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“A Man Of No Convictions”: You Can Never Meet The Same Mitt Romney Twice

To a skeptic, the most remarkable aspect of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign has been how so flexible a politician can represent so dogmatic a party. Contemporary Republicanism is ideological to its core. Everybody who watched the GOP primary debates between Mitt and the Seven Dwarves (or were there nine? I forget) understands that there’s a black-and-white party line on almost every imaginable topic from tax policy to global warming.

Romney, on the other hand, appears to have no firm convictions at all. How anybody purports to know what the GOP candidate actually thinks about any issue other than the size of his own offshore bank accounts beggars my poor imagination. That most Republicans have temporarily persuaded themselves to trust him reflects mainly their fear and loathing of President Obama.

Equally remarkable, however, is the way the Obama campaign has let Romney get away with it. How can his evasiveness not be an issue? For that matter, how can it not be THE issue? Early on, a strategic decision was apparently made to depict the GOP candidate as the “severely conservative” politician he affected to be during the Republican primaries.

Well, it ain’t working. So many and so various are the GOP candidate’s self-contradictions and reinventions that the proverbial “low information” citizens who appear to constitute much of the swing vote are pretty much free to imagine any Mitt Romney that strikes their fancy.

Maybe it’s unpatriotic to say so, but an awful lot of people who manage their personal affairs competently enough simply refuse to understand the most elementary facts when they’re part of a political argument.

Sometimes you have to tell them a story. It helps if that story connects to something close to home; something they’ve had to think about realistically in their own lives.

Such as, what happens if you lose your health insurance and then get sick? Millions live in fear of this every day.

CBS News’ Scott Pelley recently asked Romney a simple question on 60 Minutes: “Does the government have a responsibility to provide health care to the 50 million Americans who don’t have it today?”

“Well, we do provide care for people who don’t have insurance,” Romney allowed. “If someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care.”

“That’s the most expensive way to do it,” Pelley observed. Indeed, government figures show the average emergency room visit costs $922, vs. $199 for a doctor’s office visit.

Nor is it free. People do know that. Under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act signed by President Reagan, hospitals must treat sick and injured patients regardless of their ability to pay. A civilized society can do no less; much less one that hopes to head off deadly epidemics.

But the law doesn’t say the hospital can’t perform what’s cynically called a “wallet biopsy” and send you a bill. Indeed, many states allow hospitals to hire collection agencies, garnish wages and seize assets in pursuit of payment. For this reason, many people stay away until they’re at death’s door.

Others abuse the privilege and stick the rest of us with the bill.

Back in 2006, the politician Bill Clinton calls “Moderate Mitt” recognized the problem. Hewrote a Wall Street Journal column objecting to the way deadbeats game the system.

“By law, emergency care cannot be withheld,” he wrote. “Why pay for something you can get free? Of course, while it may be free for them, everyone else ends up paying the bill, either in higher insurance premiums or taxes.”

Writing in Time, Kate Pickert catches Moderate Mitt as recently as 2008, explaining the conservative origins of “Romneycare” in Massachusetts.

“They shouldn’t be allowed just to show up at the hospital and say somebody else should pay for me, so we said no more free riders… We said if you can afford insurance, then either have the insurance or get a health savings account, pay your own way, but no more free ride… I think it’s the conservative approach—to make sure that people who can afford insurance are getting it at their expense, not at the expense of the taxpayers or the government. That, I consider a step towards socialism.”

Ah, but then came “Obamacare,” basically Romneycare with a less expensive per capita price tag. Yesterday’s conservative solution turned into today’s Bolshevism. Severely Conservative Mitt played along.

So what would Romney do if elected?

Who knows? To paraphrase the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus: You can never encounter the same Mitt Romney twice. Whatever he says today, he’ll say something different tomorrow.

Here’s the question President Obama should be asking: Would you buy a used health insurance policy from this man?

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, October 17, 2012

 

 

October 18, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A More Extreme Place”: Mitt Romney Is Not George W. Bush, He’s Worse

Much to Democrats’ chagrin, George W. Bush hasn’t played much of a role in larger 2012 political conversation. His name was rarely uttered during the Republican presidential primaries; the failed former president hid during the party’s national convention; and Mitt Romney did his level best to ignore the news when Bush endorsed him.

It came as a pleasant surprise, then, when a voter broached the subject last night. She noted she’s been “disappointed with the lack of progress” over the last four years, but she’s afraid of going back to Bush-era policies and wanted Romney to explain how they’re different.

