Obama should be fired as a fact-checker. However, Mitt Romney’s performance in the first debate shouldn’t make it any easier to elect him president.
Campaign policy pronouncements, for political hustlers, used to be as cheap as paper to a typewriter. Today, they are what politicians say in the final debates of an election. Tailoring policy for a 90-minute audience with Americans, however, doesn’t change the underlying governing ambitions of today’s entire Republican leadership.
Romney’s inspired wordsmiths found the words, but misused them. “Trickle-down government” isn’t Obama’s alternative to “trickle-down economics." It’s the inescapable consequence of Republican determination to cut off Washington’s power to do any further good within American society. They’d reduce to a trickle any new money available for spending at home and would refer the supplicants to cash-starved states, churches, and engorged Chinese and American banks.
Obama’s apparent weak-debate performance will appear as nothing compared to the emasculated Washington macho that Republicans hope to leave as their legacy.
All Mitt Romney did Tuesday was give David Brooks and conservatives who can still talk to independents permission to call him a "Massachusetts moderate" for the duration of this election cycle.
Just short of being water-boarded, Romney blinked.
He shredded the craziest elements of his economic platform—the bits Bill Clinton could credibly destroy without using up any of his own fragile credibility. Most notable, he dropped his promise to cut income tax rates by 20% across the board and further cut the taxes of the rich. It had become impossible to talk in specifics about the nice stuff, while leaving all the nasty bits—the loopholes—up for negotiation with Congress.
Also, in a series of morning-after misstatements he’d carefully memorized, Romney appeared to shrug off the cruelest elements of his promise to repeal Obamacare.
First, Romney lied to multimillionaires about his lack of compassion for the other half of America. Then, on Tuesday, he lied to that other half as well.
(In the debate on October 16 on social policy, you can bet he’ll drop the most extreme Republican positions on immigration and other minority-group irritants.)
Nevertheless, just because Mitt Romney doesn’t appear to be trustworthy personally doesn’t mean the Republican Party he leads doesn’t offer a clear radical choice.
The fabulists in conservative think-tanks and Romney’s war room created a firewall of crazy stuff on tax cuts, religious freedom, welfare reform, socialized medicine, and America’s enfeebled place in the world, above all, to win the White House without having to compromise on their most important strategic concerns. Still intact, amazingly, is their determination to continue Bush’s tax cuts, across the board, and to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
These are the choices that make this election important.
Ingenious or not, if Romney wins in November, his utterances in Tuesday’s debate will give him absolutely no room as president to raise any new revenues. Democrat obstruction might save the Affordable Care Act—as a statute. However, they will not be able to properly fund it or growing pressures on Medicaid and other social and education programs for the other half.
Romney would carry on giving his 10% to the Mormon Church. However, he would oversee intolerable federal deficits and leave the vision of constructive government and the New Deal to New England and a few other affluent states mainly across the North.