How Romney can win the debate (and election)

I chuckled when Jonathan Haidt, in his recent book, said he’d been a 2004 campaign speechwriter for John Kerry – in his head, frustrated at Kerry’s failure to say what he (Haidt) thought necessary. Well, I’ve been speechwriting like that for Romney (posted here on 3/1 and 8/19). And now David Brooks, in his latest column, has given it a shot too, for Romney’s opening statement in the debate.

I’ve taken Brooks’s draft and reworked it:

Till now I’ve let myself be packaged as an ideological candidate. But, to be honest, that’s not really me. I see myself instead as a pragmatist problem-solver. So as the election nears, I’ve decided to leave aside political game-playing and get real.

My friends, America’s going broke. The next president had darn better finally make a “grand bargain” with the other party to get the budget under control. Mr. Obama has tried to (well, sort of), over the past four years, but failed. There’s no reason to think he’ll succeed in the next four.

One factor is that, while in 2008 he promised to be post-partisan, he actually shut out Republicans from Day One, making bipartisanship impossible.

Now, Republicans do share part of the blame, by refusing to consider any tax increases. And we should certainly aim to tax as little as possible. But there’s no way we can deal with our debt crisis through spending cuts alone; and no way Democrats will agree to major spending cuts unless Republicans budge on taxes. Other countries facing similar problems have successfully overcome them by raising something like $1 in new revenue for every $3 in spending cuts.

That’s a basically reasonable way forward. The only possible way. President Obama will never be able to achieve it; he’ll never get Republicans to accept it. But I can – and I will.

Make no mistake, we have to do this. We can’t keep spending a trillion a year more than we take in; and if nothing is done, it will only get worse, as the ratio of taxpaying working people to retired and benefit-receiving people inevitably shrinks. In fact, we’re able to borrow a trillion a year for now only because interest rates are at historic lows. But as our debt balloons, and repayment grows doubtful, countries like China won’t keep lending us money at such low interest rates. And when interest costs on our debt ($16 trillion and counting) jump up to more normal levels, we’ll be in deep doo-doo. We won’t be able to afford any of those benefit programs Democrats keep vowing to protect. Our government will be bankrupt and our economy destroyed.

This is the biggest problem facing America. Tackling it will take some spending cuts and tax increases none of us will like. President Obama and the Democrats are frankly incapable of dealing with it. They don’t even want to hear about it.

And by the way, the president’s proposals for higher taxes on the rich are not an answer. They’d be a drop in the bucket. I would also like to make clear that, contrary to what they tell you, I am not – repeat, not – proposing to reduce the taxes rich people pay.

But what would also help our debt problem is better economic growth, getting more Americans working. Democrats seem to think government can create jobs. They never seem to understand that most people work for businesses, so for high employment you need businesses to be successful, competitive and, yes, profitable. But according to the World Economic Forum, American competitiveness has fallen in each of the last four years.

Well, what do you expect with an administration that basically sees business as a public enemy? A Romney administration will instead aim to help businesses to be more competitive and successful, because that’s how you get more jobs – and less deficit spending.

President Obama has no plan for the next four years except to continue fighting the same fruitless battles he’s failed to win over the last four. If you think that’s a good plan for our economic future – then vote for him.

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6 Responses to “How Romney can win the debate (and election)”

  1. bruce gaynor Says:

    I thought Brook’s comments and yours were a very reasonable way forward. The debates would be awsome with these words as a “preamble” of sorts. Unfortunately, Gov. Romney is beholden to factions that would abandon him if he even went near this rhetoric. Sad to say but reasonable voices on both sides are pushed aside by ideological bullies with $ and their surrogates.

    [FSR comment: Thanks. Those who you say who would abandon Romney have no place else to go. They don't have enough votes to elect him; he can only win by reaching outside that base, which I think Brooks's draft (and mine) would do. It would be a risky strategy, but would break open the race, and if Romney doesn't do that somehow, he loses.]

