Political Animal


July 15, 2011 3:55 PM Romney flunks Civics 101

By Steve Benen

With the debt talks ongoing in Washington, most of the Republican presidential candidates are weighing in on the process, urging GOP lawmakers not to compromise. Some even want Congress to drive off the cliff intentionally, or at least say they do to impress the GOP base.

But Mitt Romney, who almost certainly knows better, has generally kept quiet. He doesn’t want to actively advocate for default (because that’s insane), but he doesn’t want to defend raising the debt ceiling, either (because he’d lose party support).

So, the Chameleon Candidate has to resort to rhetoric like this.

Speaking to the Portsmouth Rotary Club Thursday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney called on the president to end the debt crisis.

“Come on, Mr. President,” said the Republican presidential candidate. “You can, by yourself, cut spending, agree to cap the spending and put in place a balanced budget amendment.”

This really is just dumb. The president can cut spending by himself? If memory serves, Congress has power of the purse. Obama is pushing for major spending cuts — too many, in fact — but it’s Romney’s buddies on the Hill who aren’t willing to strike a deal.

But I was especially interested in that last line. As far as Romney is concerned, Obama can “put in place a balanced budget amendment.” I realize that Mitt Romney struggles to keep up with the basics — he’s the guy who thinks we’re in “peacetime” and pretends he has a credible record on job creation — but it is not within the power of the presidency to put constitutional amendments “in place.” In fact, Romney may want to read the Constitution sometime: a president doesn’t even get to weigh in on the amendment process at all. If a proposed amendment gets two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate, a president can’t even veto — the measure would go the states, not the Oval Office.

Does Romney not understand this? If not, why not?

What’s more, note that as far as the former governor is concerned, it’s up to Obama to address the crisis. Again, I don’t know what process Romney is watching, but Congress has to vote on the debt ceiling. Obama can’t force lawmakers to do their duty; no president can.

Romney appears to be taking the coward’s way out of this fight. I wonder if GOP primary voters will mind.

Postscript: A voter in New Hampshire asked Romney today about middle-class families shouldering burdens while corporations that send jobs overseas get tax breaks. He responded by calling for even lower corporate tax rates, and then lied about current levels. Romney’s the frontrunner? Seriously?

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • David Hunt on July 15, 2011 4:04 PM:

    I'm loathe to even half-way defend Romney in any sense, but I suspect that he meant to say by (magically) reducing spending that various parts of federal government spends, Obama could put a balanced budget in place. I think that he said "amendment" because some form of BBA is a new meme that the Congressional Republicans are pushing.

    What is said is still garbage and an attempt to say that Obama has the power to prevent default by fiat, thus making it entirely his fault if it happens...which is likely the entire purpose of his comment.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on July 15, 2011 4:06 PM:

    Am I crazy for noticing a whiff of 1932 Germany? Not that it could ever get as far as it did then and there, but ....

  • Unstable Isotope on July 15, 2011 4:07 PM:

    I'm speechless with this gaffe. The president can cut the budget and amend the Constitution all by himself? Wow. Republicans never have any ownership of the budget ever. They are just victims of evil Democrats. How much longer is this crap going to fly with the public?

  • Ladyhawke on July 15, 2011 4:08 PM:

    And Mitt (Who Am I This Time) Romney thinks he is qualified to be the leader of the free world?? He has a memory like a sieve and he is starting to sound like Charlie Brown's teacher (incoherent).

  • DisgustedWithItAll on July 15, 2011 4:11 PM:

    @Unstable Isotope: "How much longer is this crap going to fly with the public?"

    That's kind of my point my above comment. I fear Americans are so ignorant and so easily lead around by the nose, that '32 Germany isn't such a bad analogy.

  • T2 on July 15, 2011 4:15 PM:

    one thing all the GOP candidates have in common is a "just say anything that pops into your head" problem. At this point, given the low regard they are held in, it's worth a daily dose of laughs and head-scratches. And all this largely without the Queen of Stupid, Sarah of Wasilla. And when Rick Perry jumps in, the situation will get even worse/funnier/more scary.

  • DAY on July 15, 2011 4:15 PM:

    "Does Romney not understand this? If not, why not?"

    That's not the question. The question is, will the American Moron accept as 'fact' the nonsense these Republicans are spouting?

    And, sadly, I am afraid that is a rhetorical question. . .

  • Neil B on July 15, 2011 4:18 PM:

    Mittens is a Ken-doll, corporatist hack dumbell/liar and so is the most popular candidate among Republican voters and polls close to Obama overall (because the electorate is stupid, just admit it.)

  • Kiweagle on July 15, 2011 4:24 PM:

    I am absolutely disgusted to note that CNN's Ashley Killough relays this quote without noting that the executive branch doesn't actually have the power to do what he claims.

    Speaking to the Portsmouth Rotary Club Thursday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney called on the President to end crime forever.

