Political Animal


September 11, 2012 10:04 AM Which Promises Will Romney Break?

By Ed Kilgore

Having stirred up quite a controversy last week by suggesting that a Republican victory would be the only way to produce an end of gridlock in Washington, Ramesh Ponnuru now looks at the consequences of such a victory, and points out a Romney administration with a GOP-controlled Congress would have some issues as well. He notes one promise made by Mitt and many conservative members of Congress that would definitely have to go thanks to that Cut-Cap-Balance pledge Jim DeMint was pressuring Republicans to sign last year:

Perhaps worst for Romney, the government will hit the debt ceiling again early next year. During the primaries, he pledged not to raise it unless Congress passes a constitutional amendment to limit federal spending to 18 percent of the economy. That would take a two-thirds vote by the House and the Senate. It’s not going to happen.
A Romney presidency, in other words, would have to start with his breaking a promise to conservatives.

Well, that’s what you get when you decide to pretend the debt limit is inconsequential, and/or that it’s easy to achieve a balanced budget with non-defense spending cuts alone (even as you cut upper-income and corporate taxes).

Ponnuru spends much of his column discussing whether Romney will pursue tax cuts or spending cuts first. The latter without the former would, of course, not be real good for the economy. I’d guess he and GOP congressional leaders will cram as much as they can on both sides of the budget ledger into a revised Ryan Budget and then go for broke in utilizing reconciliation to get it through Congress without any Democratic votes. If Romney wins yet Republicans fail to take over the Senate, then the whole scenario could change significantly, and I wouldn’t hazard too many guesses about what the new president would do, other than hope for something of a cyclical recovery that makes every fiscal decision easier.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Peter C on September 11, 2012 10:23 AM:

    I'm not convinced that Romney feels he has actually made ANY promises. He's just said the things he thinks people want to hear (depending upon the crowd). If he's elected, he will rule; he will make the decisions he thinks are best. He thinks out part is only to pick him; that's all the say in the matter that we need have.

  • gregor on September 11, 2012 10:28 AM:

    I also have a hard time contemplating the consequences of the likely event that Ann Hathaway accepts my proposal to spend the rest of her life with me.

  • Diane Rodriguez on September 11, 2012 10:32 AM:

    I'm unclear why anyone believes that honoring a promise of any sort is even a question for Romney. He has demonstrated no strongly held beliefs other than he is entitled to the Presidency.

  • c u n d gulag on September 11, 2012 10:33 AM:

    If he has a Republican Senate and House, Romney's main job will be to sign-off on whatever is put in front of him.

    Republicans will increase military spending to help their cronies, close a couple of meaningless tax loopholes for the sake of appearance, and slash the budgets of any and everything that has to do with actually helping the people of this once great nation.

    And a Romney victory will have a huge impact on America's foreign policy, since it will signal that we didn't learn the lessons we should have after Nixon, Reagan, and the two Bush's.

    Elections DO have consequences, and one of them will be that the rest of the world will look at America and see us as some Junta of old white rich people - mostly men, FOR old white and rich people - mostly men. Kind of like a Club Med for the near dead.

    A Romney win, with a Congressional Republican majority, will allow them to finish the work of destroying representative democracy, which only became truly representative in the 20th Centur - when first women got the right to vote, and black people got their right to vote reinforced by the Federal Government.

    Goodbye, representative democracy - hello Dominionist Christian Plutocratic Fascism!

  • sjw on September 11, 2012 10:42 AM:

    Give it to the punditocracy to put forward such a stupid view of things, namely, that gridlock could only be ended by Romney and that all would be well with the world as a result. Even Time's Joe Klein argued it last week, though in a subsequent blog post he observed that there was no reason whatsoever to think that Romney would govern as a moderate.

    Right, reward Republican legislative intransigence -- which has been treasonous in its application as it tanks the economy for political gain -- with the presidency. Thankfully, recent polls show that the electorate is having nothing of it.

  • stormskies on September 11, 2012 10:44 AM:

    gulag is exactly right. Romney is nothing but a fucking automaton who will do what he is told to do. That's the price of his Faustian Deal.

  • Daddy Love on September 11, 2012 10:47 AM:

    Oh, come on! If Romney comes to power and the GOP has the Congress, no Republican anywhere in the country will say the word "deficit" for at least four years. They really just don't care (until Democrats take office).

