The Romney campaign lies with amazing brazenness and regularity — see, just to pick a recent example out of a hat, this whopper. Thus far, political horse-race reporters don’t seem to care. They spend their time analyzing whether the lies will “work.”
Outside the horse-race beat, however, there are still some reporters who do the old-fashioned work of assessing the truth value of political claims. (I know, boooring, right?) Take, for instance, this piece in the Washington Post from green reporters Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin.
Being that they are “objective” reporters, they can’t just come out and state the thesis of the piece plainly: “Romney had sane energy policies when he was governor of Massachusetts. Now he’s flip-flopped to far-right policies justified by outrageous lies that even industry doesn’t support.” But that’s what the piece shows.
What drew my attention is buried down at the bottom of the piece. It has to do with the reaction of a certain kind of person — the self-styled “centrist” or moderate — to Romney’s outrageous lurch rightward. I think there is, among those sorts of people, a lingering sense that Romney is “really” one of them, really a moderate, really the guy he was in Massachusetts, and all the loopy right-wingery is just what he has to do when he campaigns. It’s all in the game. Once he’s in the White House, his inner moderate will re-emerge. Right? Witness:
While Romney has sharply attacked Obama for investing federal dollars in wind and solar projects, [Charles Ebinger, director of Brookings Institution's energy security initiative] said that it is unlikely that Romney would cut off all federal research and development funds for renewable energy.
“In reality, he is a venture capitalist, for better or worse. He would realize R and D [research and development] is very important,” Ebinger said. “I can’t see him bowing to the right wing of the Republican Party and saying, ‘We won’t do any R and D.’”
Lots of centrist types “can’t see” Romney bowing to the right-wing of the party or governing as right-wing as he’s running. That’s because lots of centrist types are naive about American politics. (It is often, in my rather uncharitable opinion, a kind of self-imposed, willful naivety.)
As I said here, the Republican Party has been evolving steadily into a parliamentary party, which acts as a unified bloc and is driven from the legislature. As party honcho Grover Norquist put it, the president’s job is “to sign the legislation that has already been prepared.” The party agenda, not what is secretly in Romney’s heart, is what matters. And the party agenda is now entirely driven by the right wing of the party (which is, for all intents and purposes, the only wing it has left). The same people Romney is pandering to with his extreme energy rhetoric in the campaign are the ones he’ll have to please after he’s elected. They’re the ones who will staff his administration. They’re the ones who will send him legislation to sign.
The Republican Party now acts as a unit. And it is a unit with an agenda, on energy as on much else, that is wildly reactionary relative even to a few short years ago. Even assuming the hidden moderate so many people want to see inside Romney is real, it will be powerless in office. You elect a Republican, you get the Republican agenda.