Mitt Romney Says, “If I’m The President, I’ll Get It Right”

by George Kennedy on April 5, 2012

Mitt Romney Says, “If I’m The President, I’ll Get It Right”
The stars appear to be in alignment for Mitt Romney’s quest to become his party’s presidential nominee.  If this proves to be true, perhaps the most prophetic words spoken by this candidate to date may be, “If I’m the president, I’ll get it right.”

Mitt Romney made this promise Tuesday night in a speech in Appleton, Wisconsin.  More broadly he said, “It’s time to have someone who will take responsibility, and if I’m president I will not only get things right again, I’ll take responsibility for my errors and make sure that people understand we will have a president in the White House again where the buck will stop at his desk.”  So, Romney is a fan of Harry Truman, that feisty Democrat from Missouri?  His statement is profound in its implications.

Romney suggested that our sitting president failed to accept responsibility to manage the collapse of the nation’s financial system in 2008, the biggest crash in household wealth ever in the U.S.   Romney infers that President Obama failed to accept responsibility for the resolution of two unfunded wars, two costly but unfunded tax cuts, and an unfunded Medicare Part-D.

Also, Romney would have us believe the President failed to manage the fallout from an economy in the throes of the worst recession since the Great Depression, an economy that could not find the bottom for bad news.  Moreover, Romney suggests the President failed to address a nine percent unemployment rate, a moribund manufacturing sector, a bankrupt General Motors, and an economy that had lost 3.5 million jobs in the six months before President Obama took office.

We need crystal clarity to understand the level of Romney’s charge against the president he would replace.  So, that is our departure point.
Any incoming president, cabinet member, or CEO has to begin with a review of the budget.  They would ask, what is the relationship between revenues and expenditures?  What are essential priorities and programs that define us as a nation?  What are discretionary programs and thus amenable to restructuring, reduction, or perhaps elimination?  These are but a few of the myriad questions that merit serious review.  The outcome of this review would define the early period of any new presidency.

Romney, the candidate, has embraced Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget.  In fact, Romney called it “marvelous”, an unusual appellation for a federal budget proposal.  We should assume the Ryan budget would provide the framework for the eventual architecture of a Romney administration.  That seems fair.

Here is where it gets tricky for Romney.  The Ryan budget, if passed by a Republican-controlled Congress and approved by a Romney White House, would inflict unusual pain and suffering on the middle class, the poor, children, and the elderly; and that’s just for starters.

So, how would Romney “get it right” by adopting a budget that features across-the-board cuts in discretionary spending during a weak economic recovery dependent upon a delicate balance between government spending and private sector growth?

How would Romney get it right by supporting tax cuts which would disproportionately benefit households earning more than $250,000 annually and would cost $4.6 trillion dollars over the next decade?

How would the new president get it right by phasing out Medicare as 78 million Boomers know it and shifting its recipients to a system of vouchers that would drive up the costs of health care for the elderly?

How does the new president get it right by gutting Medicaid, Food Stamps, transportation, and child nutrition?  Average and lower-income Americans depend on these programs.  Romney has said there is “no free lunch”, and no more government handouts when he’s president.

How would the “extremely conservative” Mitt Romney get it right when he says that one of his first acts as president would be to end Obamacare thus alienating the millions of families whose 2.5 million adult children are currently covered under their parents’ health insurance up to the age of 26?  To those numbers, you need to add the 17 million young adults no longer denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

How would the former-governor-turned-president get it right by cutting Pell Grants – college scholarships for tens-of-thousands of needy college students?  Does he get it right by cutting funds for medical research, national parks, and environmental preservation?

Polling reveals that Mitt Romney remains undefined to a wide universe of people.  To approach his hypothetical presidency as a surgeon would amputate a limb would generate as much public alarm as the patient losing the limb without the benefit of anesthesia.

If Romney says he “will get it right”, his tin ear needs to be more sensitive to the economic insecurity many Americans feel today.  The problem Romney confronts is he lacks empathetic qualities that put him in the shoes of less fortunate others.

The challenge even for candidate Romney is his failure to square his campaign rhetoric with his own reality.  Success in Romney’s world trickles down from the success of a wealthy few – like himself.  The American tradition, the success model for the average working/professional American, is that success comes from the effort and success of a strong and growing middle class.

Romney pays lip service to middle class concerns in his public statements but his life’s experience and embrace of the Ryan budget are the contradictions he will have to address.  Americans know that “trickle-down” economics devastated the middle class under Reagan-Bush and Bush-Cheney.  David Stockman, Reagan’s first budget director, admitted the theory doesn’t work and said it only widened the wealth gap between the rich and the rest of us.
The underlying theme of the Ryan budget, that Romney embraces, is that we as a society are “not in this together.”  The theme is “every man or woman for themselves.”  There is big government for the wealthy and small government for everyone else.   And, there is big and intrusive government with regard to women’s healthcare and contraception.   As the GOP’s standard bearer in the coming campaign, the message he will convey is angry; the vision he will offer is morality-based, and the underlying philosophy of his party is judgmental towards society at large.

Over the next seven months, Romney will have to hit a reset button.  Should he make that tactical shift, would it fly with conservatives and the election-deciding independents?  How does Romney shake up his campaign’s public posture to restart his campaign while consolidating his base, many of which are not convinced he is the conservative he portrays himself to be?  He may be the classic candidate impaled on the horns of an interesting dilemma.
How does Romney “get it right” with a 16 percent gap in likeability among women?  Furthermore, he has a Latino problem and current polls reveal a Jewish preference to stay with the president.

Recently, the current GOP frontrunner identified Russia as the preeminent adversary of the U.S.   Would Romney “get it right” by reigniting another trillion-dollar arms race with Putin’s Russia?

Mitt Romney says he will “get it right” because of his proven success as a businessman and leader; that he has the courage to make the hard decisions the Ryan budget requires.  Implementing the Ryan budget plan would represent no more than a continuation of the GOP’s preference for tax benefits for the rich while privatizing the safety net for the 99-percent, and unbridled capitalism at the expense of balance and the larger public good.    It would represent another four years of squandering the public trust while feeding the GOP’s addiction to mismanaging our national and natural resources.

To “get it right”, we would ask Romney to have the courage to represent a larger more positive and compelling vision for the country.  Engage us with big, bold, and imaginative ideas, ideas that would excite a new generation and renew the faith of those who daily balance hope against the fear of falling into the abyss.  Tell us how you would uplift, not how you would deny, impoverish, and set adrift those who seek a fair deal and not a handout.
This, Mr. Romney, is how you get it right.

George Kennedy

George Kennedy is a retired senior Foreign Service officer with extensive international experience. He holds a B.A. from the University of Oregon and two graduate degrees from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. Mr. Kennedy was a political advisor to state and federal officials and has authored strategy pieces for Members of Congress and presidential candidates. He serves on the Advisory Board for the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Arizona.

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