Political Animal


October 09, 2012 12:20 PM “Moderate Mitt” and His Promises

By Ed Kilgore

Don’t mean to be a crank about this, but as I’ve feared, the “Moderate Mitt Meme” is being widely accepted in the MSM and many liberal precincts (though not, by and large, among conservatives), and because this affects not only the presidential election but the fate of the Republic if this slippery man manages to win, I will continue to point out for a while that a few gestures do not a “reinvention” make, even if you are inclined to assign Romney any personal credibility. Here’s Jonathan Cohn with some reminders:

Romney has been running for president since June, 2011. Unofficially, he’s been running for a lot longer than that. During that time he made quite a few policy commitments, although surprisingly few people seem to remember or have noticed all of them.
He said he would cap federal spending at 20 percent of gross domestic product, setting aside 4 percent of GDP for defense spending. Such a limit would force draconian, virtually unthinkable cuts to programs like food inspections, public housing, air traffic control: Pretty much anything, and quite possibly everything, the federal government does besides defense and Social Security would be subject to serious funding cuts. Romney also vowed to repeal Obamacare and to end Medicaid as we know it. In its place, he proposed a tax deduction and a scaled-down insurance program for the poor that would, at best, cover only a fraction of the same people. According to independent and non-partisan estimates, tens of millions of Americans would lose health insurance. Among them would be the poorest and sickest people in America, depending on how states dealt with the funding cuts.
And when Romney wasn’t endorsing specific plans during the campaign, he was sending clear signals about where his sympathies lie. He mocked President Obama for suggesting that hiring more teachers would help the schools and boost the economy. He dispatched surrogates to lavish praise on the Ryan budget—the first Ryan budget, the one that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would have left the typical senior citizen responsible for two-thirds of his or her medical bills. In one memorable debate, he joined fellow Republican candidates in publicly rejecting spending deals that included even one dollar of tax increases for every ten dollars in spending cuts.
It appears Romney and his advisers now want us to believe that at least some of these old statements don’t matter—that he suddenly believes in hiring teachers, for example, and that his health care plan would help many more people than his previous positions suggested. But it’s not like those previous commitments were ancient history. Every single example I just mentioned was based on statements that he and his advisers made within the last sixteen months.

Jon could have gone on and on, and mention “self-deportation” for undocumented workers; support for overturning Roe v. Wade; the promise to destroy Planned Parenthood; endless demagoguery against the enforcement of environmental laws; support for a national “right-to-work” law (something no Republican nominee has ever endorsed); endorsement of interstate health insurance sales, which would gut longstanding state protections for the old and sick; the education voucher proposal that no one is talking about; and probably a dozen other important things I’ve forgotten about but that some conservative commissar will be enforcing. And above it all, and making a mockery of all the other pretensions of moderation, there is his total rejection of a health insurance plan modeled on his own in Massachusetts, which no matter of blather about “federalism” can justify.

In the face of this mountain of conservative extremism, I’m tempted to say that those who buy the idea that Romney has now “proved” himself a moderate, or has the power or the intention to defy the conservative extremists who own his party and are financing his campaign, deserve the shock they’ll get if he Romney takes office, particularly if it’s with a Republican Congress. We went through this before with the “uniter not divider” Bush, under conditions for “moderation” and “bipartisanship” a lot more promising than those prevailing today. It takes a lot of self-delusion to expect a better result with Mitt Romney.

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.


  • c u n d gulag on October 09, 2012 12:30 PM:

    Don't watch it, LISTEN to the debate.

    Mitt comes across like a coke fiend at an after hours club, who's trying to con you out of a few bucks, so he can go and buy some blow.

    Obama sounds calm and rational.

    Of course, the MSM wants the advertising bucks - every last penny that's available - and they'll get it now, even if they have to ignore the prior Mitt BS, in order to let him foist some new BS on the rubes.

  • mudwall jackson on October 09, 2012 12:38 PM:

    mitt is a political onion. peal away layer after layer to find his core believes and you find out there's nothing there.

    and that's what makes him truly dangerous.

  • T2 on October 09, 2012 12:43 PM:

    there is a whole political party built on and dependent on self-delusion - Republicans.

  • Robb on October 09, 2012 12:48 PM:

    The fact that it's a meme in the center and left, but the conservatives are ignoring it... that just shows what Romney's strength has always been:

    He is great at getting each group to think he's lying to every other group.

    I'm guessing that's a trait that served him well in Bain.

