Of all the answers Mitt Romney gave in his interview with Bob Schieffer—which aired yesterday—this stood out the most:
ROMNEY: “[M]y anticipation is I’d come into office and say we need to get this done, on a long-term basis, not this kind of stop-gap measure. What the president did, he should have worked on this years ago, if he felt seriously about this he should have taken action when he had a Democrat House and Senate, but he didn’t. He saves these sort of things until four and a half months before the general election.” …
SCHIEFFER: “So he did it for politics.”
ROMNEY: “Well, that’s certainly a big part of the equation.”
It’s obvious that this is an Etch-A-Sketch moment; six months ago, Romney pledged
to Republican audiences that he would veto the DREAM Act if it came to his desk. Now that he’s running for president—and needs to improve his performance with Latinos—his position has moderated somewhat.
But my concern for the flip-flop is far less than my concern for the unchallenged narrative Romney gives to Schieffer. If you only had Romney to go by, you might think that this is the first time that President Obama has tried to provide a solution for undocumented children, and if that were the case, you’d have every reason to be cynical. But the fact of the matter is that there was a long-term option on the table. Eighteen months ago, during the lame duck session of the 111th Congress, Democrats mustered their strength in an effort to pass the DREAM Act. And while the bill passed the Senate, Democrats weren’t able to break a Republican filibuster in the Senate. The DREAM Act failed to make cloture—55 to 41—and Republicans denied another victory to President Obama and the Democratic Party.
In the interview, Romney should have endured intense scrutiny for lying about Obama’s record on undocumented children. After all, it’s more than clear that we would have a DREAM Act if not for the GOP’s strategy of categorical obstruction. But, as has been the case since he entered the race, Romney has not been called to account for his dishonesty, and will continue to cynically hit Obama for pursuing a “stop-gap measure,” as if the GOP—outside of Texas and Florida—is interested in finding a solution for undocumented children.
This episode perfectly illustrates the warped dynamic of this election. Romney’s core message is that Obama is a weak and ineffective president, whose mismanagement has led us to economic stagnation. But if there’s been stasis in our policy making, and a lack of action for the economy, it’s because the Republican Party is actively working to block administration efforts, even when they have majority support in Congress. By abusing the filibuster and other rules, the GOP has created a tremendous amount of congressional gridlock. Which, of course, is then blamed on Obama.
Already, because the public is inclined to hold the president responsible for legislation and the economy, it’s hard to explain that Republicans are the problem. When you favor in a credulous media—that will not challenge Romney on his lies about politics and policy—this becomes even more difficult. Indeed, with this election, we’ll see if it’s even possible to hold an obstructionist political party responsible for its actions. I have my doubts.