GOP campaign tone productive and civil
If nothing else, Mitt Romney set a civil tone for this election as he accepted the Republican nomination for president Thursday night. He blended a positive vision of America with criticism of President Obama, yet did not slip into the personal attacks that had characterized the GOP primary season, or, for that matter, the last election, or the last four years.
Mr. Romney asked an entirely fair question: Do people feel better off than they were four years ago? And for the many who undoubtedly will say no, he began trying to make the case for why he might do better.
So on style, we applaud Mr. Romney. We encourage him, and Mr. Obama, to stay on the high road. Their surrogates should do the same, from their running mates on down. If they can maintain this tone, voters just might get a race that's about vision and ideas, not two months of pandering to the base, and to the most base in people.
As for substance, that's another matter.
Right out of the starting gate, Mr. Romney's campaign is having serious problems with the truth. No matter how civilly one delivers it, a lie is still a lie, and it diminishes the debate and the man who utters it.
Mr. Romney and running mate Paul Ryan, for example, keep repeating the false claim that the Affordable Care Act — which, yes, we support — raids Medicare of $716 billion "at the expense of the elderly." As independent entities like PolitiFact and FactCheck have noted in rating the claim false or mostly so, the act limits the future growth of Medicare through such strategies as lowering payments to private insurers and providers. And Mr. Ryan, the architect of the House GOP's budget proposals, had embraced these very savings.
Mr. Ryan, too, has faulted Mr. Obama for not acting on the recommendations of the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission that, at the President's direction, produced a plan for bringing federal finances back into balance. What Mr. Ryan doesn't say is that he was among the leading Republicans against that blueprint.
Which brings us to what may have been the most deceptive and disingenuous claim of all in Mr. Romney's speech: "I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed."
Please. Mr. Romney's partisans in the Washington, from the tea party extremists to more mainstream politicians, have worked relentlessly to block Mr. Obama from success in bringing the country back from the crushing recession that took root toward the end of George W. Bush's term. It was less than two years ago that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." Make the case for intransigence for the sake of principle if they will, but the GOP cannot dispute a record of filibusters and rejections of bipartisan solutions.
Rather than distorting the truth, Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan, we hope, will take up the vital task of detailing their plan and explaining how it is the better one for America. How it will produce those 12 million jobs Mr. Romney so easily conjures. How raising what is already an unsustainable wartime defense budget and cutting taxes even on the wealthiest Americans will magically produce a balanced budget now when those same ideas helped bring about record deficits and debt — and no improvement for the middle class.
So bravo, Mr. Romney, for setting the tone of what we hope will be a decent campaign. Now, let's get down to business.
The Times Union of Albany, Sept. 2
September 10, 2012