Romney isn’t through, yet, believe me. So, what kind of president he might be remains achingly relevant. During a presidential campaign there are a couple of ways to read the tea leaves to try to get a sense of what a non-incumbent candidate would do if he/she became president. I’ll spend a few minutes in my opening going over the following and then try to guide our discussion around each in turn.
It’s the Promises, Stupid – The best indicator, say political science types, is to look at what the candidate is promising to do. Really. All cynical joking aside, remember that campaign trail promises are not just rhetoric; they are pledges to supporters, interest groups, and the media, that raise expectations come January and beyond. Even in an era of razor-thin electoral margins and no honeymoons, ceteris paribas the best, single predictor of what someone would do as president is what he/she promised to do.
Of course, Romney is making this method unusually difficult. He keeps changing positions over and over. Plus, frankly, he and Ryan are deliberately hiding the basic unworkability of their biggest campaign promises (the budget arithmetic thing) to an extent arguably never before seen. This undeniably is true on domestic policy, and debatably on foreign policy, too.
It’s (Not) His Party– We’re really electing a party to govern more than a man. The GOP is highly unified around a core agenda of upper-income tax cuts, more defense spending, slashing social programs, deregulation, etc. But, would a Romney administration really try to implement this agenda, much of which is unpopular? Would he really return to Bush’s foreign policy?
Personnel Are Policy – Who’s advising Romney can give clues into who he would listen to in office and who’d he’d appoint to key positions.
The (Dis?)Loyal Opposition – Would Democrats obstruct a President Romney as viciously as Republicans have opposed Obama?
Events Rule – As we’ve seen in the Middle east this week, presidents are captives to events to some extent. Obama immediately had to deal with a collapsing economy and a bank bailout, Clinton with a Somalia crisis, etc. What might Romney face?
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –
- What haws Romney pledged to do if elected? Which of these would be his top priorities?
- Are these promises realistic, politically and, um, arithmetically.
- Would Romney let congressional Republicans and his wealthiest donors set his agenda? Are the GOP factions really as united as we think?
- Who is advising the guy? How powerful would VP Ryan really be? Will Romney’s neocon advisors (not all are) really be given another bite at the apple?
- What options would the Democratic opposition have? How might they compromise with (or roll over for) Romney? Remember, a grand budget bargain may be in the near future [we’ll discuss this on November 12].
Outline of the Romney economic plan. This site also sums same for other issue areas. [UPDATE: This site is garbage. Here’s Romney’s own bullet points for his pledges. These are truly radical, draconian policies, although they are hidden in bland language that only policy wonks can fully appreciate.]
- The basic mathematical impossibility of Romney’s tax proposal: He’s either lying or he will raise taxes on millions of regular Americans to finance giant tax cuts for the rich. Same thing here., I recommend it.
- A good summary of the argument that Romney would be the most conservative (or right-wing, if you prefer) president in history because his party is that way now.
Another good, shorter one is here. [UPDATE: Oops #2. They’re the same article. But, read it.]
- A Romney foreign policy:
- Few details, and it seems Mitt is still stuck in the foreign policy past. Recommend.
- “Vague to ill-informed to downright dangerous.”
- Little-noticed but really crucial stuff, and all awful news, from a liberal perspective:
FYI, this will be my last meeting before I go on vacation for two weeks.