Mitt Romney frequently opines that President Obama favors “equal outcomes,” argues that Obama regularly apologizes for America, claims Obama bows to our enemies, and insists that Obama is trying to transform America into a “government-centered society” that’s more European than American in identity. Such comments, of course, are designed to paint Obama’s worldview as deeply radical, out of step with basic American values and at odds with our way of life.
What makes these comments even sillier is that in many of the areas where Romney discerns Obama’s radical tendencies, the two men are actually in total agreement. Indeed, they frequently use identical language to describe their views.
This fact has been completely obscured by the profound policy disagreements that do persist between them. Their solutions on taxes, economic growth, and many other issues are vastly different.
But in many ways, their expressed views on things like free enterprise, health care, Iran, and American exceptionalism are borderline identical:
* Free enterprise: Romney regularly attacks Obama for being hostile towards capitalism, but in fact, they both describe free enterprise in virtually identical terms. Romney yesterday described it as “one of the greatest forces for good the world has ever known.” This is an idea Romney alludes to frequently. But it’s also an idea Obama alludes to frequently. Obama recently described free enterprise as the “greatest force for economic progress in human history,” and this is a formulation Obama has used on many other occasions.
* American exceptionalism: Romney frequently points to our free enterprise system as proof that America is an exceptional nation, a view he also regularly claims Obama doesn’t agree with. But Obama also regularly points to free market capitalism as a sign of American exceptionalism. In early 2011, before Romney’s attacks were underway in earnest, Obama described our “free enterprise system” as the reason for “what America does better than anyone else,” which is to “spark the creativity and imagination of our people.”
More broadly, both have expressed strikingly similar views of American exceptionalism in general:
Romney, at CPAC: “America is like no other country in history ... the principles embodied in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are uniquely powerful, foundational, and defining.”
Obama: “we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional.”
* Health care: Romney regularly casts Obamacare as a tyrannical government takeover and evidence of Obama’s ill intentions towards the free market system. But when he was asked by Jay Leno the other day what he would do to insure those with preexisting conditions, he offered a diagnosis of the problems created by people who don’t get insurance that was strikingly similar to Obama’s own diagnosis of what ails the system. Obama has regularly offered defenses of the federal mandate that identify the same problems Romney has identified, and both regularly have used the term “free riders” to describe those problems.
Romney, of course, has lately been insisting the federal mandate is tyranny in order to get through the GOP primary, but in fact, their view of the central policy problem is pretty much the same, which is why Romney passed Romneycare before the mandate became uncool.
* Iran: Romney frequently invokes Obama’s stance on Iran as proof that he is weak in the face of foreign threats. But independent Iran experts, including ones who have worked for Republican presidents, say that there is no appreciable difference between the get-tough policies espoused by Romney and the approach Obama has actually adopted.
Again, none of this is to minimize the serious differences that remain between the two men on everything from government’s proper role to the fairness of our tax system. And no doubt many on the right would argue that Obama’s stated views aren’t to be taken at face value. But the simple fact is that in the areas where Romney professes to see evidence of Obama’s wild-eyed radicalism, the two men often use virtually identical language. Which is why Romney’s efforts to paint Obama in that light are likely to come across as canned and phony, and won’t square with voter perceptions of the President.