Why Does Romney Get a Pass?

Greg Sargent highlights this portion from an interview Mitt Romney did with Town Hall this morning:

“I think it’s very hard to tell exactly what the president would do, other than by looking at his record in his first three and a half or four years. And we can see where he took the nation in these years. It’s a massive expansion of federal spending, an expansion of the reach of the federal government, and there’s no question in my mind but that his Supreme Court nominees and his policies would be designed toward expanding the role of government in our lives. And frankly, America’s economy runs on freedom. And he has been attacking economic freedom from the first day he came into office.

Sargent sees this as an attempt to downplay the severity of the economic crisis, and pin the blame for economic stagnation on Obama’s policies. That sounds right, given the extent to which Romney’s general election strategy is predicated on inducing amnesia in the voting public.

This also serves to highlight a point I’ve made over the last week; there’s almost nothing Romney can say that can tarnish his aura of skill and competence. On Tuesday, Romney gave a speech decrying debt, despite the fact that his economic plan would add an additional $6 trillion in debt, on top of what’s projected under current policies. Today, he decries the stimulus—without giving a single idea of what he would have done—and declares that the economy runs on freedom.

Even the most charitable interpretation—that Romney is making a case for free-enterprise—falls apart when you recognize the degree to which government has been an important part of shaping our economy from the beginning. It’s the kind of rhetoric that would have been (rightfully) mocked if uttered by someone like Michele Bachmann, but goes unremarked on when adopted by Romney.

Why? It’s an honest question, because I’m at a loss.


You may be right about that point about Michelle Bachmann, but I'd argue that no matter what she said it would be labeled extreme. This is due to the many times she is on record making ludicrous claims (just google "crazy Michelle Bachmann")... Not to mention those scary, crazy eyes. Once your bumped into that "extreme" category, it's hard to escape.

I think the main reason Romney retains his moderate label is two-fold. First he has never allowed himself to step to far out on any issue (at least, relative to his parties norms), therefore avoiding the trap of the extremist label. His statements and quotes may often come across as cold ("I don't care about the very poor"), out of touch ("friends are NASCAR owners"), or just plain weird ("I love trees!"), but very rarely will he propose any policy not being suggested by the average Weekly Standard reader. Secondly and closely related but more important, moderateness (or centrism) is not a fixed objective point, at least as the terms are currently used. Rather, it is the point that lies between the orthidoxies of the two major parties. We have a left that has moved markedly to the right, sitting squarely in the area formerly considered moderate, and a conservative party that has gone so far out to right field, they're sitting in the bleachers (wearing tin foil beer hats). For gods sake, the new right routinely calls the man who appointed arch capitalists and deregulistas (ok, not a real word, but i like it) to all his economic posts, namely Obama, a socialist AND gets away with it. Moderate is the point that lies between these new goalposts. Mitts views are close enough to this to convincingly don the centrist hat.

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