  2. Gregory Kipp Says:

    It sounds good, but the main reason Obama has not been more successful is the unwillingness of republicons to work with him in any respect. We would be much further along in the economic recovery if the “right” (sic) had been willing to compromise. I’m certainly won’t be voting for a party that has seen fit to hold the entire country hostage to their prejudice against a black, liberal president.

    [FSR comment: I do fault Republicans for refusal to compromise, as readers of this blog surely know. But it isn't "prejudice," it's disagreement. I personally did not vote for Obama but actually hoped he'd make good on his talk of ending partisan division. I was sorely disappointed from the very start, before Obama even took office, when he handed leadership to Congressional Democrats, wouldn't try to bring Republicans into the process (on the stimulus bill and others), and started demonizing them as the enemy. So right from the start, it was Obama who poisoned the well. He had a great opportunity to turn things around when the Simpson-Bowles report came out; it's just absolutely tragic that Obama walked away from it. For that great sin he should not be re-elected.]

  3. Lee Says:

    Two thoughts: more important than how much you spend is what you spend it on. If I buy a house costing twice my annual income then that can be reasonable, but if spend it on shoes, then it is not reasonable. I do not believe that Romney will spend significantly less than Obama would — he’s beholden to too many government leeches. However, I do believe that Romney would shift the spending from houses to shoes. Do you want to spend your trillion dollars invading Iran, or trying to stimulate the economy? Sure the latter isn’t working so well (only in part due to partisan politics) but the former would be far worse economically.

    Second thought: Presidents do find it easier to get their own parties to compromise than to get the opposition to budge. For instance, Obama abandoned reasonable plans for national health care because he could not budge the Republicans (and DINOs such as Lieberman), but he was able to get the Democrats to settle for the pro-insurance-company, Republican, Massachusetts model RomneyCare. You might be quite right that the surest way to get rational liberal policies enacted is to elect Romney, but … thinking about it that way makes my head hurt.

    [FSR comment: Pain is good for the soul. But I put the likelihood of invading Iran at about zero, so I wouldn't recommend losing sleep over that. I'm glad you agree with me that the surest way to get rational policies enacted is with Romney. But "rational liberal policies" is to me almost an oxymoron. Unless, of course, you mean "liberal" in the European John Stuart Mill sense, which of course you don't.]

  4. Lizzy Robinson Says:

    The graphic you use claiming that Obama has added $6.5 trillion to the US debt was rated “mostly false” by this website

    http://www.politifact.com/new-jersey/statements/2012/may/04/chain-email/obama-has-added-more-national-debt-previous-43-pre/

    [FSR comment: I thank my toughest critic for pointing this out. I have read the linked site. The "mostly false" applies to the exact figure of $6.5 trillion. Nevertheless, it is unquestionably true that during Obama's administration the debt has more or less doubled from what all the previous administrations had racked up. Now, true enough, there were reasons for that. But the real point is that we just cannot go on like this without hitting catastrophe not far down the road. I would hope both candidates will address this seriously in the debate. But I'm not holding my breath.]

  5. Gregory Kipp Says:

    There are certainly honest ideological differences between the left and right. But the sheer vehemence of the right’s opposition to Obama belies any claim that this is the sole source of the problem. There are numerous instances of legislative initiatives in Congress that would have had a positive effect for the economy, and many of them were originally proposed by Republicans. But once Obama got on board with any of these, the right immediately became opposed. This in not honest politics. We are being manipulated by people who can’t stand the thought of our country being led by a black liberal president..

    [FSR comment: Liberal -- yes. And there are some people who indeed cannot abide the idea of a black president (very few I think), but I also think it's very wrong to tar all the opposition to Obama as racist.
    Honest politics? Sure there's been Republican dishonesty. But certainly no less on the Democratic side. Just look at Obama running around insisting that Romney proposes a $5 trillion tax cut for the rich, when Romney made it perfectly clear in the debate that that's not at all his proposal. And that wasn't a change. My previous blog posts show that it was clear to me, at least, that Romney wasn't proposing that, which is why I urged him to so clarify it in the debate! Which he did. Yet still Obama continues the lie.]

  6. Kathryne Says:

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