It was a virtuoso performance. But what does it tell us about how Romney would govern if elected? Here he was making promises about how he would govern that flatly contrasted with his plans. Which promises should we believe? Ross Douthat argues that Romney's soothing moderate rhetoric shows that he is likely to govern as the moderate he presented himself as.
It’s worth considering a similar — in many ways, identical — episode that took place a dozen years before. During the 2000 election, the growth of a budget surplus offered the country a major choice. Al Gore proposed to use most of the surplus to retire the national debt and the balance for public investment. George W. Bush proposed a large, regressive income tax that Gore warned would exacerbate inequality and jeopardize the soundness of the budget.
Then, as now, the Republican simply denied over and over that his plan would do what the Democrats said it would. Bush portrayed his plan as devoting just a small fraction of the surplus to tax cuts and described his tax cut itself as benefitting the poor far more than the rich. And you certainly could find circumstantial evidence to suggest that Bush might govern the way he portrayed himself, rather than the way his plan read. He had governed in a bipartisan way in Texas, he had explicitly denounced the conservative wing of the Congressional GOP, and he had surrounded himself with moderate advisers like Michael Gerson and Karen Hughes.
But Bush in fact followed through on what his plan actually did, which happened to be what Gore described it as, and not what Bush described it as. His promises to maintain the budget surplus and direct most of the tax cuts to lower-earners fell by the wayside. What mattered was the party, and the Republican Party was committed to a policy of regressive tax cuts.
The Bush-Gore debates centered primarily around Gore’s endless, frustrating attempts to pin down Bush’s priorities. I compiled pieces of Bush denying he would pursue what turned out to be the centerpiece of his administration’s economic agenda.
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment