Political Animal


December 06, 2011 8:00 AM Dems’ payroll plan picks up Romney’s support

By Steve Benen

As part of his overly-cautious, don’t-upset-any-constituencies style, Mitt Romney has balked at taking a position on all kinds of contentious issues. Near the top of the list is the Democratic plan to extend the payroll tax in 2012.

Romney’s vacillation is almost understandable. On the one hand, he doesn’t want to endorse a tax increase. On the other, he doesn’t want to endorse part of President Obama’s economic agenda. Romney ended up dancing around the issue for months — reinforcing concerns about his inability to hold any convictions at all — before finally dismissing the White House’s proposal. “I don’t like temporary little Band-Aids,” he said at a debate in October.

Yesterday, the former governor decided he’s better off flip-flopping than endorsing a middle-class tax hike.

On Monday, Mitt Romney embraced one of President Obama’s signature proposals — another one-year extension of a cut in payroll taxes, after just weeks ago deriding the idea as “little Band-Aids” that offered only a temporary fix.

“I would like to see the payroll tax cut extended just because I know that working families are really feeling the pinch right now — middle-class Americans are having a hard time,” Mr. Romney said Monday on Michael Medved’s conservative radio talk show.

Hmm. So, let’s see. First, Romney sort of endorsed the payroll tax break. Then he dismissed it. Then his campaign no longer wanted to talk about. Then he announced his support for it.

Romney must realize that there’s a perception — based on voluminous evidence — that he’s a cowardly, unprincipled hack with no core beliefs who’ll shift with the political winds. And yet, the Republican presidential hopeful keeps offering proof that the criticisms are accurate.

As for the larger context, it’s worth noting that Romney joins Newt Gingrich in supporting Obama’s proposed extension of the tax break. This leaves us with an important realization: congressional Republicans balking at the tax cut are now even further to the right than both of their own party’s leading presidential candidates.

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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  • c u n d gulag on December 06, 2011 8:10 AM:

    I guess Mitt and Newt gave up on waiting for Frank Luntz to come up with a way to spin this, and both flip-flopper's didn't want the flap that would be created by saying they wanted a tax increase on most Americans.

    I wonder how Grover feels about this, since it's not a tax break for the super wealthy?

  • bleh on December 06, 2011 8:12 AM:

    Sounds like everybody is running pretty true to form.

    One thing about Romney: his chameleon act will provide anybody who WANTS to vote for him -- or against Obama -- a good enough reason to do so. They'll find something they can use as an excuse (since he's taken pretty much every side of every issue at some point). In some ways, he becomes the "generic opposition" to Obama, and makes the race very much about Obama.

    They say "you can't beat something with nothing." But can you beat something with EVERYTHING?

  • DAY on December 06, 2011 8:13 AM:

    And here I always thought Shape Shifting was limited to folklore and mythology. . .

  • j on December 06, 2011 8:18 AM:

    Seeing the way Romney danced around this question and the way he is being shielded from reporters or anyone who would ask him a question, don't you wonder how many weeks it would have taken him to get the courage to go for Bin Laden?

  • Montana on December 06, 2011 8:34 AM:

    No, the problem with Romney is that he isn't very bright. He doesn't know what he thinks, because he doesn't think.

  • Kathryn on December 06, 2011 8:43 AM:

    He only sort of endorsed it because Newt already did so.

  • walt on December 06, 2011 8:47 AM:

    It's hardly an accident that the only two plausible GOP nominees are notorious flip-floppers. I don't blame them entirely for their predicament. The Republican Party's radicalization is an ongoing process. It means that what was reasonable four years ago has become dangerously leftist by today's standards. And who formulates the ever-evolving standards governing right-wing "thought"? Hard to say. All that matters is that there is a perpetual war with liberalism and that permanent mobilization for this war is the one existential necessity for right-wing identity. Nothing else matters. So, if you're at all serious about policy, you'll have to recant or face expulsion from the Garden of Perpetual Certitude and Righteousness.

    Republicanism is a political vector for nihilism. By refusing to acknowledge this reality, the media perpetuate a false debate with idiots and zealots.

  • martin on December 06, 2011 8:57 AM:

    Republicans balking at the tax cut are now even further to the right than both of their own party’s leading presidential candidates.

    At some point we have to quit pretending the Republicans are acting on "conservative" principles. I've tried before to get the term "reactionary" used, but even that implies some sort of principle.

    What's really going on is that the Republicans balking at the tax cut are even bigger assholes than their own party's leading presidential candidates.

  • Ron Byers on December 06, 2011 9:22 AM:

    This leaves us with an important realization: congressional Republicans balking at the tax cut are now even further to the right than both of their own party’s leading presidential candidates.

    This important realization leaves us wondering why the DNC isn't working day and night to turn out nearly all of the Congressional Republicans. Where are the candidate forums, the anti-congressional tea party television ads. By this time in the cycle Republicans ought to be worried about retaining a single seat.

  • bob h on December 06, 2011 9:58 AM:

    If John Kyle is unable to convince himself that last year's payroll tax cut "worked", how is he able to convince himself that the Bush tax cut renewal for the top earners worked?

  • Al B Tross on December 06, 2011 2:09 PM:

    Hypocrisy and contradiction are hallmarks of the Authoritarian Personality.