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 6:47 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Q & A with artist Rachel Sussman on her new book of photographs, "The Oldest Living Things in the World."
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Martin Blaser says the overuse of antibiotics threatens to deplete our bodies of "good" microbes, leaving us vulnerable to an unstoppable plague--an "antibiotic winter"
updated 1:37 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
John Sutter asks: Is it possible to eat meat in modern-day America and consider yourself an environmentalist without being a hypocrite?
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Sally Kohn notes that Meb Keflezighi rightly was called an American after he won the Boston Marathon, but his status in the U.S. once was questioned
updated 8:56 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Denis Hayes and Scott Denman say on this Earth Day, the dawn of the Solar Age is already upon us and the Atomic Age of nuclear power is in decline
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Retired Coast Guard officer James Loy says a ship captain bears huge responsibility.
updated 1:08 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Peter Bergen says the latest strikes are part of an aggressive U.S. effort to target militants, including a bomb maker
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Cynthia Lummis and Peter Welch say 16 agencies carry out national intelligence, and their budgets are top secret. We need to know how they are spending our money.
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama knows more than anyone that he has much at stake in the midterm elections.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Eric Sanderson says if you really want to strike a blow for the environment--and your health--this Earth Day, work to get cars out of cities and create transportation alternatives
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Bruce Barcott looks at the dramatic differences in marijuana laws in Colorado and Louisiana
updated 4:47 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery supports the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
updated 2:25 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT