Ever since Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan, it’s been widely claimed that this ensures a “great debate” pitting two starkly different ideological visions over the future against one another. But it’s now clear that the GOP ticket doesn’t want a great debate at all. Their entire strategy is designed to obscure the true ideological differences between both sides.
Many media figures have pointed out that Romney has refused to detail his positions on issue after issue. What’s less appreciated is the real reason he’s doing this. The GOP candidates don’t really want that much-ballyhooed “great debate.” If they did want a contest between two grand visions, they wouldn’t be shying away from discussing the true nature and implications of their own vision. Yet they are doing just that.
This explains why the Romney campaign has been campaigning so heavily on two falsehoods about Obama’s policies: That he gutted welfare reform’s work requirement and raided Medicare to pay for Obamacare. The former claim is a distraction; the latter is about muddying the two sides’ actual differences over what to do about the popular entitlement. The muddying is necessary because the actual Ryan vision for Medicare’s future is deeply unpopular. Same on taxes: Romney won’t detail how he’d pay for his deep tax cuts — which would disproportionately benefit the rich — because paying for them with middle class tax hikes would be politically unacceptable. Must-read from Mike Tomasky:
These guys may not be able to count, but they can read polls, and so they know very well that if they gave the county the honest debate we were told we were going to have about Medicare, and for that matter about taxation, they’d wake up Nov. 7 with about 120 electoral votes in their pockets and conservatism in tatters.
They know this. They know that the truth would crush them electorally. And so it follows that they know they must lie. They must lie about their Medicare plans. They must lie about the effects of their tax plans on average people and rich people. And they must tell a number of lies about Obama, all the better if they involve race, as the welfare lie does.
So this will be the entire point of the Romney-Ryan campaign. Lie lie lie. Muddy the waters. Turn day to night, fire to water, champagne to piss. Peddle themselves as the precise opposite of what they actually are. That is clearly the m.o.
This really explains everything. It explains what Ezra Klein has called the “policy gap” between the campaigns, in which only one side is proposing actual policies. The guiding idea for Romney and Ryan is to “get government out of the way” by repealing Obama’s signature initiatives and gutting regulation. The GOP candidates vaguely promise to replace those things, without saying with what — because admitting they’d replace them with nothing would be politically unthinkable.
Romney wants to repeal the unpopular Obamacare, and promises he’d do something for some people with preexisting conditions — because replacing it with nothing would be even more unpopular. Romney says he’d get rid of Wall Street reform, and vows to replace it with unspecified “common sense” regulations — because replacing reform with nothing is also a political nonstarter. Romney says he’d cut whole agencies to make government more efficient and cost-effective, but won’t say which ones; and Ryan won’t explain in meaningful detail how he’d achieve the draconian spending cuts necessary to make his numbers work — because when the talk turns to specifics, suddenly cutting government is politically very difficult indeed, and gutting social programs would be very unpopular. Romney and Ryan won’t say how they’d pay for their tax cuts — because they must be paid for by hiking the middle class’s tax burden or exploding the deficit, neither of which is politically palatable.
What about the big argument over “didn’t build that”? That’s also supposed to represent a grand clash of visions. In reality, Romney and Ryan were only able to turn it into a great ideological difference by distorting Obama’s views beyond recognition.
How on earth is this a great debate? It’s actually an effort to avoid one. Anyone who continues to grant Romney and Ryan the presumption of being serious about engaging in a great clash of visions is only helping them avoid accountability for the true nature of their actual vision.
* Romney’s “just trust me” campaign: Two more must-reads relating to the above. Steve Benen has been doing a nice job arguing that Romney’s historic levels of mendacity pose a serious test for the political system, and here’s another good post on this today.
Meanwhile, Dana Milbank has some good campaign trail reporting illustrating the Romney campaign’s studious lack of specificity. This quote from Romney is priceless:
“I want to make sure that we get Obamacare out of the way and replace it with something which will help encourage job growth in this country.”
As Milbank rejoins: “Replace it with ... something?”
* Todd Akin pleads for forgiveness: Today will be dominated by one question: Will Akin drop out of the Missouri Senate race? His new ad::
As Alex Burns notes, this is a last-ditch effort to win back the support of national Republicans who are trying to push him out of the race.
* Romney wants you to forget Ryan’s abortion record: Jonathan Cohn has a good rundown of the radical anti-abortion policies Ryan has supported, which has been thrust into the spotlight by the Akin mess. Cohn notes that the Sanctity of Life Act, which Ryan co-sponsored, “could outlaw not just abortion but also in vitro fertilization, intrauterine devices, and some oral contraceptives.”
* Joe Scarborough rips Romney welfare lie: Nice catch by Christian Heinze — Joe Scarborough tearing into Romney’s welfare falsehood:
“I’ve been looking for a week-and-a-half to try to figure out the basis of this welfare reform ad ... the ad’s completely false. It’s just completely false. And I’m pretty stunned.”
Stunned? Romney has premised his camapign on one massive falsehood after another for months.
* GOP platform won’t protect middle class tax loophole: The Obama campaign is pouncing on this Bloomberg story detailing that Republicans will not put a measure defending the mortgage interest deduction into their party platform. Romney has promised deep tax cuts but won’t say what loopholes he’d close to pay for them. Now the GOP platform has specified that it won’t defend a loophole that benefits the middle class, to give Romney more flexibility in cutting taxes without raising the deficit, which is a hint on how he’d pay for those tax cuts.
* Yes, Romney/Ryan would cut benefits for current seniors: Good stuff from Brian Beutler debunking the Romney/Ryan claim that their Medicare plan would not cut benefits for current seniors. This claim is central to the GOP strategy of claiming Obama is the one who actually cut Medicare.
* Independents are not a monolithic bloc: The Post has a deep dive into the true nature and identity of independents, with three key takeaways: They are not a monolith; they mostly lean Dem or Republican; and they are deeply disaffected by government dysfunction and gridlock. This is key:
Those who are both genuinely independent and active participants in the political process constitute only a sliver of the overall electorate — about 5 percent, according to the new survey. And among that group, just one in three say they are firmly settled in their choice between Obama and Romney.
An enormous amount of money will be spent bombarding that tiny sliver of voters for the next two and a half months.
* Romney outraising Obama: Speaking of which, Romney has now got nearly $60 million more than Obama in his coffers, but T.W. Farnam ferrets out a tactical advantage for the president:
Obama has more money in his own campaign account and less in his party’s. That gives him more say over the funds because under federal law, a candidate can tell the party how to spend a portion of its money, but the rest must be spent independently of the candidate’s control.
* And Dems hit Romney over his comments to students: The DNC is out with a new Web video lampooning Romney’s suggestion to students struggling to afford college that they “shop around” for the best deal they can find and borrow money from their parents.
Obama kicks off a two day tour today to sell his plan to invest in education to build up the middle class — which will be contrasted with Romney’s belief that getting government out of the way and letting the private sector work its magic is the route to shared prosperity.