Pepper Spraying Cop Wants Compensation »« Kentucky is the New Kansas

Romney and Our Conveniently Faulty Memory

Perhaps the single most important events of the 2012 election was the public release of a video showing Mitt Romney telling a group of wealthy donors that 47% of the country are lazy and dependent on the government and therefore would never vote for him because he can’t convince them to be responsible for their lives by voting for him. Romney seems to think he never said that:

[Romney] was in California and said at first he couldn’t get a look at the video. His advisers were pushing him to respond as quickly as he could. “As I understood it, and as they described it to me, not having heard it, it was saying, ‘Look, the Democrats have 47 percent, we’ve got 45 percent, my job is to get the people in the middle, and I’ve got to get the people in the middle,'” he said. “And I thought, ‘Well, that’s a reasonable thing.’… It’s not a topic I talk about in public, but there’s nothing wrong with it. They’ve got a bloc of voters, we’ve got a bloc of voters, I’ve got to get the ones in the middle. And I thought that that would be how it would be perceived—as a candidate talking about the process of focusing on the people in the middle who can either vote Republican or Democrat. As it turned out, down the road, it became perceived as being something very different.”

For the record, here’s what he actually said:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what… These are people who pay no income tax…”[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Was he lying? Maybe, but not necessarily. Many psych studies show that human memories can be highly inaccurate, usually in convenient ways that make our past actions seem better than they really were. Over time, that football game we lost in high school becomes the game we won — and only because we made an incredible play at the end. As Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson say in Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me), memory “becomes our personal, live-in, self-justifying historian.” Or as Nietzsche put it:

“‘I have done that,’ says my memory. ‘I cannot have done that,’ says my pride, and remains inexorable. Eventually–memory yields.”

The bad news for Romney is that while his memory may be changed to protest his ego, the internet remembers all.

Comments

  1. grumpyoldfart says

    human memories can be highly inaccurate

    But we can go back to the video and discover exactly what was said.

    But if the words are unpalatable, our advisers might suggest that we build a Chinese Wall and not watch the video – problem solved.

  2. Mooser42001 . says

    “the internet remembers all.”

    I agree, the Internet remembers the false memories just as well as the real, and makes each avaliable according to choice.

  3. pacal says

    I suspect this is simply another example of bullshit. Romney was saying something that sounded “good” and it didn’t matter whether it was true or not.

  4. says

    Yes, he’s lying. He knows what he chose to say, and why he chose to say it; and the video footage is all over the place, so he can’t claim he was never reminded of what he said.

    And besides, the memory distortion you speak of is a form of lying: it happens because people want it to happen, and choose not to remind themselves of the truth. Perhaps the most weak-minded and least educated people can’t help it — but if Romney is in that camp, then he’s even less qualified to be President than I originally thought he was.

  5. says

    While human memory is faulty, that video was aired more times than the Zapruder film. I don’t buy that he just can’t exactly what he said. Not with the constant stream of reminders he got.

  6. gshelley says

    We do know that people can re-write their own memories, but we also know that some people think they can tell the most outrageous lies and that no one will call them on it. Based on what we saw during the election, my money is on the second.

  7. doublereed says

    Are we seriously asking whether Romney made a mistake or lied?

    It’s Romney. It’s a lie. How many times do I have to flip a coin and get heads before you suspect it’s a double-headed coin?

  8. gshelley says

    Also from the article

    Balz tried to point this out: “But when you said there are 47 percent who won’t take personal responsibility—” Romney interrupted: “Actually, I didn’t say that…That’s how it began to be perceived, and so I had to ultimately respond to the perception, because perception is reality.”

    so, we are faced with the alternatives that Romney didn’t watch the video at the time or since, or he is just lying because he expects to be able to get away with it.

  9. raven says

    Romney is just lying.

    Hard to believe he was the best of a bad lot of GOP candidates but he was.

  10. Alverant says

    Rmoney knows what he said. He just can’t admit to what he said and reminding him of the truth will never convince him he should take personal responsibility and care for his life.

