Mitt Romney’s basic strategy in the general election campaign has been clear for months – use rhetoric that appeals to the middle while embracing policies that appeal to the right. That strategy was in full flower at tonight’s debate as Romney repeatedly used sweet-scented rhetoric to lure voters to accept poisonous policies. Perhaps the clearest case in point was the discussion of regulation.
Romney made a well articulated case for why regulation is needed and even in business’ interest. He appeared to be a paragon of reason – fully in line with the public’s understanding that regulation in general is necessary even though some specific regulations may be misguided.
The problem is that this is totally at odds with the specific, radical positions Romney has embraced. On the policy front, Romney has been taking his lead from the Tea Party Republicans in the House – the ones he claims the President should have been so willing to accommodate. Here’s the most obvious and far-reaching example when it comes to regulations: Romney has endorsed the REINS Act, a bill designed to shut down the entire regulatory system. In fact, he’s gone a step further: Romney has said he’d try to implement the REINS Act by executive fiat if Congress didn’t pass it – a step that almost certainly would be unconstitutional.
What would the REINS Act do? It would say that no major regulation could move forward unless both Houses of Congress approved it. It literally would return the regulatory system to the 19th century — before agencies like the Food and Drug Administration had the authority and expertise to implement laws. Could any of the rules for Wall Street that Romney suggests he supports be put into effect under such a system? Doubtful. Congress would remain gridlocked as ever more campaign contributions flowed in because every industry would have to turn to Congress to fight out its technical, regulatory battles.
This is vintage Romney 2012 – talk from the center while promising to govern from the right. The media and the public should not fall for this. The same Romney who has no compunctions about running away from his own record as governor has no hesitation about talking around the positions he’s embracing during this very campaign.
Even sober-minded PBS spent time tonight discussing the candidates’ stances in the sense of what their body language was on stage. At least as much attention ought to be given to their stances on the issues and how they comport with the language offered in tonight’s debate.