Two funny things happened this week on Mitt Romney's way to the White House. First, the man who cried "let Detroit go bankrupt" announced "I'll take a lot of credit" for President Obama's million-job saving rescue of the American auto industry. But just as telling was the Republican's claim that, despite Obama's "Forward" campaign slogan, it was the President who was "looking backward." After all, Mitt Romney isn't merely offering an even more reactionary resurrection of George W. Bush's failed policies. As it turns out, from his charges on immigration reform and women's issues to labeling Obama an out of touch "Marie Antoinette" and so much else, Romney's strategy is call to the kettle black.
(Click a link below for the details on each.)
- "Looking Backward"
- "Out of Touch"
- "Spent Too Much Time at Harvard"
- "Hide-and-Seek Campaign"
- "Broke His Promise to Hispanics"
- "Respect Women in All Those Choices That They Make"
In April, the RNC's Alexandra Franceschi gave away the game when she explained that even after the calamitous Bush recession which began over four years ago, the2012 GOP economic platform would be the Bush program, "just updated." As a quick glance at Mitt Romney's proposals shows, Franceschi has a gift for understatement.
Romney, after all, is promising massive tax cuts which would deliver the lion's share of their winnings to the very richest Americans, his family included. (His 20 percent across-the-board tax cut is simply a tired retread of Bob Dole's failed 1996 plan, one that nevertheless steers a third of its benefits to the wealthiest one-tenth of one percent of Americans.) He nevertheless pledges to balance the budget even while boosting defense spending. And this latest scion of a proud Republican family would like to privatize Social Security and leave Americans to fend for themselves in the private health insurance marketplace.
Undaunted, Romney slammed the President this week in East Lansing, Michigan:
"Looking backward won't solve the problems of today, nor will it take advantage of the opportunities of tomorrow," Romney said. "His are the policies of the past. The challenges of the present and the promise of tomorrow must be met by a new and bold vision for the future, and I will bring it."
Despite the conclusion of the nonpartisan CBO and the overwhelming consensus of economists that Obama's actions saved the U.S. from "Great Depression 2.0," Romney has insisted for months that the President "made the economy worse." Unfortunately for Mitt, "we are not stupid."
Barack Obama has made "fairness" a central theme of his reelection campaign. And with good reason. After all, at a time of record income inequality and the lowest federal tax burden since 1950, Both Mitt Romney and his budgetary twin Paul Ryan would deliver a massive tax cut windfall for the rich, paying for it by gutting the social safety net each pretends to protect. Each would end Medicare as we know it with a premium support gambit that would dramatically shift health care costs to America's seniors. While increasing defense spending, the House Budget Chairman and the GOP frontrunner would repeal the Affordable Care and leave at least 30 million people without insurance. And despite their mutual pledges to end many tax loopholes and deductions to fund their gilded-class giveaway, neither Paul Ryan nor Mitt Romney has the courage to say which ones. As a result, these supposed deficit hawks would actually add trillions more in red ink to the national debt.
Nevertheless, Romney used the occasion of his Northeast primary sweep three weeks ago to portray himself as the crusader for fairness:
"We will stop the unfairness of urban children being denied access to the good schools of their choice; we will stop the unfairness of politicians giving taxpayer money to their friends' businesses; we will stop the unfairness of requiring union workers to contribute to politicians not of their choosing; we will stop the unfairness of government workers getting better pay and benefits than the taxpayers they serve; and we will stop the unfairness of one generation passing larger and larger debts on to the next."
Afterwards, The Democratic Strategist translated Romney's cynically transparent gimmick, "We will twist and distort the concept of fairness to justify bashing government workers, crushing labor unions and privatizing public schools."
Four years ago, the campaign of John McCain - a hundred-millionaire who literally lost count of how many homes he owned - unsuccessfully tried to portray Barack Obama as an out-of-touch, arugula-eating elitist who vacationed in exotic Hawaii. Now Mitt Romney has branded President Obama a modern day Marie Antoinette, an "out of touch" occupant of the White House whose message to financially struggling Americans is "let them eat cake."
That might not be the wisest strategy.
To be sure, Romney's repeated and comical failures to present himself as a "man of the people" have only deepened his yawning empathy gap. Romney, who explained that over the last decade "my income comes overwhelmingly from some investments made in the past," joked with jobless voters that "I'm also unemployed." The $250 million man similarly declared himself part of "the 80 to 90 percent of us" who are middle class, when just the "not very much" $374,000 he earned in speaking fees last year puts him in the top one percent of income earners. Whether or not he really enjoys firing people, Mitt Romney almost certainly never pooped in a bucket during his time as a missionary at a toney Paris mansion. (Who else would lecture a child about his plans to divvy up his estate among his 16 grandchildren or endorse rooftop canine waterboarding?) And there's no doubt that the man who spent $12 million to buy his third home (none of which are located on "the real streets of America") didn't win any friends when he offered this prescription for the housing market crisis:
"Don't try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom, allow investors to buy homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up and let it turn around and come back up."