  • BillFromPA on September 11, 2012 11:16 AM:

    A Pres. Romney will be the same spineless politician who did whatever the wingnuts insisted he do. No chance he's looking to be a one term pres., and with re-election hanging over his head he'll be the puppet that he's been since he started running.

  • boatboy_srq on September 11, 2012 11:33 AM:

    ditto Peter C.

    I'm more concerned that we'd see the same Romney that Bain did - and learn too late that he thinks the US is about 100 million too big. He's too used to being able to fire people to have thought much about what to do with citizens (not merely employees) that he no longer wants the responsibility for serving. Actually, come to that, the idea of "serving" as pResident probably hasn't even hit him yet - he seems permanently stuck in l'etat c'est moi mode.

  • paul on September 11, 2012 11:46 AM:

    It's a sign of the intellectual bankruptcy of the commentariat that this kind of thing even gets seriously discussed. Of course deficits only matter when there's a democrat in office or when there are benefits to poor people that need cutting. And, conversely, any pundit who noticed that promise back during the primaries and didn't immediately class Romney as a pathological liar has some 'splaining to do.

  • advocatethis on September 11, 2012 12:36 PM:

    If Republicans take both houses and the White House I think we'll see a good deal less cohesion than people expect, and the problem won't be between what Romney wants to do and what Congress wants, it will be between the more avid Tea Partiers, who really believe in their rhetoric about balancing the budget, and the old-guard, who have demonstrated at every chance that deficit cutting is something you wave around to get elected, but certainly not something you try to achieve when actually in power - at least, not if you want to get reelected.

  • DRF on September 11, 2012 12:45 PM:

    I think that cund gulag is right--McConnell and others have already made it clear that they will take the legislative initiative in a Republican Congress and Administration. Romney is not in any sense the leader of his party and will have little or no influence on the Congressional Republicans. His only alternative to signing their legislation would be the veto power.

    He's not going to get into a war with his own party in Congress.

  • Fr33d0m on September 11, 2012 12:59 PM:

    Who will lead the country if Romney is elected President?

    Certainly Romney will attempt to lead, but rest assured that if he may risk his life if he refuses to do the tea party's bidding. Any appearance of wavering will certainly lead to them dreaming of a President with the name Ryan. What that means is that the direction of the country will not be Romney's to decide.

    So I guess that leaves the central committee?

  • T2 on September 11, 2012 1:05 PM:

    Two issues President Romney will deal with : Iran and probably two Supreme Court choices. Both have grave implications, conceivably for decades to come.

  • bigtuna on September 11, 2012 1:41 PM:

    Like most others here, I really doubt Romney will do much. Heard an interview this am with Norman Orenstein about his new book, and described how quickly Boner had to morph from something like a responsible republican who helps govern to a tool of the tea party / young guns nutjobs.

    Romney will be in so far over his head that Cantor, McCarthy, et al., will run all over him.

    That said, someone last week pointed out that on "Day 1" Romney would declare China a currency manipulator. From there the schedule would be:

    Day 2 - China stops buying our debt.

    Day 3. things get very ugly. fast.

    then there would be the whole debt limit issue ....

  • Doug on September 11, 2012 1:58 PM:

    Wouldn't breaking promises require that one first make promises that one meant to keep?
    Not those "I'm running for President, for pete's sake!" ones...

  • alix on September 11, 2012 2:18 PM:

    We never learn. Bush got selected for president, and he had no real fixed positions other than his own innate greatness. Most of us would be humbled by the prospect of leading a great nation, really think about whether we were up for the job-- not George W. Bush! He sort of wanted the job (some said he really wanted to be commissioner of baseball, but didn't think the position would be open, so settled). But there's no evidence that he really thought about what it would take to do the job well and determined to have or attain those skills and qualities.

    Now Romney is another who doesn't actually care very much about anything to do with leading the country, but cares a lot about being recognized by "You people" as better than everyone else. For him, the presidency isn't a job. It's like a trophy that reflects his own enormous pride in himself. So once he gets the trophy, he probably will show up for work more often than Bush did (Romney is actually someone who has had jobs in his life), but because he doesn't actually care that much what happens, he'll be exactly what Grover Norquist wanted, a hand with enough digits to sign off on the policies and bills the rightwingers send him.

    It isn't personal. He'd be just as willing to govern as a moderate or even a liberal if he'd been nominated by the other party.

    I'm not really sure why that party is so willing to nominate narcissists, except maybe they are very easy to manipulate.