  • Josef K on October 09, 2012 12:49 PM:

    Guess we'll see in four weeks (give or take) just how deluded and degenerate the electorate is.

  • Josef K on October 09, 2012 12:56 PM:

    For anyone interested in 'gaming' how the election might go, there's a nice little game called "Swing States 2012" available from Victory Point Games.


    This is an actual board game built for solitaire play. Just an fyi for political junkies.

  • Gandalf on October 09, 2012 1:01 PM:

    If the people of this country don't pay attention and elect Romney I guess we and they will get what we and they deserve. It would be a drastic step back from many of the civilized advances that have been made in the USA over the last century.
    It would seem that the darker side of humanity just never goes away. All of the radical changes that the conservatives want may not come to pas but any of those mentioned will lead us toward a path of third world status. The real joke is that the teabaggers will be some of the biggest whiners when and if these things happen.

  • SecularAnimist on October 09, 2012 1:01 PM:

    Moderate or conservative, it's all bullshit.

    Romney has one and only one real agenda: to drain the wealth of America into the offshore bank accounts of himself, his family, and his corrupt, kleptocratic cronies and financial backers. Period. End of story.

    Romney may masquerade as a "conservative" one day, and a "moderate" the next. Hell, he may even decide to masquerade as a "liberal" on certain issues from time to time.

    But what's underneath the masks never changes: a career white-collar crook.

  • Diane Rodriguez on October 09, 2012 1:19 PM:

    Lord Small Balls has figured out that the media, although they foment drama for immediate ratings, at the end of the day, they prefer governance to be neat,centrist and therefore largely ineffective.

    Unfortunately, most Americans are more comfortable with having no real views - it makes them feel reasonable. LSB continues to lie his ass off and the media shovels it to a grateful public.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on October 09, 2012 1:39 PM:

    On this "Moderate Mitt" meme, have we heard word from the anti-Romney constituents of the GOP (i.e. those people who wanted anybody but Mitt to run for President).

    While watching the debate, I couldn't help but wonder if all those Social-Security-Is-A-Ponzi-Scheme, Death-to-the-Individual-Mandate, Kill-the-Fed-and-the-Department-of-'Ed supporters felt if Mitt was representing their crackpot interests. Or if they're just satisfied that Mitt allegedly gave Obama a black eye during the debate. Is he gaining the middle only to lose the fringe? Maybe some of those would-be Gingrich/Perry/Santorum/Paul supporters saw a career politician at work. Any word from those camps?

  • James on October 09, 2012 4:09 PM:

    Honest to God, I don't know WHAT Romney stands for.

    He has changed his statements on so many issues over the past few months, I'm not sure what the hell I am getting!

  • FloridaJoe55 on October 09, 2012 11:54 PM:

    Wow! This is the first time I've seen a blog where every single post is all persona attack and invective and not a single issue is mentioned. And, liberals say conservatives lower the level of public discourse.

    I don't think Repubs have all the answers and like having my ideas and positions tested. I have serious concerns over where America is headed and think Romney is the guy for the times however, if I've misjudged I sure want to know.

    So, can anyone here come up with any specific issues where Romney is wrong and Obama right and why?

  • Dr Zen on October 10, 2012 3:50 AM:

    "So, can anyone here come up with any specific issues where Romney is wrong and Obama right and why?"

    First, we'll need to distinguish what his position actually is on any given issue.

  • Chipster on October 10, 2012 4:09 AM:

    Dr Zen:

    Let's try tax policy. No independent analysis agrees that candidate Romney's "tax policy" / sop to the wealthy will (1) create jobs, (2) reduce the deficit or (3) actually work in a world limited by arithmetic. It's just another giveaway to the monied class on the backs of everyone else. Would you care for a longer list of policy where candidate Romney is flat-out objectively wrong? Or just a list where he flat out lies?

  • Rob R on October 10, 2012 8:08 AM:

    Romney is a master at projection. He is deriding Obama for focussing on Big Bird when he himself is the one that brought it up in the first place.

    It was the one memorable line that came out of the debate and I'm glad the Obama team is pounding Romney on it.

    They need to show how his big idea of gutting PBS is the equivalent of 6 hours of 1 day of the Pentagon's budget which at the same time will take away valuable programming that for decades has helped children, especially underpriviliged ones, gain early literacy skills.

    The math doesn't add up. It's a shame that Obama couldn't make that point more aggressively, but I doubt they will make that same mistake again.