by Debra Saunders | October 28, 2012 12:02 am
President Barack Obama is charismatic and inspiring, but he won office too early in his career, and he is a victim of his own success. Sweeping into office with majorities in the Senate and House, Obama quickly passed a Democrats-only stimulus package that didn’t deliver as promised. Then he signed a health care package that increased the burden of health care on private employers and failed to attract a single GOP vote.
Obama’s Affordable Care Act helped unseat moderate and other Democrats who had voted for the package, handing the House to Republicans. Suddenly, Obama had to work across the aisle. He reached out to House Speaker John Boehner in an effort to negotiate a “grand bargain,” but his insistence on raising taxes on families earning $250,000 or more sabotaged the effort. Obama could have pushed for tax reform as a means to raise revenue. Instead, he clung to a gimmick that would do next to nothing to dent the $16 trillion national debt — it would fund government for about a week — and was doomed to fail in the House. It’s not even clear that Democrats, excluded from his talks, would have supported the Obama tax hike.
As long as Obama insists on this particular tax hike, there can be no deal to stop the country from going over the “fiscal cliff” — a tax increase on 90 percent of households, along with mandated spending cuts — on Jan. 1. The president won’t change course, even though the threat of the fiscal cliff scares employers who otherwise might hire new workers.
Undaunted, Obama told The Des Moines Register on Tuesday that going over the fiscal cliff “will probably be messy” but that it is essential to position Washington so he can get a “grand bargain.” Obama wants to take the U.S. economy over the cliff so that he can save it later.
In 2012, voters have a choice between an incumbent who has given up until 2013 and a challenger who just doesn’t quit.
Mitt Romney is far from a perfect candidate. He ran as a socially moderate fiscal conservative when he campaigned to replace Ted Kennedy as senator in 1994 and to be governor of Massachusetts in 2002. When he pivoted to run for the White House, he transformed himself from Massachusetts Republican to traditional-values anti-maverick Republican.
If Romney has changed, it is in part because of a personal journey that often brought a reserved man outside of his comfort zone — Stanford during the anti-war era, France as a Mormon missionary, Harvard’s law and business schools. Romney put down roots in Massachusetts. If Romney came of age sticking to his bedrock values, he did so acutely aware of a world that did not share his beliefs and fiercely protected the right to flout them.
Obamaland tried to paint Romney as a conservative anti-woman extremist, but his happy wife and soft-spoken manner belied that image. Stanford professor William B. Hurlbut, who advised Romney on bioethics, describes Romney as a “decent man” who is clear-minded. “He’s capable about thinking of a subject both in its human implications and its practical implementation.”
Obama also has criticized Romney for being light on details — specifically not telling voters which tax exemptions he would eliminate to compensate for his proposed tax rate reductions. I, too, question Romney’s ability to deliver on his pledge to reduce all income tax rates by 20 percent, increase military spending and reduce the deficit. But I think he starts from a sweet spot.
Romney earned his reputation as a turnaround artist as a venture capitalist and savior of the Olympics. He balanced four state budgets and passed a landmark health care bill with the help of Kennedy, a former rival. Romney has proved that he can get things done, work across the aisle and broker deals.
I asked Martin F. Nolan, former Boston Globe Washington bureau chief, how Romney got along with the Bay State’s Democratic leaders. “He didn’t love them, but he talked to them,” quoth Nolan. Romney held regular Monday meetings with the leadership, which is why “you never hear any of them trashing him.”
And he knows how to get a job done.
Email Debra J. Saunders at: [email protected].
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