  11. No One says

    What ? … 47 % of the population ARE Democrats … all of them are un-employed and on welfare and don’t pay taxes. I mean why else would they not vote for him?

  12. besomyka says

    I’m not sure. It sounds like he started with the thought that he expressed later, the rather accurate notion that there are large blocks of voters whose minds are, in all likelihood, not going to be changed. That was his initial thesis, and the point he wanted to make.

    But then, because of his environment, expectations, or his own biases, went off on all those offensive particulars. I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, and accept that he didn’t start that line with the notion that he was going to insult 47% of voters with lies.

    But he DID, and the reasons he did are worth of examination. There’s a lot of foul biases at work, and he is just as influenced by them. At best.

  13. poxyhowzes says

    Remember, this is the guy who had literally already ordered the fireworks and was ready to strike the match and light the fuse on election eve, to celebrate his “Victory.”

    He and his cohorts had been discounting the polls for six or eight weeks before November, convincing themselves that the polls, collectively and individually, were wrong by significant percentages.

    I wonder what happened to all those fireworks?

    — pH

  14. Alverant says

    #15
    Knowing what happened to his campaign workers* he probably refused to pay for them.

    *Said workers had their credit cards canceled as soon as it became clear he lost so they had to pay for their hotel rooms out of pocket before being refunded later (assuming they were refunded at all).

  15. says

    *Said workers had their credit cards canceled as soon as it became clear he lost so they had to pay for their hotel rooms out of pocket before being refunded later (assuming they were refunded at all).

    Wow, he was that mean to his own supporters?

    Oh well, at least they didn’t have to ride home on the roof of their buses or trains. I hope…

  16. Michael Heath says

    Ed writes:

    Was [Mitt Romney] lying? Maybe, but not necessarily.

    Jeez Ed, you’re smarter than this. Mr. Romney was absolutely lying.

    Each of us has an obligation to use sufficiently framed, factual premises when communicating to others. It’s up to us to insure we don’t misinform others. If we’re misinforming people we’re lying; the obligation to tell the truth is on the communicator. If that requires some time, energy, and research to validate we got it right, than so be it.

    To dilute this standard invites dishonesty; which we already encounter amongst denialists like so many of those who are religious or those whose political ideology can’t handle inconvenient facts.

    It’s not difficult being honest.

  17. Michael Heath says

    gshelley quotes from the linked article:

    Balz tried to point this out: “But when you said there are 47 percent who won’t take personal responsibility—” Romney interrupted: “Actually, I didn’t say that…That’s how it began to be perceived, and so I had to ultimately respond to the perception, because perception is reality.”
    [bolded by Heath]

    gshelley then responds:

    so, we are faced with the alternatives that Romney didn’t watch the video at the time or since, or he is just lying because he expects to be able to get away with it.

    No, it doesn’t matter whether he’s watched the video to determine he’s lying on what I bold above. Romney has an obligation to tell the truth, it’s up to him in insure he’s not misinforming others. Here he obviously did; he lied.

  18. jacobfromlost says

    Romney always just said whatever he thought he had to say to win (even if it contradicted the last 10 dozen things he said elsewhere to other people). Apparently he is still doing that, except that the election is now over and he lost.

    Kinda sad, really. (Anyone hear about the “family vote” they took in 2010 on whether Romney should run for president in 2012? Apparently he lost that vote also 10 to 2. Everyone in the family–including Romney himself–voted “no” to running. The only two yes votes were Ann and Tagg.

    Tagg is quoted as saying, “Even up until the day before he made the announcement, he was looking for excuses to get out of it. If there had been someone who he thought would have made a better president than he, he would gladly have stepped aside.”

    Sadly, there was no one better running on the Republican side…and that’s a remarkable comment for both Romney and the other candidates.

  19. says

    Romney’s right. The 47% should stand up and take personal responsibility for misinterpreting what he said as what he said. But they can’t. Typical.