It's no surprise Mitt Romney believes income inequality should only be discussed in "quiet rooms." But it certainly didn't help matters when his wife Ann joked "Mitt doesn't even know the answer to that" when asked how many dressage horses she owns while her husband slanders Democrats as "the party of monarchists." It's no wonder his ally and Massachusetts GOP Senator Scott Brown urged Romney to release his tax returns:
"He's in a category, a lot of those folks are in categories that we don't really understand."
Brown was only saying what most Americans were thinking when he acknowledged that Romney is living in "a different world from me."
Part of Romney's different world centered on Harvard. In 1971, Ann and Mitt Romney headed to Cambridge, Massachusetts. There, Mitt completed a "terrific" four year program to get his JD and MBA at Harvard Business School.
Ironically, even with small children and Mitt in school, Ann avoided the "dignity of work" because "Mitt had enough of an investment from stock that we could sell off a little at a time. The stock came from Mitt's father." That history might explain why Romney offered this advice in March to college students struggling to pay for his education:
"If you can't afford it, scholarships are available, shop around for loans, make sure you go to a place that's reasonably priced, and if you can, think about serving the country 'cause that's a way to get all that education for free."
Pell grants, schmell grants.
Following the dust-up over Obama's open mic comments to former Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, Mitt Romney accused the President of running a "hide-and-seek campaign."
"He does not want to share his real plans before the election, either with the public or with the press," Romney said. "By flexibility, he means that 'what the American public doesn't know won't hurt him.' He is intent on hiding. You and I will have to do the seeking."
Romney must have been looking in the mirror. Because hiding his past record and future plans is a cornerstone of the Romney 2012 campaign.
Mitt didn't merely arrange for his computers in the Massachusetts governor's office to be scrubbed. After delivering 23 years of tax returns to John McCain in the vain hope of securing the number two slot on the ticket four years ago, so far Romney has only released two to the American public. And as he and his wife Ann ("unfortunately" the world now knows how "successful in business" Mitt has been.) made clear, even that limited disclosure was done grudgingly:
"I don't put out which tooth paste I use either. It's not that I have something to hide."
Romney's penchant for withholding vital information from voters is no accident. As the former Massachusetts Governor inadvertently revealed in an interview with the Weekly Standard, his opacity is by design, a lesson learned from losing the 1994 Senate race:
"One of the things I found in a short campaign against Ted Kennedy was that when I said, for instance, that I wanted to eliminate the Department of Education, that was used to suggest I don't care about education," Romney recalled. "So I think it's important for me to point out that I anticipate that there will be departments and agencies that will either be eliminated or combined with other agencies. So for instance, I anticipate that housing vouchers will be turned over to the states rather than be administered at the federal level, and so at this point I think of the programs to be eliminated or to be returned to the states, and we'll see what consolidation opportunities exist as a result of those program eliminations. So will there be some that get eliminated or combined? The answer is yes, but I'm not going to give you a list right now."
Asked to get specific about his self-proclaimed "bold" tax plan, Mitt Romney decided discretion is the better part of valor. As he explained earlier this month, Romney in essence responded, "I'm not going to tell you":
"So I haven't laid out all of the details about how we're going to deal with each deduction, so I think it's kind of interesting for the groups to try and score it, because frankly it can't be scored, because those kinds of details will have to be worked out with Congress, and we have a wide array of options."
Mitt revealed why he was refusing to lay out "all of the details" during a very revealing December interview with the Wall Street Journal:
"I happen to also recognize," he says, "that if you go out with a tax proposal which conforms to your philosophy but it hasn't been thoroughly analyzed, vetted, put through models and calculated in detail, that you're gonna get hit by the demagogues in the general election."
Unfortunately, what Mitt Romney branded "demagogues" most Americans call "voters."
"We're going to be able to get Hispanic voters," Mitt Romney assured big-dollars donors last month, adding, "We're going to overcome the issue of immigration." How the Republican presidential nominee plans to do that is another matter.
