Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Romney is not a liar

By William J. Bennett, CNN Contributor
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Thu October 11, 2012
President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney finish their debate in Denver on Wednesday, October 3. <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/03/politics/gallery/10-3-debate-prep/index.html'>View behind-the-scene photos of debate preparations.</a> President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney finish their debate in Denver on Wednesday, October 3. View behind-the-scene photos of debate preparations.
HIDE CAPTION
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
The first presidential debate
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • William Bennett: Obama had his emperor's clothes moment at first debate
  • Bennett: President's supporters are wrong to call Mitt Romney a liar
  • He asks why didn't Obama effectively challenge Romney when on stage?
  • Bennett: Obama campaign is reeling, they're trying to make up for lost ground

Editor's note: William J. Bennett, a CNN contributor, is the author of "The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood." He was U.S. secretary of education from 1985 to 1988 and director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H.W. Bush.

(CNN) -- In Hans Christian Andersen's classic fairy tale, "The Emperor's New Clothes," two swindlers promise an emperor new, beautiful clothes that are invisible to anyone who is unfit for their position, unjust or stupid.

The clothes don't actually exist, but the emperor pretends to see them anyway so it is not thought that he is stupid or unfit to be emperor. His followers and ministers do the same. It takes an innocent little child to say what no one else is willing to say: The emperor doesn't have any clothes on.

See the VP debate
CNN will offer unrestricted access to Thursday's vice presidential debate coverage starting at 7 p.m. ET on CNN TV, CNN.com and via CNN's apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. Web users can become video editors with a new clip-and-share feature that allows them to share favorite debate moments on Facebook and Twitter.

In the first presidential debate last week, the president had his emperor's clothes moment in front of more than 60 million people.

Complete coverage: CNN's election center

All the bright, beautiful robes of his presidency were reduced to nothing. He was unprepared, listless, and as James Carville said, he didn't look like he even wanted to be there. Clint Eastwood's empty chair, which earned the ire of liberal pundits, now seems ever so prophetic.

William Bennett
William Bennett

But Andersen's tale doesn't end there. When the little boy exposes him, the emperor turns a blind eye and says, "This procession has got to go on." Andersen concludes the story, "So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn't there at all."

The procession went on this past weekend with the president's noblemen, Robert Gibbs, David Axelrod and Paul Krugman, all taking to the Sunday shows to insist that the real grievance was not President Obama's debate performance, not that he had no clothes, but that no one is calling Mitt Romney on his lies. Ah, the modern day twist -- the child is a liar!

Romney on debate inspiration from his father
Burton: Race hasn't fundamentally changed
Obama admits bad debate night
Durbin: Obama 'surprised' by Romney

The problems in labeling Romney a liar are several. First, he did not lie. His tax plan would not raise taxes on middle-class families. In fact, Princeton economist Harvey Rosen says the Obama administration is misrepresenting his study on Romney's tax plan.

Second, calling Romney a liar blatantly ignores the reality of the debate: the president's missing clothes and his terrible performance. While more than 60 million people witnessed the debate, the only people ignoring the president's performance are his advisers and his closest ideologues.

For four years Obama has been cosseted and insulated by the friendly mainstream media. His lack of interest in taking hard questions from the media and the media's lack of interest in asking hard question showed during the debate. He was unprepared for Romney's aggressiveness and forcefulness. One can now only wonder how prepared he has been for the presidency these past four years?

Third, if Romney was such a blatant liar, why didn't Obama say anything about it on stage during the debate? Obama couldn't put together a cogent defense of his own policies, let alone go on the offensive against Romney, which leaves little substance or truth to the case that Romney is a liar. Or as Andrew Sullivan wrote, "How do you erase that imprinted first image from public consciousness: a president incapable of making a single argument or even a halfway decent closing statement?"

Opinion: Five ways Obama can bounce back

Fourth, the allegations of lies won't stick. As several commentators have said, Romney's brilliant debate performance obliterated $100 million in negative ads against him. The Obama administration's caricature of Romney, as well as much of the mainstream media's, as a vulture capitalist monster who only cares about the rich, was shattered. The problem with caricaturing someone is that the caricature better fit. On debate night it didn't, and it won't fit going forward.

Just how good was Romney's debate performance? In a CNN/ORC International Poll conducted right after the debate, 67% of debate watchers said Romney won. In the most recent Pew Research poll taken after the debate, Romney now leads Obama 49% to 45% among likely voters. Just last month, Romney trailed by 8 points among this group. That's an incredible 12-point swing less than one month away from the election.

Romney's supporters are more engaged by 15 points, and his favorable rating now surpasses Obama's for the first time, 50-49. On the question of which candidate would best "improve the job situation," Romney now leads Obama by 8 points. In September, Obama was winning likely female voters by 18 points. Now, Obama and Romney are tied among women at 47, a remarkable comeback for Romney.

Obama is reeling. His campaign is against the ropes. But if they think calling Romney a serial liar will make up the ground lost in the first debate, Obama may be even more unprepared for this presidential campaign than anyone thought.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of William J. Bennett.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:08 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
The NFL's new Player Conduct Policy was a missed chance to get serious about domestic violence, says Mel Robbins.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
updated 11:00 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
updated 4:54 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
updated 5:23 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
updated 1:39 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
updated 3:20 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
updated 9:56 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
updated 4:01 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
updated 9:53 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
updated 5:53 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
updated 10:50 AM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
updated 4:23 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
updated 9:26 AM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
updated 9:39 AM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
updated 12:38 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
updated 1:28 PM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
Rip Rapson says the city's 'Grand Bargain' saved pensions and a world class art collection by pulling varied stakeholders together, setting civic priorities and thinking outside the box
updated 6:10 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
Glenn Schwartz says the airing of the company's embarrassing emails might wake us up to the usefulness of talking in-person instead of electronically
updated 5:33 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
The computer glitch that disrupted air traffic over the U.K. on Friday was a nuisance, but not dangerous, says Les Abend
updated 12:40 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Newt Gingrich says the CBO didn't provide an accurate picture of Obamacare's impact, so why rehire its boss?
updated 7:40 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Russian aggression has made it clear Ukraine must rethink its security plans, says Olexander Motsyk, Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S.
updated 7:46 PM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
The Senate committee report on torture has highlighted partisan divisions on CIA methods, says Will Marshall. Republicans and Democrats are to blame.
updated 1:33 PM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
It would be dishonest to say that 2014 has been a good year for women. But that hasn't stopped some standing out, says Frida Ghitis.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT