First opinion post will be something I rarely, if ever, do...defending Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney has developed a well deserved reputation as a flip-flopper over the last few years, so much so that the media and his opponents spend their time searching his statements for inconsistencies. Last week, Mitt Romney was caught in yet another flip flop...or was he? Rachel Maddow was one of many to attack Mitt Romney on his flip flop here. The charge is that Mitt Romney has said on multiple occasions that President Obama made things worse or made the recession worse. The flip flop allegedly came when Romney was quizzed by a reporter on Obama's record based on how things have improved since 2009 when Obama took office. Romney said in response, "I didn't say that things are worse."
That sounds like a flip flop, doesn't it? Actually, no. There is a small but important distinction between the two statements that makes it possible for them both to be true. Romney's attack centers around the idea that the recession was deeper and longer because of President Obama's policies. Under President Romney (in his opinion), better policies would've been implemented and the recession wouldn't have been as bad. Thus, as Romney said, Obama did not inherit the recession but he made it worse. That doesn't mean, however, that things are worse. The reporter who questioned him listed the ways that things have improved in 2009 and Romney admitted that things have improved since 2009 but that doesn't mean Obama didn't make the recession worse. So it comes down to the fact that you can have a negative or suboptimal impact on the economy without overall conditions being worse than when you started.
Now, with all that in mind, I haven't heard anything from Mitt Romney drawing this semantic distinction so perhaps neither he nor his staff even realize there's a reasonable explanation for his comments. Given how many times politicians actually do flip flop, there's no need to attack them when they don't. There's also the underlying debate about whether Obama's policies actually did make the recession deeper but that's a matter of opinion.