I watched, impressed. I admire a smooth liar, and Romney is among the best. His technique is to explain — that bit about not knowing what was in the ads — and then counterattack. He maintains the bulletproof demeanor of a man who is barely suffering fools, in this case Gingrich. His message is not so much what he says, but what he is: You cannot touch me. I have the organization and the money. Especially the money. (Even the hair.) You’re a loser.
There are those who maintain that President Obama, too, is a liar. The president’s recent attack on Ryan’s new budget proposal sent countless critics scurrying to their thesauruses for ways to say lie — “comprehensively misrepresenting” is the way George F. Will put it. (He also said Obama “is not nearly as well educated as many thought.”) Obama does indeed sometimes play politics with the truth, as when he declared that a Supreme Court reversal of his health care law would be unprecedented. He then backed down. Not what he meant, he said.
But where Romney is different is that he is not honest about himself. He could, as he did just recently, stand before the National Rifle Association as if he were, in spirit as well as membership, one of them. In body language, in the blinking of the eyes, in the nonexistent pounding pulse, there was not the tiniest suggestion that here was a man who just as confidently once embodied the anti-gun ethic of Massachusetts, the distant land he once governed. Instead, he tore into Obama for the (nonexistent) threat the president posed to Second Amendment rights — a false accusation from a false champion.