By Isaac Butler
Until Mother Jones released the Boca Tapes, one of the problems Democrats have been having in this race is a believability gap. For example, when pollsters told their random sample of voters about the Ryan budget, many people responded that they did not believe that the Ryan budget possibly could contain what it contains. Multiple times stories have come out where the GOP has said something or done something that simply feels like it could not possible be true.
I'm a far hardercore partisan than my wife. And one thing that will often happen is that I'll alert her to some craziness on the part of the Romney campaign and she'll say "is that true? where did you read that?" for fear that I read it in some far lefty rag that spinning some perfectly innocuous story into crazyland territory.
I'm pretty sure the Boca Tapes, where Romney wrote off almost 50% of the country and insulted them--including by his own statistics all veterans and active duty mlitary and the elderly--have put an end to this. But the still, the question of belief persists.
I'm a bit obsessed with belief right now, because of the book I'm working on, a large part of which deals with Christian Science (the religion in which I was raised) a religion that believes that thought and belief have the power to shape the world around us in an overt way. In the particular case of the campaign, there have been a few moments where I wonder what really happened, and sans evidence, what I believe.
Take the announcement from Paul Ryan last night that in 2011 he accidentally failed to report 20% of his income. Now this is a minor issue, obviously. He's already gone back and paid the missing taxes with a $60 penalty. But still... Did Paul Ryan simply forget to put the income from his mother-in-law's living trust in his tax forms? I mean, $60K is a lot of cheese. It's a full fifth of his earnings. You'd think he'd remember something like that or that his accountant would catch it. So I find that hard to believe. Similarly, I find it hard to believe that a guy with a rising national profile would deliberately cheat on his taxes thinking he would be able to get away with it.
This is not a particularly important thing to be in doubt about. Far more important are the assertions that candidates make on the trail, the things they promise to do, the plans they develop and distribute. It's fairly clear that no one really know what Romney would do as President. he seems wholly captured by the tea party right now, but Scott Brown seemed so too when he was running for Senate in Massachusetts and essentially told them to go fuck themselves as soon as he was elected. Grover Norquist has said all the GOP needs is a stuffed suit that will sign whatever is put in front of him (they should've nominated Norm Coleman if that's what they wanted).
I guess the real question I have here amidst all of this is... how are we to determine what candidate statements we take seriously and which we don't? Obviously, I like Obama so I'm inclined to believe him. I don't like Romney so I'm inclined not to. But that seems a very poor way to go about judging this whole thing.