Romney responded by answering a previous question about contraception. When he got around to responding, Romney stressed oil drilling and trade as examples of why “President Bush had a very different path for a very different time” — despite the fact that Romney and Bush have the same positions on oil drilling and trade.

What struck me as interesting was Obama making a counter-intuitive point — he said Romney and Bush are different, but Romney is worse:

“You know, there are some things where Governor Romney’s different from George Bush. George Bush didn’t propose turning Medicare into a voucher. George Bush embraced comprehensive immigration reform; he didn’t call for ‘self-deportation.’ George Bush never suggested that we eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood.

“So there are differences between Governor Romney and George Bush, but they’re not on economic policy. In some ways, he’s gone to a more extreme place when it comes to social policy, and I think that’s a mistake.”

Now, when I heard the question, my first thoughts turned to the fact that Romney has surrounded himself with former Bush/Cheney aides who are shaping a Bush/Cheney platform. Obama didn’t mention this.

But in some ways, the president’s response was even more effective: if you loved Bush’s economic policies, but didn’t think he was right-wing enough on Medicare, immigration, and women’s health, then Mitt Romney’s the candidate for you.

I have a hunch the woman in the audience who posed the question wasn’t reassured.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 17, 2012

October 18, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Loose Leaf Binders”: What Does Mitt Romney Really Want For Women?

Women watching the debate last night let out a collective “hallelujah”: issues of direct importance to our lives finally merited a mention. We got equal pay, contraception, Planned Parenthood, poverty and bizarre discussions of single mothers.

Mitt Romney tried hard to pretend he’ll come down on women’s side in these issues. But as is classic Mitt, his positions send mixed messages. What does Mitt Romney really want for women? What would he do to improve their economic outlook? It depends on which talking point you listen to.

Romney took a few opportunities last night to discuss the ways in which he wants more women in the workforce. When asked a direct question about equal pay, he sidestepped to talk about how few women tend to be represented in top political posts, bringing out his now infamous “binders full of women” story to describe how he asked aides to find qualified women to fill his cabinet as governor. He also talked about wanting women to have more flexible work hours and brought up the fact that women have lost a huge number of jobs in the recovery. All signs point to: Mitt wants to help women get to work.

But does he? First, there’s the debunk now being widely circulated claiming that the binders Mitt asked for were actually put together before he even asked for them—not to mention that a study found the percentage of senior-level positions he appointed to women actually declined during his administration. But these statements clash heavily with some other comments he’s made. When discussing early childhood education recently, he commented, “It’s an advantage to have two parents, but to have one parent to stay closely connected and at home during those early years of education can be very, very important.” Which gender tends to be that “parent” who stays out of the workforce to be home? It is overwhelmingly mothers.

There’s also a big question as to how much he really wants to help unemployed women get back to work. He may cite the statistic that 580,000 women lost their jobs in the last four years, but he rarely makes mention of why. I’ll fill in that blank: mostly because of public sector layoffs. Women have lost 383,000 government jobs since the beginning of the recovery, wiping out more than a third of their private sector job gains. Yet Romney has repeatedly said he wants to see fewer workers on the government payrolls, including teachers, who are overwhelmingly women. He’s yet to explain how those two viewpoints can coexist.

Mitt would also have you believe he wants fewer women living in poverty. When talking about rising poverty rates, he rightly pointed out that the majority are women. “There are three and a half million more women living in poverty today than when the president took office,” he said. “We don’t have to live like this.”

It’s true, Mitt, we don’t. Because we could be doing far more to support people who fall below the poverty line, particularly women, by shoring up programs that are failing them such as TANF (formally known as welfare) and child care assistance. Yet that’s not what he would do once in office. His running mate’s budget, which Romney has said he’d sign if it made it to his desk, would focus 62 percent of its spending cuts on programs that support the poor, such as food stamps, Medicaid and Pell Grants. There’s reason to believe Romney would go even further: he’s calling for about $2 trillion more spending on defense over the next decade than Ryan is, which would mean drastic cuts—about 40 percent across the board—in all other programs.

And then there are his feelings about single mothers. When asked a question about gun control, he inexplicably ended up talking about single mothers and how they are apparently at fault for gun violence. (Never mind studies that show no correlation between the two.) In his wandering response, he said, “We need moms and dads helping raise kids. Wherever possible, the—the benefit of having two parents in the home—and that’s not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh, to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone—that’s a great idea because if there’s a two-parent family, the prospect of living in poverty goes down dramatically.” (Emphasis mine.) That sounds quite a lot like family planning to me. How does one plan a family? By using contraception to control fertility and have children when and with whom one wants.

