Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Americans of all stripes have solutions to our problems, but does Mitt Romney?

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Ask anyone in an American bar after about 3-4 drinks about the state of the country and you will get a lot of response. Liberal, conservative, people who like chicken sandwiches and gay marriage. You will also get solutions to those problems, usually starting out with “if you ask me” even if they weren’t asked.

The key is that most people who complain are willing to back that up with what they would do about it if they were in charge.

Perhaps this isn’t fair to Mitt Romney, who doesn’t drink thanks to his Mormon religion. The people in the bars are less likely to share solutions to the world’s problems when they are sober. But they would still say more than Romney about the subject.

Romney has been running for president for 5 years now, and we know very little about what Romney wants to do about the United States. Vagueness hovers over him like a storm cloud over Charlie Brown.

Politicians get into trouble over giving specifics. But Romney hasn’t learned that giving specifics is like getting a shot. It will hurt, but not for long.

If you want to be president of the United States, and one assumes Romney wants to be president, you do have to present a plan, a motivation, a raison d’etre for why you want to live in the White House. To not be Barack Obama is still not enough.

Romney’s inability to absorb short-term pain extends to his refusal to submit past tax returns. As bad as things might be with those returns, you almost can’t imagine a scenario where Romney’s returns are as bad as people think they are based on his reluctance to turn them over.

As someone who has not been impressed with Harry Reid, I find his latest bravado has been sorely missing, especially in all of 2009 and 2010. The Senate Majority Leader was better off limiting his scope on Romney’s tax returns to his unidentified source. Reid is far enough on the plank that a simple tax returns release would have to shut him up. Romney can’t even pull that off. If Romney gets a cut and a bandage, does someone else rip it off of him.

Barack Obama really wanted to be president in 2008. Whatever you might think of some of his decisions, Obama definitely wants to be president again. Obama takes a lot of shots, some from his own side, and some odd clearly mendacious shots from Romney (e.g., welfare as we know it).

Reid isn’t winning on style points, though his tactics have been soundly criticized while similar approaches from the right are treated as harmless. