Lost in Romneyland

Does it bother voters that Mitt Romney has no core principles?

This edition of The Inlander comes out two days after the second debate; I write this before that debate, hoping that President Obama showed up, and that Governor Romney was confronted. The public deserves to have him specify his plans.

Specifically, Mitt Romney’s campaign rests on three big claims he likes to talk about: 1. He knows how to create jobs — after all, he’s a successful businessman. 2. He “saved” the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics,” so he can “save” America. 3. He was a successful governor in a heavily Democratic state, and unlike Obama he made bipartisan politics work.

But there are two more big ones that he doesn’t talk about much. First, he passed a popular comprehensive health care law complete with a government mandate — almost exactly the law of land known as Obamacare that he routinely derides. He was for it before he was against it.

And as for national security/foreign policy, he keeps it vague, but it’s quite instructive to see who he asks for advice. Romney has surrounded himself with the very same Bush/Cheney retread neo-cons who got us into the trouble we’re in today. He has adopted their trademark sabre-rattling approach to foreign affairs and proposes a 20 percent increase in defense spending while dismissing as a sign of “weakness” Obama’s wise reliance on diplomacy.

In addition to these positions, he has lately reconfirmed that he is staunchly “pro-life” — i.e., he does intend to go after Planned Parenthood and opposes abortion except, as the script du jour now reads, in cases of rape or incest.

Of course, when Romney ran for Senate in 1994, he said at one debate, “I believe that since Roe vs. Wade has been the law for 20 years that we should sustain and support it…”

His opponent, Ted Kennedy, shot back: “I am pro-choice, my opponent is multiple choice.”

Let’s take them one at a time, first his successful businessman claim. As his partners at Bain Capital have made clear, mergers and acquisitions, Romney style, had nothing to do with job creation and everything to do with making money for high-roller investors. About half of the merged companies didn’t survive, yet every deal made money for Bain and Romney. Newt Gingrich called it “vulture capitalism.”

Which leads to the next question: What did Mitt do with the mega-millions he made? If most went into offshore investments, so much for his trickle-down, America-first claims. So-called “job creators” are more likely to stow their tax breaks overseas as they are to add jobs to the American economy. But we don’t know for sure because he refuses to release tax returns from those halcyon years — the years that would actually shed light on his claims.

As for “saving” the Olympics, the truth is he took a paid (yes, paid) leave of absence from Bain to figure out how to spend the federal largess coming Utah’s way — twice the amount that the far larger summer Olympics at Atlanta received. The money came courtesy of the work of the likes of Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett — you know, the Utah politician who the Tea Party jettisoned because he was so good at getting federal largess.

As for his success in Massachusetts, well, it was no miracle. Romney, like most governors, faced a deficit problem, and he tackled it through austerity and a long list of nickel-and-dime user taxes. As a result, Massachusetts’ job creation tanked. Mitt wasn’t a “job creator” as governor, he was the “no-job” creator — Massachusetts ranked 47th in the country for new jobs.

And along the way, Romney vetoed some 800 bills — almost all overturned. So much for bipartisan leadership. Ever wonder why he didn’t run again if he was succeeding so wildly? He left office with a 34 percent approval rating.

As for foreign policy, the Obama administration has, in four years, successfully repaired the damage to our alliances caused by the Bush/Cheney administration. America’s future will depend on just what the Obama administration is doing — more reliance on diplomacy and coalition building, not the military invasions Bush/Cheney preferred.

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently said bombing nuclear sites in Iran would set back American interests in the region for decades. As for Romney’s plans to increase defense spending by 20 percent: Even with the recent defense cuts, America’s defense budget is greater than all defense budgets worldwide, combined.

Finally, about his pro-life stance. Does he agree with Congressman Todd Akin about “legitimate” rape? He doesn’t say. Does he support Paul Ryan’s “personhood” amendment proposal to give day-old fertilized eggs the same 14th Amendment protection that the Supreme Court invented for corporations? He doesn’t say.

One thing is certain: If Romney is elected, women’s private lives will become a political battleground. Think Supreme Court nominations. Over the next four years, certainly one, maybe two new justices will be appointed. If that’s by Mitt Romney, say goodbye to Roe v. Wade.

Romney has been on every side of every issue. My guess is he doesn’t even understand the problem. After all, in his world you don’t “flip-flop,” you just acquire new product lines and hope the marketing department does its job. 

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About The Author

Robert Herold

Robert Herold is a retired professor of public administration and political science at both Eastern Washington University and Gonzaga University. Robert Herold's collection of Inlander columns dating back to 1995, Robert's Rules, is available at Auntie's.