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When Medicare confusion becomes Medicare incoherence

<p>Just over the past couple of days, Mitt Romney's campaign has said he's for and against President Obama's Medicare

Just over the past couple of days, Mitt Romney's campaign has said he's for and against President Obama's Medicare savings. The campaign has also said Romney's Medicare plan is "very similar" and "very different" when compared to Paul Ryan's Medicare plan.

Yesterday, Romney's confusion grew deeper, more offensive, and less coherent.

For those who can't watch clips online, Romney told a group of voters in Ohio:

"One of the things the president did which I find extraordinary, something he never mentioned when he was running for office. You see when he ran for office he said he'd protect Medicare. But did you know that he has taken $716 billion out of the Medicare Trust Fund? He's raided that trust fund. And do you know what he did with it? He's used it to pay for Obama care, a risky, unproven federal government takeover to health care. And if I'm president of the United States, we're putting the $716 billion back."

There's no ambiguity to this: Mitt Romney's lying. Indeed, it's almost hard to count all the lies.

All Obama did was improve Medicare efficiency, improve Medicare's fiscal health, and expand health care benefits for seniors. Romney wants voters to think the president is undermining the Medicare program, but for anyone with even the loosest connection to reality, the argument is idiotic.

Indeed, Obama's Medicare savings are included in Paul Ryan's budget plan. Romney is condemning his own running mate and his own party, working under the assumption that voters are too dumb to know the difference.

But I'm especially amazed by listening to Romney vow, "We're putting the $716 billion back." What does that mean, exactly? It means, in a very literal sense, under Romney's vision, he'll make sure Medicare is less efficient, Medicare's fiscal outlook worse, and bring back higher prescription drug prices and more expensive preventive care for seniors.

That's not my spin on Romney's plan; that's the literal outcome of the policy he's proposing. It's unambiguous.

There's also a remarkable irony to this. Romney is saying he, unlike the president, can make tough calls on issues like entitlements. Except by launching this blisteringly stupid line of attack, Romney is actually proving the opposite point.

As for the campaign's incoherence, Kevin Drum flagged this gem.

Since the announcement of Ryan as Romney's vice-presidential pick, the Republican challenger has faced persistent questioning over where he stands. The Romney team has been left vulnerable, in part because it has been sending out mixed messages.Romney, in a rare press conference on Monday night in Florida, repeatedly refused to say whether he backed Ryan's Medicare reform plan. Some of advisers have gone on television to say publicly that he wholly and enthusiastically endorsed Ryan's budget proposals and would, if president, have signed it. Others have sought to distance him from it, saying Romney was running on his own plan.

Team Romney had weeks to prepare an argument, knew the questions were coming, but never bothered to come up with a coherent argument.

Complicating matters further, this morning, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told NBC this morning that the Ryan budget doesn't include Obama's Medicare savings, just one day after the Romney campaign said the exact opposite.

If Romney runs the country the way he's running his campaign, we're all in a lot of trouble.

Update: I just wanted to add an additional question for Romney, should some enterprising reporter on the campaign trail want to ask it: Mr. Romney, how would you pay for the additional $700 billion in spending you're now proposing?