    "Come on, Mr. President," said the Republican presidential candidate. "You can, by yourself, cut theft, agree to cap the number of murders and put in place an alternative to lying flip-floppers like me."

  • beejeez on July 15, 2011 4:29 PM:

    “Come on, Mr. President,” said the Republican presidential candidate. “You can, by yourself, give everybody in America a promotion and cut their taxes 50% right now.”

    “Come on, Mr. President,” said the Republican presidential candidate. “You can, by yourself, parachute inside the Libyan border, steal a horse, ride across the desert using the stars as a guide, infiltrate the Khadafy compound and cut his throat with a potato peeler."

    “Come on, Mr. President,” said the Republican presidential candidate. “You can, by yourself, prevent the Mississippi River from flooding. I guess you community organizers just don't care about American farmers."

  • Unstable Isotope on July 15, 2011 4:30 PM:

    I think Kiweagle is onto something with these presidential superpowers. Obama has the ability to make everyone rich, why isn't he doing that? Obama can make all your children geniuses, but he just doesn't want to.

  • Holly W on July 15, 2011 4:30 PM:

    Romney uses rhetoric like this, even nonsensical and contradicting the Constitution, because the points he gets for attacking Obama buy him room to dodge questions.

    Do you support raising the debt ceiling if both sides fail to reach a formula for debt reduction?

    Would you oppose a deal to raise the ceiling that included new revenues, closing loopholes on corporate jets?

    What spending would you cut?

    Would you sign Ryan plan if it landed on your desk?

  • Eeyore on July 15, 2011 4:38 PM:

    “Come on, Mr. President,” said the Republican presidential candidate. “You can, by yourself, cut spending, agree to cap the spending and put in place a balanced budget amendment."

    This complete and total stoopid alone should disqualify Romney from ever being President.

    I wish that this could be like his daddy's "I was brainwashed about Vietnam" moment - the one that caused his presidential candidacy to implode in 1968.

    Probably won't happen, tho.

  • Kathryn on July 15, 2011 4:44 PM:

    Mitt is not very bright, is he? He's not fast on his feet with questioning either which I guess goes hand in hand with not being very bright. The republicans go nuts over everything Obama does, says etc., they call him a socialist, a communist, and Mitt wants him to act unilaterally in the debt ceiling farce so he can call him a dictator. Of course Obama should also unilaterally do everything the GOP wants, chop, chop.

    Mitt's lack of fitness for the office of the Presidency is pretty close to Bachmann and the rest of the crowd.

  • square1 on July 15, 2011 4:54 PM:

    Yes, Romney is a clown. But one of the reasons that I give Obama so much crap is that he humors these clowns and respects their views.

    From his press conference today:

    "If you care about making investments in our kids and making investments in our infrastructure and making investments in basic research, then you should want our fiscal house in order, so that every time we propose a new initiative somebody doesn’t just throw up their hands and say, "Ah, more big spending, more government."

    Can Obama actually be stupid enough to believe that Republicans oppose programs based on budgetary reasons? Republicans will ALWAYS throw up their hands and yell at more government" when they want to kill a program. We were on the verge of perpetual surpluses in 2000. Did Republicans suddenly support "making investments in our kids and making investments in our infrastructure and making investments in basic research". No. They threw up their hands, yelled at "more government" and asked for massive tax cuts. That's all they do. That's all they have ever done. That's all they ever do.

    And, like Romney, they will lie their asses off to get the tax cuts if necessary. This couldn't be more obvious.

    When Obama says that he thinks that opposition to good government programs will cease once the deficit is under control, one of two things is true: Either he's a fool or he thinks we are.

  • mcc on July 15, 2011 5:03 PM:

    The way I interpreted Romney's comments was as meaning that Obama could end the crisis by agreeing to Republican demands for Republican-chosen spending cuts with zero revenue increases and a balanced budget amendment.

    If this is what he meant it of course would be stupid for several other reasons, among them that it's highly unclear even a Republican plan could get past the radicalized House of Representatives.

    But who knows? When Republicans just base everything they say on making things up as they go along, maybe it's pointless to try to parse meaning out of their words.

  • Anonymous on July 15, 2011 5:06 PM:

    And if, heaven forbid, Romney becomes the President does he intend to take actions like this unilaterally? Won't Congress expect to participate just a little?

  • FRP on July 15, 2011 5:13 PM:

    Done laid around done played around
    This old toun too long
    This old toun too long
    Summers almost gone Winters comin' on
    I am sad that I have to travel on

    There is a lonesome freight at six oh eight
    Comin' into toun ,
    It has the power to take us where magic is our friend
    The the tax fairy too
    I am sad to say we just can't wait for Winter now

    The chilly winds will not begin
    If we wait too long
    So lets begin and do things like I would
    Make the cold our home
    Jobs grow on trees
    In magical thinking land
    Where I get my best ideas
    Its sad that I still am wrecking lives

  • JM917 on July 15, 2011 6:32 PM:

    “Come on, Mr. President,” said the Republican presidential candidate. “You can, by yourself, find golden tablets left in the hills of New York by ancient Israelites and learn from them how to instantly make all Americans rich, wise, moral, and immortal."

