After spending the last several months paying attention to Mitt Romney's habitual dishonesty at a granular level, I've become largely inured to his more routine, casual lies. Some of the deliberate falsehoods are just too common to get upset about.
But once in a while, Romney tells a lie so blatant and offensive that it raises questions anew about the candidate's character and what standards of decency he's prepared to abandon to advance his ambitions.
As Rachel explained on the show on Thursday, voting rights in Ohio have been a mess in recent cycles, and new voter-suppression tactics imposed by state Republican lawmakers are inviting "chaos" at the polls this fall. Of particular interest is a state policy that restricts early-voting rights: active-duty troops can vote up to three days before Election Day, but no one else.
To that end, President Obama's campaign filed a lawsuit a few weeks ago, asking a federal court to "restore in-person early voting for all Ohioans during the three days prior to Election Day." Three weeks later, Romney came up with a new response to the lawsuit, posting this message to Facebook:
"President Obama's lawsuit claiming it is unconstitutional for Ohio to allow servicemen and women extended early voting privileges during the state's early voting period is an outrage. The brave men and women of our military make tremendous sacrifices to protect and defend our freedoms, and we should do everything we can to protect their fundamental right to vote. I stand with the fifteen military groups that are defending the rights of military voters, and if I'm entrusted to be the commander-in-chief, I'll work to protect the voting rights of our military, not undermine them."
Got that? Obama wants all eligible Ohio voters, including servicemen and women, to have the same ability to vote, which Romney says, in writing, means Obama is trying to "undermine" the troops' ability to vote.
This is as loathsome a lie as Romney has told all year -- and given his record, that's not an easy threshold to meet.
It's important to realize that this isn't a matter of opinion. CNN's headline over the weekend said, "Romney campaign jabs at Obama over voting rights suit." The headline on the Politico homepage yesterday said, "Obama, Mitt camps spar on military voting."
No. Wrong. No one is "jabbing" or "sparring." One candidate lied and got caught. Full stop.
Indeed, when pressed, Romney's spokesperson could point to "no place in Obama's lawsuit that seeks to restrict the rights of military voters," and Romney's legal counsel failed to "offer evidence that Obama's lawsuit would make it tougher for members of the military to vote."
After the campaign's dishonesty was exposed, Romney put a twist on his lie, saying Obama now opposes giving the troops special treatment. But even by Republican standards, this is insane -- by this reasoning, Romney supports a policy that discriminates against military veterans in Ohio who would be legally prohibited from the same early-voting rights as active-duty servicemen and women.
Does Romney want to deny special treatment for veterans of foreign wars? Does Romney think it's befitting a Commander in Chief to deny equal voting rights to those who put their lives on the line to defend the United States?
Yesterday, the Republican presidential campaign said the Obama campaign's lawsuit calling for equal voting rights is "despicable."
It's as if words no longer have any meaning, and Americans politics has become so blisteringly stupid, candidates believe they can say literally anything and get away with it.