Having written about the subtext of Pres. Obama’s Tuesday speech to news editors, it is worth looking at the speech likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney gave in the same venue on Wednesday. As reported at National Journal:
“Nancy Pelosi famous [sic] said that we would have to pass Obamacare to find out what was in it,” Romney said. “President Obama has turned that advice into a campaign strategy: He wants us to re-elect him to find out what he will actually do.
“With all the challenges the nation faces, this is not the time for President Obama’s hide-and-seek campaign,” he added.
Romney argued he presents a stark contrast, boldly laying out his own agenda to solve the country’s litany of problems. That was no more true than when he focused on entitlement spending, an issue Obama has attacked Romney on for adopting the budget proposal put forward by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc. The plan, the most prominent feature of which includes plans to convert Medicare into a premium-support model, polls poorly with the public, and is clearly an issue the president will highlight ad naseum through November.
But rather than distance himself from Ryan, he resolutely defended the House budget chairman, even praising him by name for having “the courage to offer serious solutions to the problems we face.” And he went on then offensive, accusing Obama of damaging Medicare first. Romney adopted the Democrats’ own attack against Republicans, saying that the president “has taken a series of steps that end Medicare as we know it.”
From this speech, folks on the left see Romney taking Obama’s bait — and that is not an entirely unfair assessment, merely an incomplete one. National Journal reports the Ryan plan polls badly based on its own poll, with an incomplete, misleading question. Nevertheless, given Democrats’ past success with Mediscare campaigns, it is not surprising some are licking their chops today.
However, the left is also missing the subtext of Romney’s speech, which reflects hard-headed realism. It reflects realism about our grave and growing debt problem (even if the Ryan plan is insufficient, it is necessary). It also reflects realism about the general election campaign to come. The Democrats intend to demagogue the Ryan plan and hang it around the neck of the GOP nominee, regardless of the identity of the nominee or his position on the Ryan plan. Romney knows this.
The establishment media, which has already allied itself with gross fiscal irresponsibility, will gleefully assist Team Obama in this campaign. Indeed, Obama’s demagoguery got a standing ovation from a packed house of news editors, while a much smaller crowd of journos gave Mitt Romney the polite golf clap. Romney knows this, too.
In 1996 (surely one of Obama’s models for a Democrat seeking reelection), GOP nominee Bob Dole ran away from the efforts of Newt Gingrich and the GOP Congress to bring the budget under control (even as Newt was driving Bill Clinton to sign welfare reform into law). This year, things could be different. Paul Ryan is probably a more stable ally now than Newt was then (or now). Moreover, even Obama’s budget director has warned that our debt is “serious and ultimately unsustainable.”
On the other hand, it may be — especially if the economy were to perk up between now and November — that Democratic demagoguery on entitlements can succeed again. But Romney’s speech suggests he recognizes he cannot afford to avoid the good fight, because Democrats and the media will surely fight the bad one.