A reputation Romney can’t afford to earn

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In his latest column, the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank noted Mitt Romney’s latest speech in Washington, and paid particular attention to the fact that the likely Republican presidential nominee had “some trouble” telling the truth.

The columnist highlighted quite a few of the former governor’s falsehoods – most of them will be familiar to readers who keep up on our weekly “Chronicling Mitt’s Mendacity” feature – before noting the larger significance of Romney’s “prodigious output” of “whoppers.”

That candidates don’t tell the truth is hardly news. Voters already know there are lies, damn lies, and politics…. But the fact that the fibs are routine doesn’t make them less insidious…. Romney’s fast-and-loose routine with the facts – deployed equally against his Republican rivals and Obama – is particularly disappointing because it is unnecessary. […]

That Romney resorts to such gratuitous falsehoods discredits his leadership more than his opponent’s.

For regular Maddow Blog readers, this certainly isn’t new. What’s notable about the Milbank column, however, is its existence – Romney’s unnerving dishonesty is starting to get noticed in ways that had gone largely overlooked for months. In other words, concerns about the ease with which the presumptive Republican nominee misleads the public are going mainstream.

This matters. This is about the point in a presidential campaign at which media “narratives” start to stick. Romney can live with mockery of his out-of-touch patrician elitism; he can tolerate talk of his role in orchestrating mass layoffs; he embraces his lack of leadership experience; and he’s confident he can overcome talk of his flip-flopping.

But if political observers start to see Romney as a man who frequently lies to advance his ambitions, it’s a character flaw that’s awfully tough to live down.

As Rachel recently explained, “Some dishonesty in national American politics is frankly routine. It’s too bad, but it’s true. Romney-style dishonesty is a sight to behold. It’s different. He’s bending the curve.”

Mendacity and Mitt Romney

A reputation Romney can't afford to earn

Updated