  • Texas Aggie on July 15, 2011 6:59 PM:

    Romney’s the frontrunner? Seriously?

    Well, yeah, when you consider the rest of the clown corps, this absolute idiot isn't the worst of the lot. Huntsman and possibly Paul are better than Mitt for the reason that, respectively, he is somewhat tuned into reality and some of his ideas are actually rational. That doesn't mean that either one has a chance of getting the nomination.

  • N.Wells on July 15, 2011 7:44 PM:

    "You [the president] can, by yourself, cut spending, agree to cap the spending and put in place a balanced budget amendment."

    ..... Or perhaps Romney knows something that we don't about powers handed to the presidency in secret parts of the Patriot Act ....... (cue Twilight Zone music) .....

  • Gandalf on July 15, 2011 8:08 PM:

    Square1 nobody ha sto think about you being a fool you prove it with almost every post here.

  • Doug on July 15, 2011 8:32 PM:

    "Romney uses rhetoric like this, even nonsensical and contradicting the Constitution, because the points he gets for attacking Obama buy him room to dodge questions." Holly W @ 4:30 PM.

    THIS is a major reason President Obama forgoes extensive use of the "bully pulpit". As long as the President stays on the sidelines of a political dispute, there remains a very good chance the actual policy will be talked about; if he gets involved, it immediately, and to the detriment of any intelligent debate, becomes about HIM.

    Gandalf, I fear square1 suffers from the left-wing variety of ODS; perhaps in not as virulent form as the better-known right-wing OBS, but obviously just as capable of fusing synapses...

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  • square1 on July 15, 2011 11:06 PM:

    Doug: I judge politicians by their policies, not by their parties. It really is that simple.

    And if I think that a Democratic President is supporting bad policies, I will say so. Particularly when I think that the bad policies will blow up in the face of the President, be extremely unpopular, and lead to Republicans gaining greater political power. In early 2009, when I joined the criticism of Obama for his timid and weak stimulus plans, it wasn't because I didn't like Obama, it was because I obviously wanted him to get re-elected and recognized that the best way for him to do so was to push through a robust stimulus package, regardless of any political opposition. In hindsight, who was the true Obama supporter, the liberal critic who criticized the stimulus as too small or the sycophantic centrist who defended the pre-emptive compromises?

    It is rather sad that you are unable to detect a significant difference between criticism of Obama from Republicans and criticism from liberals such as myself.

    For Republicans, it is assumed that Republicans are right and Democrats, and especially Obama, are wrong. Always. Regardless of the issue or the facts.

    While Republicans love to claim that they are principled, in reality they will largely forgive other Republicans when they act outside of their stated principles and they Republicans will attack Democrats even when the Democrats support Republican principles. For example, deficits don't matter when Republicans are in power but do matter when Democrats are in power. And no matter how low Obama cuts taxes -- and they are currently below what they were during the Bush II, Clinton, Bush I, and Reagan eras, thanks to Obama -- Obama will always be considered pro-tax by the Republicans.

    I, on the other hand, only care about reality. I can tell an objective person what policies I support and that person could easily tell me on which issues I am likely to support or oppose Obama. I don't make it up as I go along.

    As I have said on other threads, I obviously don't consider Obama to be batshit crazy like Cantor, Bachmann, or most of the modern GOP. But 15 years ago, I didn't think that George Bush I, Bob Dole, Arlen Specter, or Jack Kemp were batshit crazy either. But I still thought they were wrong on many, many policy issues and wouldn't vote for them. I'm not sure why I am expected to treat Obama any differently when he has decided to govern like an early 1990s establishment Republican.

  • Anonymous on July 16, 2011 1:04 AM:

    Well said Gandalf and Doug! For Square 1, everything is always about Obama's failure. He is indeed a clear example of the so called leftists who are suffering, big time, from ODS.

  • rrk1 on July 16, 2011 2:44 AM:

    In Romney's case it's never been all that clear whether he's dim, thinks the public is dim, or is just a shameless opportunist. Perhaps he's all three. There's really no way to know for sure. As Governor of Massachusetts he managed to shoot himself in the foot half way through his only term, and then morphed into a standup right-wing comedian making fun of the 'liberal' state he was governor of. By the time his four years were up he couldn't get himself elected animal control officer anywhere in any of the 351 towns in the commonwealth.

    Romney looks like a statesman next to Palin and Bachmann. When Perry jumps in the circus will have at least three rings for the media to feast on. The laughter will be coming from the world community which already thinks we have lost our collective national mind, and I say this being currently in Europe in conversation with the locals.

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