Mitt Romney urged the country’s news editors on Wednesday to delve more deeply into what he said were President Obama’s secret second-term plans, telling them they have a duty to “do the seeking” to expose what the White House has in store.
Mr. Romney also called on the press to take a closer look at what Mr. Obama has planned for a second term and said the exchange last week between Mr. Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, caught by a hidden microphone, was telling.
Mr. Obama was heard, when he thought no open microphones were nearby, asking the Russian government not to pressure him before the election on missile defense, and he signaled he will have more “flexibility” to negotiate afterward, when he won’t need to vet those positions with voters.
“He does not want to share his real plans before the election, either with the public or with the press,” Mr. Romney told the editors. “By flexibility, he means that ‘what the American public doesn’t know won’t hurt him.’ He is intent on hiding. You and I will have to do the seeking.”
Of course, Obama was merely telling Medvedev what everyone in the world already knows -- that the power of the presidency is diminished during an election year. But Romney and the rest of the right are always on the lookout for something to be outraged over and an unexpected moment of candor would have to do.
But what really leaves a sour taste in many mouths is Romney's hypocrisy here. While complaining about the President's alleged secret agenda for a second term (one that apparently involves stripping every citizen of their guns, despite the lack of any evidence at all that Obama plans to do this), Romney is running around telling everyone that his big plans for a Romney presidency are a secret.
"One of the things I found in a short campaign against Ted Kennedy was that when I said, for instance, that I wanted to eliminate the Department of Education, that was used to suggest I don’t care about education," Romney told the Weekly Standard in March. "So I think it’s important for me to point out that I anticipate that there will be departments and agencies that will either be eliminated or combined with other agencies. So for instance, I anticipate that housing vouchers will be turned over to the states rather than be administered at the federal level, and so at this point I think of the programs to be eliminated or to be returned to the states, and we’ll see what consolidation opportunities exist as a result of those program eliminations. So will there be some that get eliminated or combined? The answer is yes, but I’m not going to give you a list right now."
Then, just this weekend, Romney repeated his desire for secrecy. "I’m going to take a lot of departments in Washington, and agencies, and combine them. Some eliminate, but I’m probably not going to lay out just exactly which ones are going to go," he told a group of donors this weekend. "Things like Housing and Urban Development, which my dad was head of, that might not be around later. But I’m not going to actually go through these one by one. What I can tell you is, we’ve got far too many bureaucrats. I will send a lot of what happens in Washington back to the states."
Greg Sargent gets to the heart of Mitt's secretiveness, I think; behind the distasteful hypocrisy is an even more unpalatable political cowardice.
There’s no mystery here: People routinely tell pollsters they favor cutting government spending in the abstract, but when talk turns to specifics, they suddenly realize they don’t hate goverment so much, after all. And so, Romney’s comments last night sounded like a pretty straightforward assertion to a friendly audience that he will deliberately remain vague throughout the election about which government agencies he’ll either consolidate or eliminate wholesale.
However ambiguous, the vow to massively cut government is necessary to plug the big whole in his vision: He continues to promise huge tax cuts for the rich, even as he also continues to promise that he'll solve our deficit problem. The money has to come from somewhere. But Romney won’t say where. You’d think news orgs might want to get on this one of these days.
So, since people like the idea of cutting government, but don't like the idea of cutting specific programs, Romney has decided he'll campaign on cutting government, without putting his neck out with any specifics. People like their spending cuts vague, so Romney -- as he does over and over and over -- has found a way to tell people exactly what they want to hear. And he rationalizes his vagueness by warning that if he makes his secret plans public, the "liberal media" will attack him for it.
Meanwhile, we need to be terrified of President Obama's own secret plans -- plans Romney received first hand from the Investigative Wing of Mitt Romney's Butt. This is practically the definition of incoherent.
But all of this gets back to a question I've touched on from time to time -- who the hell is Mitt Romney, anyway? We know the he ran and that he governed as a moderate in Massachusetts, despite now claiming to be a "severely conservative" governor. But in the Republican primaries, he ran as far to the right as he could. Now that that's over, he's shaking the Etch A Sketch and trying to reinvent himself once again. After all these costume changes, how are we supposed to know which one is real?
If the press is going to look into anyone's secret plans, then those plans should be Romney's. While Obama's secrets are purely speculation on Mitt's part, his own desire to keep secrets is plainly stated. And we can't speculate on what those secret plans might be, because we have zero insight into his true character. In fact, Romney seems so intent on becoming president that I don't think we'd have a much clearer picture after his election. He'd just start running for reelection the moment he took his hand off the Bible. Still telling everyone what they wanted to hear, governing with an eye on polling and a finger to the wind.
All we know about Mitt Romney is that he's politically spineless, that he's a complete hypocrite, and that he probably wants the power of the presidency more than anyone else on the planet. We may not actually know much about Mitt Romney, but what we do know should be enough to disqualify him.