And contraception did come up. Romney decided that last night to be on the pro side, stating unequivocally, “Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives.” Unfortunately that’s not always his position. First, there are those around him who don’t share this view. The GOP platform, for example, calls for a personhood amendment, which would endanger some forms of contraception. Then there’s Paul Ryan’s statement that he and Romney would do away with co-pay-free birth control access as provided by the Affordable Care Act on “day one.” And, oh yeah, Romney has previously condemned that very provision himself, even supporting Senator Roy Blunt’s bizarre proposal to allow employers to refuse birth control coverage in their insurance policies if they feel icky about it.

For his part, President Obama pointed out that contraception is an economic issue for the women who need and want access to it. He also made a case for the Lilly Ledbetter Act, a bill that takes a step toward closing the gender wage gap (even though there is much more that needs to be done) while Romney offered up no policy solutions. Obama has previously proposed spending money to hire back some of the teachers who have been laid off in the crisis. He would expand Medicaid to cover more people living in poverty and has expanded Pell Grants and job training programs to help those living in poverty. Clearly there are ways Obama can be pushed to do more for women. But it’s not even clear which side Romney is on.

 

By: Bryce Covert, The Nation, October 17, 2012

October 18, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“I Love Vetoes”: Mitt Romney’s False Claims Of Bipartisanship In Massachusetts

In Tuesday night’s presidential debate at Hofstra University on Long Island, Mitt Romney said, “We haven’t had the leadership in Washington to work on a bipartisan basis. I was able to do that in my state.” This repeats a claim he made repeatedly in the first debate that he worked successfully in with the Democratic state legislature in Massachusetts. “Republicans and Democrats both love America,” said Romney. “But we need to have leadership—leadership in Washington that will actually bring people together and get the job done and could not care less if—if it’s a Republican or a Democrat. I’ve done it before. I’ll do it again.”

Romney also argues that an ability to work across the aisle is essential for any president, and that it is a quality he has and Obama lacks. At the first debate, Romney said, regarding a deficit reduction deal, “I think something this big, this important has to be done on a bipartisan basis. And we have to have a president who can reach across the aisle and fashion important legislation with the input from both parties.”

Romney’s surrogates have even gone so far as to offer his bipartisanship approach as the reason he will not specify what tax expenditures he will eliminate to offset the cost of his tax cuts, arguing that he should work with Congress to identify them, rather than dictating his own preferences.

During the primaries, when Romney claimed to have been “a severely conservative governor,” he never boasted of working with Democrats.

In truth, his approach in Massachusetts was neither severely conservative nor bipartisan. Democrats in the legislature held a veto-proof super-majority. That meant Romney had no choice but to play ball with them or else he would get nothing done. Sometimes he opted for the former, as in the case of healthcare reform. Often, he opted for the latter.

Looking at Romney’s record in Massachusetts one does not see bipartisanship as an operating principle. Rather than it is a tool he uses when it is convenient. Romney was not particularly good at cultivating relationships with the Democratic legislature. Former Massachusetts House Speaker Tom Finneran told the Associated Press, “Initially [Romney’s] sense was, ‘I have been elected governor, I am the CEO here and you guys are the board of directors and you monitor the implementation of what I say.’ That ruffled the feathers of legislators who see themselves as an equal branch (of government).”

Romney’s approach to the legislature remained mostly hostile, rather than conciliatory. As NPR reports:

Romney clearly did not relish having to work with a Legislature that was 85 percent Democratic. He pushed hard during his first two years as governor to boost the number of Republicans on Beacon Hill. But that effort was a failure; Republicans ended up losing seats in the midterm elections…. Apart from health care, Romney defined success not with big-picture legislative accomplishments but with confrontation. In a 2008 campaign ad, Romney actually bragged about taking on his Legislature: “I like vetoes; I vetoed hundreds of spending appropriations as governor,” he said.
Romney issued some 800 vetoes, and the Legislature overrode nearly all of them, sometimes unanimously.

In 2005 and 2006, after Romney decided not to run for re-election but instead to seek the Republican presidential nomination, he abandoned much of his erstwhile moderation. Massachusetts pulled out the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, abandoned his smart growth policies, and reversed his prior support for abortion rights and stem cell research. Refusing to make investments in stem cell research and renewable energy—two important sectors of Massachusetts’s economy—contributed to his abysmal record on job creation.

