Mitt Romney announced today that he would not be participating in a debate, moderated by Donald Trump, some 72 hours after Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Jon Huntsman declined the invitation to join the outspoken real estate mogul. Some commentators have suggested that Romney should be applauded for what they perceive as a break from his past unwillingness to take a stand, but if this delayed decision proves once again that his true feelings continue to be stifled by political calculation, Romney will add this event to an increasing public perception that he is unable to lead.
However you feel about President Barack Obama’s success at governing and handling of national problems, even if you feel he’s become weak, the difference between him and Romney is that the president campaigned on these issues from a strong perspective, leaving no doubt about his views. Romney is already weakened, still straddling the fence, trying to please and appease critics, voters, and party leaders - all in a cautious attempt to guarantee his nomination. And if he’s weak now, how much weaker will he become as he governs, being forced to compromise and lead while the fate of future legislation is left in the hands of a divided Congress? Suppose his term as Massachusetts governor is seen by some as the lone era in which he asserted formidable stances on core issues, the fact that he’s wavered so many times since cripples any effort to know how he truly feels about any issue. Is there anything on which Mitt Romney can confidently answer, ‘I stood for that’?
So maybe this is the deal Mitt Romney’s offering America: "Elect me, and you’ll see what I stand for." Maybe he would be drastically different as president, but the average citizen is entitled to his anxieties, if such a deal were made. Romney and his Republican counterparts often criticize Obama for his lack of fortitude on defense and national security, but one has to wonder if a weakened and all too cautious Romney would have made the same decision Obama did when presented with the evidence of Bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan, and whether he would’ve simply stalled a decision on Libya last spring, only to declare, "we did the right thing," after months of international support finally brought down Benghazi and led directly to Gaddafi’s downfall. And healthcare, God only knows what Mitt would do to Obama-care post election. Repealing it would take a monumental act of political will, something foreign to Romney thus far.
Paul made a key point in his statement declining the Trump debate invite: “[A debate hosted by Trump is] beneath the office of the presidency and flies in the face of that office's history and dignity.” For all the prestige about the office Romney is seeking, why couldn’t he make this statement, denying the seriousness of Trump’s debate? It might actually help Romney to stand up and take the heat from Trump, at least he would show a willingness to stand his ground. Instead he cited scheduling issues as his reason and noted a friendly phone conversation with Trump.
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