Even though pundits and fact-checkers continue to disagree over the truthfulness of the claims Mitt Romney made in his first debate with President Barack Obama, the point may already be moot for voters.
Romney’s repeated assertion during the Denver debate that he, and not Obama, was the truth-teller may have been enough to persuade voters unfamiliar with policy details, said Elizabeth Markovits, associate professor of politics at Mount Holyoke College.
“It’s disappointing, but he was really smart— and unethical— by saying, ‘I’m the one telling the truth here,’ ” she added.
Markovits, a scholar of democratic theory and ancient Greek political thought, is an expert in the political concept of of parrhesia, or “frank speech.” The author of the 2008 book The Politics of Sincerity: Frank Speech, Plato, and Democratic Judgment, she is especially equipped to field questions relating to honesty, sincerity, and truthfulness in contemporary political discourse and rhetoric.
According to Markovits, one of the most interesting aspects of Romney’s performance in the Oct. 3 debate in Denver is that it marked a distinct departure from the candidate’s previously held policy positions. Even though Romney has long been criticized as a “flip-flopper,” Markovits said the former Massachusetts governor succeeded in distancing himself from that image after a strong performance that was buoyed by Obama’s lackluster effort.
The creation of that new persona, however, may potentially backfire as it can easily lead to a confrontation focused on questioning Romney’s trustworthiness.
“I think that’s where you’ll see the Obama campaign going in the coming days,” she added.
Markovits is currently working on a book length project exploring the difficulties of intergenerational justice through a study of Greek tragedy and comedy. She is also writing an article that explores the intersection between democratic theory and mothers in the workforce.
Mount Holyoke College is able to support broadcast quality interviews via its dedicated ISDN line and recording studio. For more information, contact John Martins, MHC Office of Communications, at 413-538-2603 or firstname.lastname@example.org.