  20. dingojack says

    [Romney] was in California and said at first he couldn’t get a look at the video. His advisers were pushing him to respond as quickly as he could. “As I understood it, and as they described it to me, not having heard it, it was saying, ‘Look, the Democrats have 47 percent, we’ve got 45 percent, my job is to get the people in the middle, and I’ve got to get the people in the middle,’” he said. “And I thought, ‘Well, that’s a reasonable thing.’… It’s not a topic I talk about in public, but there’s nothing wrong with it. They’ve got a bloc of voters, we’ve got a bloc of voters, I’ve got to get the ones in the middle. And I thought that that would be how it would be perceived—as a candidate talking about the process of focusing on the people in the middle who can either vote Republican or Democrat. As it turned out, down the road, it became perceived as being something very different.

    Note:
    a) Rmoney couldn’t get a look at the video. The IntertubeZ how doez it work? @@
    b) ‘As I understand it, as it was described to me. It’s not my fault’ – I haven’t seen a short video clip of a few minutes in duration, therefore I’m not responsible for idiotic things contained within, even though I SAID THEM.
    c) ‘I don’t talk about this in public’. This was a private function therefore my offensive remarks shouldn’t have be recorded and then become public. The old, old weasel – ‘I wasn’t a bigot in public, so that’s perfectly OK then’. No, no it ain’t.
    (Note the attempt to shift blame onto the whistleblower. Sadly this is all too common in politics).
    d) ‘I thought that is how it would be perceived’. If you thought my remarks were offensive and untrue, then that’s YOUR problem, not MINE for saying these bigoted lies
    Nope Mitty, that’s not how it works. If you’re so big on personal integrity and personal responsibility then show some, don’t try and shift the blame away from the person who is actually responsible for the comments, YOU..
    e)Really, Mr Romney? Have you NO shame?

    Dingo

  21. steve84 says

    Romney fits the textbook of a sociopath. His lying his pathological and compulsory.

  22. says

    Raging Bee:

    And besides, the memory distortion you speak of is a form of lying: it happens because people want it to happen, and choose not to remind themselves of the truth. Perhaps the most weak-minded and least educated people can’t help it —

    You’re just plain wrong. Our memories are reconstructed every time we recollect; our memories are nothing like accurate recordings for events.Everyone’s memories are constantly revising, influenced by new information and motivation to reduce internal tension. It isn’t about weakness of character. It’s not something people can will, because unconscious processes support the ongoing reconstruction. This is well established.

    Lying is a moral failure, also well-established as universal human failure, but lying is conscious. To call the normal process of unconscious reconstruction of memories lying is to obliterate the meaning and moral significance of conscious lying.

    Now, it’s certainly possible that Romney was consciously lying when he made the statement quoted above, but Ed is correct that this could be a normal example of revised memory. We simply have no way to know for sure which is the case.

  23. Snake Foot says

    Willard Romney’s pathetic attempts at spin are totally irrelevant. He said what he said; it was recorded and he never denied or claimed it was edited in any way. I am reminded of ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail” when Brave Sir Robin answered the song made about him ”No I didn’t…” Willard was not elected to the presidency. He will never run for public office again; I mean even to the Republican Party he is anathema. Consider Bob Dole and Jimmy Carter; both lost presidential elections but both remain influential within their respective parties, their views on the issues are still solicited; but no one (not even Fox ‘News’) cares what Willard says.

  24. dingojack says

    Dr X. – And I say again, only slightly louder this time: The IntertubeZ how doez it work?!?
    Make a statement you claim to be factual without bothering to even to review the actual facts? -= LYING.
    Dingo:

  25. matty1 says

    I don’t think Dr X is defending Willard here, he is disagreeing with the claim that every error in memory is a deliberate conscious choice to misrepresent.

    The idea the only the bad people forget stuff or have other cognitive limits while good people (like me) are above all that is comforting but dangerously wrong.

    Now in this case I’m inclined to agree he is lying there is clear evidence of what happened that he had to either know about or deliberately avoid. But going back to the general point, there is no video of my 16th birthday and it is highly likely some of my memories of it are false- does the fact they exist make me a liar? Would I become a liar if a video emerged showing my memory was wrong?