After all, John McCain captured only 31 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008. A recent Pew Research poll shows Democrats enjoy a three-fold (and growing) advantage among registered Latino voters. As it turns out, the GOP's list of Republican Latino candidates includes some who are neither. Worse still, Mitt's high-profile backing by SB 1070 author Russell Pearce may put GOP stronghold Arizona in play. And on top of it, Romney is rapidly alienating Hispanics with his hardline rhetoric on immigration, talking points that include vetoing the DREAM Act and encouraging even long-time illegal immigrants to "self-deport."
But Mitt Romney may still have one or two more cards up his sleeve.
The first approach is to blame President Obama for failing to pass comprehensive immigration reform in the face of total Republican opposition. As MNSBC reported in April:
Romney nonetheless predicted that, by November, the economy would trump immigration as a driving issue for Hispanic voters, and he vowed also to remind the Hispanic community that, despite promises of comprehensive immigration reform by Obama, Democrats ultimately fell short in passing legislation in their two years in control of Congress and the White House at the start of the president's term.
According to a Romney adviser, his private view of immigration isn't as anti-immigrant as he often sounded.
Bettina Inclan, the Republican National Committee's Hispanic outreach director, confirmed that a Romney turnabout is imminent:
"I think as a candidate, to my understanding, he's still deciding what his position on immigration is. I can't talk about what his position is going to be."
It will be whatever it needs to be. After all, he's running for office, for Pete's sake.
For months, the now pro-life Mitt Romney has trailed President Obama by large margins among women voters. Seeking to capitalize on the manufactured flap over Hilary Rosen's offhand remark last month that Ann Romney "has actually never worked a day in her life," Mitt proclaimed that "all mothers are working mothers." As it turns out, Romney's Rule is means-tested. Put another way, on Mitt's Animal Farm, some mothers are more equal than others. As he explained during his 1994 Senate run against Ted Kennedy:
"This is a different world than it was in the 1960s when I was growing up, when you used to be able to have mom at home and dad at work. Now mom and dad both have to work."
Now, as the severely conservative and severely condescending Romney insisted in January, women who receive welfare must work outside the home, even if their children are very young:
"I wanted to increase the work requirement," said Romney. "I said, for instance, that even if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work. And people said, 'Well that's heartless.' And I said, 'No, no, I'm willing to spend more giving day care to allow those parents to go back to work. It'll cost the state more providing that daycare, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work."
Just not if the individual is his wife.
As Ann Romney explained in an October 1994 interview, their dignity was provided by Mitt's father George:
"Neither one of us had a job, because Mitt had enough of an investment from stock that we could sell off a little at a time.
The stock came from Mitt's father. When he took over American Motors, the stock was worth nothing. But he invested Mitt's birthday money year to year -- it wasn't much, a few thousand, but he put it into American Motors because he believed in himself. Five years later, stock that had been $6 a share was $96 and Mitt cashed it so we could live and pay for education."
$250 million dollars later, the dignified Mrs. Romney now claims their wealth can't be quantified. As she lectured voters in January:
"I understand Mitt's going to release his tax forms this week. I want to remind you where our riches are: our riches are with our families," Ann Romney said. "Our riches, you can value them, in the children we have and in the grandchildren we have. So that's where our values are and that's where our heart is -- and that's where we measure our wealth."
As Rosengate reached its crescendo, Ann Romney explained, "My career choice was to be a mother." She then added:
"We have to respect women in all those choices that they make."
Just not when those choices involve their own bodies and their own health. And that message to the women of America is the exact opposite of the one Mr. and Mrs. Romney sold to the women of Massachusetts.
In March, Governor Romney caused a firestorm when he casually announced, "Planned Parenthood, we're going to get rid of that." While he later clarified that "what I want to get rid of is the federal funding of Planned Parenthood," he shouldn't have stopped there. After all, Mitt Romney wants to end all funding for Title X, the only federal program devoted to family planning. But as Ruth Marcus documented last year, that's only a small part of the health care services Title X provides for lower-income American women:
The inevitable result of eliminating Title X funding would not only be more abortions - it would also be higher bills for taxpayers footing Medicaid and welfare costs for poor children. Guttmacher found that every public dollar invested in family planning care saves $3.74 in Medicaid expenditures for pregnant women and their babies during the first year of care. Imagine the lifetime savings.
And then there is the other "important work" that Pence cited: 2.2 million Pap smears, 2.3 million breast exams, nearly 6 million tests for sexually transmitted infections.
Mitt's positions on Planned Parenthood, women's health care and reproductive rights have always depended on whether he was running for office inside or outside of liberal Massachusetts. Now, they happen to be the opposite of Barack Obama's - and the opposite of respecting all the choices women make.
(This piece also appears at Perrspectives.)