Romney's Plan: Say Anything

| Wed Dec. 21, 2011 11:11 AM EST

Mitt Romney has a shiny new stump speech. Behold:

Just a couple of weeks ago in Kansas, President Obama lectured us about Teddy Roosevelt’s philosophy of government. But he failed to mention the important difference between Teddy Roosevelt and Barack Obama. Roosevelt believed that government should level the playing field to create equal opportunities. President Obama believes that government should create equal outcomes.

In an entitlement society, everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort, and willingness to take risk. That which is earned by some is redistributed to the others. And the only people who truly enjoy any real rewards are those who do the redistributing—the government.

The truth is that everyone may get the same rewards, but virtually everyone will be worse off.

This comes via Jon Chait, who says: "This isn’t just a casual line. In eight sentences, Romney asserts over and over again that Obama wants to create 'equal outcomes' and give everybody the 'same rewards.' This is nuts, Glenn Beck-level insane."

In a macabre sort of way, this is all kind of fascinating. Politicians and corporations engage in meaningless puffery all the time, but to be effective it has to be based on at least a tiny core of truth. Obamacare may not have been a "government takeover of healthcare," as Republicans said, but it did give the government a great big slug of additional influence and control over the healthcare system. There's just enough truth there to hang the more audacious claim on, and this lends it enough of an air of plausibility to make it stick.

But Romney's not doing this. Like his "Apology Tour," this is just flatly made up. Ditto for his claim last week that Obama thinks we're living in a post-American century. 

So what's the strategy here? In the primaries, I assume he's calculated that it just doesn't matter. The true believers will believe anything, and the more outrageous it is the better. Romney typically uses over-the-top criticism of Obama to deflect criticism of his own record ("I've never flip flopped in my life, but what's really important is that Barack Obama has said he wants to give Texas back to Mexico"), so this is just more of the same. Romney is hoping that by demonstrating a bit of insanity in the hate-Obama department, primary voters will cut him some slack on being relatively non-insane in the policy department.

But what about the general election? Independents aren't going to go for this stuff. They'll just shake their heads and wonder what the hell he's talking about. So is he going to ditch this stuff completely after he's won the nomination and pretend that he never said it? Or will he keep pressing, literally hoping that if you say anything often enough you can get people to believe it? It is a mystery.