Mitt Romney Half-Steps to Obama

In an election year, political speeches have more in common with hip-hop “diss” tracks then they do with anything else. In which case, President Obama’s speech last night was the “Ether” to the Republican Party’s “Takeover”—an assured, aggressive response that methodically destroyed the GOP’s rationale for its slavish devotion to the rich.

Today, I expected Mitt Romney to hit back with a diss of his own. As the presumptive standard-bearer of the Republican Party, it falls on him to make the party’s case against a second term for Obama. In his speech today before the American Society of News Editors, he tried to hit the president on both his record and the tenor of his campaign. And in fairness to the former Massachusetts governor, he makes a few well-placed swipes—it is true that the administration has yet to release a budget, and it is true that Obama has abruptly changed pace on energy issues, accommodating the oil and gas industry in a way that wasn’t true last year.

With that aside, however, the speech fell completely flat. But this had nothing to do with Romney’s delivery—which was actually quite good—and everything to do with the fact that Romney oscillated between contradictions and outright falsehoods. Here the most stunning examples:

“[I]nstead of answering those vital questions, President Obama came here yesterday and railed against arguments no one is making—and criticized policies no one is proposing. It’s one of his favorite strategies—setting up straw men to distract from his record.”

Not only did Mitt Romney praise Paul Ryan’s latest budget—which was adopted by congressional Republicans—but he was a support of last year’s “Roadmap,” and he pledged to sign a Ryan-like budget if it came to his desk. What’s more, in numerous campaign speeches, he has promised to “cut, cap, and balance” the federal budget, referencing a plan to slash federal spending and implement a balanced-budget amendment. If either policy were ever passed, it would have disastrous effects on programs for ordinary Americans. Romney may not have an explicit policy to kick children off of Medicaid or deny food aid to poor families, but if he were to follow through on his ideas and promises, that’s exactly what would happen.

President Obama’s answer to our economic crisis was more spending, more debt, and more government. By the end of his term in office, he will have added nearly as much public debt as all the prior Presidents combined.

If Romney is as knowledgeable about the economy as he says he is, then he must know that the increase in public debt has everything to do with the Great Recession and the drastic reduction in tax revenue that comes with economic collapse. Moreover, there’s the Bush tax cuts, which has kept revenue at historically low levels for more than a decade. If you remove both things from the equation—which, to my mind, is the fair thing to do—then Obama is responsible for far less debt than any of his recent predecessors.

In over three years, [Obama] has failed to enact or even propose a serious plan to solve our entitlement crisis. Instead, he has taken a series of steps that end Medicare as we know it.

He is the only President to ever cut $500 billion from Medicare. And, as a result, more than half of doctors say they will cut back on treating seniors.

It’s hard to overstate the extent to which this doesn’t make any sense. How is it possible to both cut $500 billion from Medicare and fail to enact a plan to deal with our entitlement problems? Presumably, a plan to fix entitlements would contain cuts to entitlement programs. Indeed, if it stands, the Affordable Care Act will implement cuts and attempt to control the overall growth of health spending. If successful, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the law will save $1 trillion over the next decade. That, to me, sounds like an entitlement plan.

Unlike President Obama, you don’t have to wait until after the election to find out what I believe in—or what my plans are.

The last month has been dominated by questions over Romney’s sincerity. Is he serious about the policies he proposed during the Republican primary, or will he abandon them as soon as he reaches the general election? And if he wins the presidency, there’s no clear sense of which Romney will emerge to take the oath of office; will it be the conservative ideologue who won the GOP nomination, or will it be the moderate businessman who pioneered health-care reform during his last stint in government? The only thing we truly know about Mitt Romney is that he wants to be president and that he’ll say whatever it takes to get there. He’s certainly in no position to tout his consistency.