  26. says

    In his presidential campaign, Mitt “I’m not familiar precisely with what I said, but I’ll stand by what I said, whatever it was” Romney didn’t keep track of niggling details like what he said his position was. Mr. Etch-a-Sketch’s position today is what it always has been, never mind what he said yesterday. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

  27. Michael Heath says

    Dr. X writes:

    Lying is a moral failure, also well-established as universal human failure, but lying is conscious. To call the normal process of unconscious reconstruction of memories lying is to obliterate the meaning and moral significance of conscious lying.

    Now, it’s certainly possible that Romney was consciously lying when he made the statement quoted above, but Ed is correct that this could be a normal example of revised memory. We simply have no way to know for sure which is the case.

    Being honest is not difficult. Romney has an obligation to insure that the past events he reports are accurate. Even if he misremembers, that in itself is evidence of a failure of character since in this case and this person, it almost assuredly reveals he spent an insufficient amount of quality time researching that which riled up much of the nation. This failure is only amplified by his blithely repeating that which is not true.

    We have the ability to not rely solely on our memories when it comes to that which we assert. So again, honesty is not difficult. Here Romney misinforms his audience, i.e., he lied. The fact he misinformed us because he either did it purposefully or just doesn’t give enough of a shit to be accurate is hardly a defense of his moral failing.

  28. dingojack says

    matty1 – Nobody was claiming Romney is ”a bad person’ and therefore must be a liar.
    He had the tools and opportunity available to him to check the ‘facts’ BUT HE DIDN”T. This failure to take the simplest steps not tell an untruth, (not that he allegedly ‘misremembered’ events), indicates the lie of Romney’s moral compass. That and his complete inability to say ‘I’ve gone through the video of what I actually said. I admit what I said then, and subsequently claimed about what I said WAS WRONG’.’
    Taking your example: If you claimed as a fact that Cowboy Dan (or whom ever) attended your 10th Birthday and there was video or 16mm film or the like and plenty of witnesses etc. that disproved his ‘fact’ AND you failed to take even the simplest of steps to verify this as fact or fiction’ before claiming it was true, would that be a lie?
    Dingo

  29. sailor1031 says

    In GOP-world video, audio and written records are not reliable and cannot therefore be used to claim at a leter date that a candidate actually said and did the things he said and did. It’s all something to do with quantum uncertainty and the electrons randomly rearranging themselves or something. But anyway I remember that that is true.

  30. Michael Heath says

    matty1 writes:

    The idea the only the bad people forget stuff or have other cognitive limits while good people (like me) are above all that is comforting but dangerously wrong.

    Now in this case I’m inclined to agree he is lying there is clear evidence of what happened that he had to either know about or deliberately avoid. But going back to the general point, there is no video of my 16th birthday and it is highly likely some of my memories of it are false- does the fact they exist make me a liar? Would I become a liar if a video emerged showing my memory was wrong?

    Of course this sort of mis-remembering isn’t lying. It’s trivial. But this is a strawman of what those of us who observe Romney is clearly lying here are pointing out.

    First off, Mr. Romney’s had several months to peruse the video. Nothing has, or is, stopping him from viewing the video. Second, he was being interviewed by a journalist for a book. If the journalist asserted a fact to which Romney remembers differently, than Romney has the obligation to do the research to validate that which is true; especially because journalists are ethically chartered with depending on the facts Or at least ask the journalist to do that research for him if he’s incapable of using researching information on the Internet. The fact he supposedly went with a conveniently false narrative supplied by his sycophants doesn’t absolve him of his responsibility to be honest.

  31. George W says

    The only thing Romney got wrong is the 47%. It’s less than 47%. These are the lazy uneducated morons who will never get a job because they are satisfied with the income they receive from hard working taxpayers. They voted for Obama.

    Meanwhile our economy is not too impressive. Romney who understands how business works would have made a difference. President Obama doesn’t know anything about business. He has exactly zero business experience. Obama is not qualified to be president of a capitalist country like America.

  32. Michael Heath says

    Sweet Poe George W! Including idiotically conflating economics with business, denying the reality that the U.S. Congress and the Federal Reserve exist and influence fiscal and monetary policy respectively, and that private industry has an impact on economic results.

