On Sunday Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan appeared on the morning talk shows. They repeated the constant refrain that Obama’s policies have not worked. But if you look closer at the record of the two we see that they agree with Obama on the official record more than they would like the public to know.
On health care, it is well known that Romney’s Massachusetts plan was the model for the Affordable Care Act. Romney has insisted that he will repeal the law if elected, but Sunday, he had to admit that as polls show there are provisions of the law that the public likes and he would have to retain. In effect he has moved from a "repeal" position to "replace" position. The Affordable Care Act may not be a perfect piece of legislation, as is, but repeal of a law that has been the goal of every president since 1948 without a workable replacement would be very unpopular. Not to mention that benefits have already begun to kick in and any repeal means that he Romney be taking health care away from millions of Americans. "Repeal" is a risky position to take going into a very tight election. No doubt recognizing this fatal flaw in his strategy, Romney began the process of walking back from repeal and towards replace on Sunday.
"Well, I'm not getting rid of all of health care reform," the former Massachusetts governor said in an interview with NBC's Meet the Press. "Of course there are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I'm going to put in place. One is to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions can get coverage. Two is to assure that the marketplace allows for individuals to have policies that cover their family up to whatever age they might like. I also want individuals to be able to buy insurance, health insurance, on their own as opposed to only being able to get it on a tax advantage basis through their company."
Romney was careful to stay clear of the lightning rod issue of the individual mandate that he implemented in Massachusetts, and which was developed and supported by conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation. But this concession and movement towards replacement runs in sharp contrast to the stated goal of "repeal all, before replace."
On foreign policy, a weak area for the GOP in election 2012, Romney gave faint praise and reluctant credit to Obama’s performance. He said, that Obama has had “some successes and he's had some failures.” When David Gregory asked whether the United States was safer or less safe as a result of Obama’s leadership, Romney said America was in “some ways safer.”
“Getting rid of Osama bin Laden — I think [that was] a success on the part of the president,” Romney said. “Authorizing SEAL Team Six, commanding SEAL Team Six to take him out that was a great accomplishment. Using the drones to strike at Al-Qaeda targets. I think those are positive developments.”
This is in sharp contrast to a speech Romney gave to the American Legion last week in Tampa. During that speech, Romney slammed President Obama as a commander in chief who has “failed to lead” and has “dodged the tough choices.”
On defense spending Romney had to split with his running mate, Paul Ryan.
The Romney/Ryan plan is to raise defense spending by $2 trillion. Romney critiqued Obama for making defense spending cuts: "I thought it was a mistake on the part of the White House to propose [the defense cuts]. I think it was a mistake for Republicans to go along with it," Romney said. The “reckless defense cuts” that Romney is referencing are part of the debt deal that was struck last year.
“The Obama administration is set to cut spending by nearly $1 trillion. My administration will not,” said Romney.
Left unsaid was that many of those cuts were approved by Republicans in Congress, including Ryan, in a deal that would go into effect in January if Congress fails to reach a budget deal. In addition the Obama administration has raised the defense budget. The defense cuts will only occur if Congress cannot agree on the budget. Ryan, in direct contrast to his running mate, has supported sequestration.
"What conservatives like me have been fighting for, for years, are statutory caps on spending, legal caps in law that says government agencies cannot spend over a set amount of money," said Ryan in a Talking Points Memo article. “And if they breach that amount across the board, sequester comes in to cut that spending, and you can’t turn that off without a super-majority vote. We got that in law.”
Ryan authored an article in National Review where he called the cuts "an important step in the right direction."
Sunday’s conflicts between Romney and Ryan’s official record and their rhetoric are just the latest in a series of attempts to obfuscate their true position.
Ryan is most guilty of obfuscating his record. Ryan critiqued Obama on his unwillingness to support Simpson-Bowles, when in fact he was the deciding vote to reject the recommendations of the committee, in effect he agreed with Obama. Ryan critiques the 716B of Medicare savings contained in the Affordable Care Act as a cut in benefits while he proposes the same cuts to his budget. Ryan argues against “stimulus” spending, while he solicits funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. After initially denying that he requested any funds, Ryan had to admit that he and his office had requested and received funds. It has also been documented that Ryan was a huge advocate of stimulus spending, Keynesian economics, during the Bush presidency.
Romney and Ryan are playing a shell game with the American people. On the campaign trail their rhetoric is filled with criticism of Obama’s policies, but their governing style, their official government record is in full agreement with many of Obama’s policies. On health care, foreign policy, defense spending, and deficit spending, Romney and Ryan aren’t flip floppers, they are hypocrites.
Bill Clinton was only talking about Medicare when he said about Ryan, "It takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did."
If we look closely at the records of Ryan and Romney not only do they clearly have large brass ones, but they also have a very large gold-plated Etch-A-Sketch.