It is also hard to reach across the aisle when you aren’t even in town. Towards the end of Romney’s tenure, he was out of the state more than he was in it. In 2006, Romney’s last year in office, he was traveling out of state for all or part more than 200 days. During his total four years he was out of the state more than 400 days. While on the road, speaking to Republican audiences, he would frequently mock Massachusetts for its liberal politics. By the time he left office, his approval ratings back home were 34 percent.

If anything, Romney’s approach in the White House would be even more partisan and polarizing. In Massachusetts, Romney was not only governing with Democratic legislature but with a liberal electorate. What he did under those circumstances could be quite different from what he would do with a Republican Congress and a national Republican constituency.

 

By: Ben Adler, The Nation, October 17, 2012

October 18, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Believe Me Because I Said So”: Mitt Romney Goes From Etch A Sketch To Sketchy

“Lead from behind” may be a sound bite the Obama administration regrets, but debating from behind is clearly something President Obama is very good at. He got the first debate’s wakeup call while Mitt Romney let the encounter in Denver mislead him into confusing petulance with strength.

For Obama’s supporters, the fact that the president played offense, had a strategy and seemed happy in his work was reason enough for elation. But the most electorally significant performance was Romney’s. Under pressure this time, the former Massachusetts governor displayed his least attractive sides. He engaged in pointless on-stage litigation of the debate rules. He repeatedly demonstrated his disrespect for both the president and Candy Crowley, the moderator. And Romney was just plain querulous when anyone dared question him about the gaping holes in his tax and budget plans.

Any high school debate coach would tell a student that declaring, “Believe me because I said so,” is not an argument. Yet Romney confused biography with specificity and boasting with answering a straightforward inquiry. “Well, of course, they add up,” Romney insisted of his budget numbers. “I — I was — I was someone who ran businesses for 25 years, and balanced the budget. I ran the Olympics and balanced the budget.” Romney was saying: Trust me because I’m an important guy who has done important stuff. He gave his listeners no basis on which to verify the trust he demanded.

Romney’s stonewalling was so obvious that it opened the way for one of Obama’s most effective lines of the evening: “If somebody came to you, Governor, with a plan that said, here, I want to spend $7 or $8 trillion, and then we’re going to pay for it, but we can’t tell you until maybe after the election how we’re going to do it, you wouldn’t have taken such a sketchy deal. And neither should you, the American people, because the math doesn’t add up.” Obama sought to make that point in the last debate. This time he had a metaphor and a story to go with the arithmetic.

Romney also covertly disclosed that he, like George W. Bush before him, has every intention of cutting taxes on the rich. Like Bush, he used stealthy language to try to achieve a great fiscal coverup.

Here was Romney on Tuesday: “I will not, under any circumstances, reduce the share that’s being paid by the highest-income taxpayers.” Here was Bush in 2000: “After my plan is in place, the wealthiest Americans will pay a higher percentage of taxes [than] they do today.”

This really matters: Romney intends, as Bush did, to push for steep tax cuts for the wealthy. His only pledge is that he’ll keep the share of the total tax take paid by the wealthy unchanged, presumably by reducing other taxes too. And this is supposed to lead to lower deficits? How?

The most instructive contrast between Debate I and Debate II was the extent to which Romney’s ideas crumbled at the slightest contact with challenge. Romney and Paul Ryan are erecting a Potemkin village designed to survive only until the polls close on Nov. 6. They cannot say directly that they really believe in slashing taxes on the rich and backing away from so much of what government does because they know that neither idea will sell. So they offer soothing language to the middle class, photo ops at homeless programs to convey compassion and a steady stream of attacks on Obama, aimed at shifting all the attention his way.

For his part, Obama looks strong when he calmly and methodically confronts the exceptionally large philosophical and practical differences that now divide the parties. He looks weak when he fuzzes up those differences in the hope of avoiding conflict. The fight is often asymmetric because Obama speaks for balance — between tax increases and spending cuts to reduce the deficit, between a thriving market and an active government — while today’s conservatives have no interest in balance.

In the first debate, Obama let Romney back into the race by failing to shake his opponent’s self-presentation. But Romney also put himself into contention by pretending to be a moderate, shelving his plutocratic side and hiding his party’s long-term objectives.

In the second debate, the disguise fell. Romney revealed more of himself than he wanted to and asked voters to endorse a radical tax-cutting program without providing them the details that matter. Sketchy is one word for this. Deceptive is another.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 17, 2012

October 18, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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