    Sean Hannity’s booking agent should be calling you soon.

  33. jamessweet says

    What probably contributes to the “faulty memory” is that the respective practical messages behind what-he-remembers-he-said and what-he-really-said are the same: Some percentage of voters are dedicated Democrats and it is pointless to target them (I would include myself in that group; the changes the Republican party would have to make to get me to vote for a Republican president would make them into something else entirely). Of course, the overtones of what-he-really-said are quite damning — but it’s easy to “forget” the overtones, and just be like, “well, what I meant to say was…”

  34. matty1 says

    OK let me clarify. I believe it is overwhelmingly likely that Mitt Romney was lying on this occasion. My objection was *not* to the idea he is being dishonest.

    My objection is to any wider application of the statement by Raging Bee @6 that.

    [T]he memory distortion you speak of is a form of lying

    I do not believe that everyone who remembers a red car in the famous test either “want[s] it to happen” or is “weak-minded and least educated”. Thinking that leads to the idea that since I want to remember accurately and regard myself as strong-minded and well educated my memory must be more reliable that most and that is a dangerous assumption to rely.

  35. Michael Heath says

    jamessweet writes:

    What probably contributes to the “faulty memory” is that the respective practical messages behind what-he-remembers-he-said and what-he-really-said are the same: Some percentage of voters are dedicated Democrats and it is pointless to target them (I would include myself in that group; the changes the Republican party would have to make to get me to vote for a Republican president would make them into something else entirely).

    The problem with this rationalism is the other [dishonest] premise Romney asserted, that this block is dependent on the government. That’s simply not true; retirees, executives in industries government favors (e.g., big oil and ag), and the military are three important groups who are dependent on government income and who also favor Republicans.

  36. freehand says

    Hi, George W. I’ll assume (rather dangerously) that you’re not a Poe. I have worked for 40 years years and my wife 35, and we are rather tired of supporting those red states. While we understand some of the difficulties that would be involved, we can’t help but wistfully daydream of the South breaking away – successfully this time. Let those of us who are educated and more productive get some stuff done.
    .
    It’s cute how you think a business experienced president would be better somehow. Where did you folks got the looney idea that businesses are “more efficient” than governments is baffling. They are, I suppose, if you understand that the purpose of a business is to enrich the upper management, and not serve the customer. President Romney would have declared bankruptcy, sold off the national assets to his friends, and outsourced the national security. Oh, wait, President Obama is doing that also. He’s a better capitalist than you realized! On the other hand, he speaks in complete sentences. So, still an improvement over Dubya.

  37. dingojack says

    H. George W – Herbert Hoover had extensive business experience, it sure didn’t make him an expert on how to handle a rapid downturn in the US economy.
    Dingo

  38. says

    Our memories are reconstructed every time we recollect; our memories are nothing like accurate recordings for events.Everyone’s memories are constantly revising, influenced by new information and motivation to reduce internal tension…

    You’re grossly overstating a valid case here. “Nothing like accurate recordings for events?” Seriously? Memories aren’t perfect, but they’re nowhere near that unreliable.

    And besides, a reasonably educated person should have the tools, and the willingness, to adjust and compensate for his/her imperfect thought processes, especially in important matters like, oh I dunno, what you said (according to at least some sort of previously devised plan or strategy) to an important group of donors while running for President of the entire United States. I mean, this isn’t about misremembering your exact bank account balance, where you had dinner two weeks ago, or what you said in casual, insonsequential private conversation over said dinner — this is about a politician supposedly speaking his mind and/or heart about matters relevant to both his campaign and his policy ideas. If Mutt Romney really didn’t remember what he said in a speech — even the general thrust of it — that’s most likely because he wasn’t thinking about what he was saying, or didn’t care, and was just mindlessly reading what someone else wrote for him.

    Sane adults are generally supposed to be able to recognize their own imperfections and either compensate for them or overrule them with rational thought — that’s pretty much the definition of “maturity.” And people who rise to any sort of educatinal, money, or power elite status have even more means of compensation, and even less excuse for sloppy thinking.

Leave a Reply