The Campaign Spot

So What Did Romney Mean When He Said, “I Was an Independent During Reagan-Bush”?

A friend of Mitt objects to this post.
I’m going to ignore the typically charming comments about my disappointing intellectual rigor, the suggestion that candidates declare Reagan was perfect, my smugness, etc. I’ll just note that with persuasive friends like this, Mitt Romney could use a few more enemies.
First, the friend of Mitt contends I didn’t provide proper context for Romney’s “I was an independent during Reagan/Bush.” He insists the statement was a reference that he didn’t want to bring back deficits.
Here’s the exchange, as the widely-circulated YouTube footage puts it:

Kennedy: And under your economic program, under the program of Mr. Reagan and Mr. Bush, we saw the growth in terms of the unemployment, the growth in the number of children livered [a typical Kennedy slurring of ‘living’] in poverty, the growth in terms of those children out of wedlock.
Romney: Look, I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I’m not trying to take us back to Reagan-Bush. My positions don’t talk about the things you suggest they talk about. This isn’t a political issue.

[Unless the YouTube debate footage has been selectively edited to misrepresent their positions (a possibility), there’s nothing about deficits in Kennedy’s charge.]
As Byron noted, on October 27, 1994, the Boston Herald reported the exchange this way:

Kennedy attempted to link Romney several times during the debate to conservatives such as Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and accused him of trying to return the country to the policies of the Reagan-Bush administrations.
Romney objected to the characterizations, saying: “I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I’m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush.”
Romney has sought throughout the campaign to portray himself as a “Bill Weld Republican” who is liberal on social issues and conservative on fiscal matters.

I’m a little wary when a person contends that “I’m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush” really means, “I’m not trying to return to deficit spending.” If you were opposed to deficits, you can say, “I won’t run a deficit.” If you’re aiming for the votes of a heavily Democratic state full of people who oppose Reagan and Bush, you say, “I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I’m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush.”
Then there’s a complaint that I said Romney “doesn’t have a perfect record,” but don’t get into the specifics of what I find imperfect about Romney’s record.
Okay, pal, fine. You want to know what I consider to be imperfections in the Romney record?

  • If I had been called out for bragging about a state police program to deal with illegal immigrants that never went into effect, I would be embarrassed; Romney touts this program again and again, never mentioning that he signed it in his final weeks in office and that his successor, Democrat Deval Patrick, immediately scrapped the program before any of the state troopers.
  • Similarly, if I had several “sanctuary cities” in my state during my governorship and hadn’t done much of anything to deter them, I would hesitate before going after one of my rivals on that front. Romney doesn’t seem to have that hesitation.
  • I’m not going to give Romney much grief about his conversion to the pro-life cause, I’m just going to note that he’s got a lot of past comments loudly supporting abortion rights that any Democratic rival will use to paint him as a flip-flopper in the general election.
  • Like with the abortion comments, if Romney says he’s committed to Second Amendment rights, great, but he’s got a bunch of comments in the past that have him backing various forms of gun control:

In his 1994 US Senate run, Romney backed two gun-control measures strongly opposed by the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups: the Brady Bill, which imposed a five-day waiting period on gun sales, and a ban on certain assault weapons.
“That’s not going to make me the hero of the NRA,” Romney told the Boston Herald in 1994.
At another campaign stop that year, he told reporters: “I don’t line up with the NRA.”
And as the GOP gubernatorial candidate in 2002, Romney lauded the state’s strong laws during a debate against Democrat Shannon O’Brien. “We do have tough gun laws in Massachusetts; I support them,” he said. “I won’t chip away at them; I believe they protect us and provide for our safety.”

  • His health care plan’s individual mandate. Romney supported individual mandates in Massachusetts, but says he wouldn’t support that kind of plan nationwide.
  • Finally, during the Iowa debate, Romney suggested there was something inherently unethical or wrong in describing or criticizing your opponent’s positions:

“And I’ve done by best to let other candidates speak about their own positions… So I’m not going to try and elaborate on his positions. I can tell you that I am pro-life and that I’m opposed to same- sex marriage, and I support the Second Amendment. Those are my views. Why don’t we let each of us describe our own views, as opposed to taking time to describe those of our colleagues?
Several days later, he went after Giuliani on immigration.

So those, along with the fact that he’s won exactly one race in his entire life, are my beefs with Romney.

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