desperate gasps for breath, the struggle to climb out again and again. OK -- keep that image in your head as you open your eyes and read this article about Mitt Romney trying yet again to claim that his position on the auto industry bailout was that government should offer help:
In Defiance, Ohio, on Thursday evening, at a large rally with what the Romney campaign said was a crowd of 12,000 people in the part of the state most dependent on auto jobs, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) took to the stage to introduce Romney to the crowd. And in his warm-up speech, Portman spent a few minutes talking at length on the auto bailout issue. He zeroed in on Obama's debate comment. Obama "said that Mitt Romney didn't want the auto industry to get any government help. We need to talk about this," Portman said. "Mitt Romney did propose government help. He proposed government guarantees for loans. He proposed deductions backing up warranties. And folks all the independent fact-checkers who have looked at this agree: President Obama was wrong. He was not telling the truth."
This is the drowning man as presidential campaign. It should be the centerpiece of the Obama campaign end game.
What Romney is trying to do on the auto bailout issue is what he has tried to do during the entire campaign. In fact, he has been doing it his entire political life.
Four years ago, Romney published an op-ed in The New York Times saying -- in the title of the piece, no less -- "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." In that piece, Romney lays out in black and white his vision for what should happen to several of the largest employers in the United States: they should die.
Romney's piece is not just an opinion. In the essay, he advocates a bold position intended to be the exact opposite of what Barack Obama was intending to do and, ultimately, what he did do.
Obama was proposing that the U.S. government should help the auto-industry by stepping in to provide funding to allow Detroit to go through a managed bankruptcy and restructure. The reason that process was necessary, according to the nascent Obama administration, was that the credit markets were frozen dead -- there was no private capital in the system. Therefore, if the government did not step in to provide the necessary funding for restructuring the auto-industries that needed it, then the struggling companies -- GM in particular -- would be forced either to accept those same funds from a foreign government or be broken up and sold off in pieces. Both options would have the effect of destroying working families in every part of the country, but particularly in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio.
Two things are worth noting here.
First, that position of the Obama administration was well-known before Mitt Romney published his op-ed.
Second, Mitt Romney published his op-ed precisely to state a policy position that was the opposite of what the Obama administration was advocating. It was a contrary position printed in a prominent paper -- a common practice.
If Mitt Romney agreed with the president in 2008, there would have been no reason for him to publish a policy op-ed in The New York Times with a provocative title. And certainly, the editorial board of The New York Times would not have published Romney's essay if all he had done was agree with the current administration. What would be the sense in that? None. Romney's piece went to print for only one reason: because it was a shot across the bow of the new Obama administration by the GOP candidate deemed at the time to be the most promising challenger for 2012.
And that's exactly what that essay was.
Fast forward to the final stretch in this election and the Romney campaign trying to claim that it's position on Detroit was that government should offer help -- and that it was the Obama administration all along that wanted to "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."
To believe this massive lie from the Romney campaign, we would have to change reality on three fundamental levels: economic policy, election politics, and print media editorship.
I say this because Mitt Romney's original position, as I've already specified, was simultaneously an act of policy, politics, and media -- all three converging in this one op-ed.
To believe the Romney campaign's most recent and most blatant lie, we would need to believe that there was never any difference between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney's policy position on GM, that Mitt Romney was never positioning himself to run against Barack Obama, and that the editorial board of The New York Times never saw Mitt Romney's article as partisan challenge to the Obama administration.
To believe even one of those transformations would be difficult enough. To believe all three would be impossible.
And yet, Mitt Romney's arms keep flailing.
What is it about the Romney campaign that makes them go after these things -- these lies with such passion? Why is it that as a campaign, they seem unable to just acknowledge and move forward -- take the short-term loss in the interest of long-term gain? All politicians to some extent change their positions over time, right?
The answer is Romney himself -- Mitt the man.
Mitt Romney is not just a man who changes policy positions. He is a man who has no policy positions other than those that serve his immediate short-term needs. No position he ever holds has ever been safe from complete reversal when the next vote or the next campaign requires it.
Thus, Mitt Romney's psychopathology manifests itself in the world of politics as a man in a never-ending process of battling to keep his head up before the truth pulls him under -- the drowning truth of his own past statements.
For the sociopath that is Mitt Romney, every campaign, every speech, every political moment becomes an attempt to convince the listener that the truth is in fact the opposite of what it really is -- that up is really down, that pro-life is really pro-choice, that fees are really "no-taxes," that constitutional healthcare reform is really unconstitutional healthcare reform, that killing jobs is really creating jobs, that preying on small business is really helping small business, that contempt for women is really respect for women, that disgust for working families is really concern for working families, that indifference towards veterans is really admiration towards veterans, that taking advantage of government funds is really being against government funds, that enabling hate speech against immigrants is really expressing gratitude towards immigrants, that wanton displays of aggression are really statesmanlike displays of restraint -- that stand back and "let Detroit go bankrupt" is really step up and help Detroit.
For everyone who thinks that this endless flailing against the sea of truth will end if Mitt Romney were to win the election and become president, guess again. It will never end.
For the Obama campaign, this point should be paramount. The drowning man will not rescue the country; the drowning man grabs us in his frenzy and drags us all under.
God help us all if that happens.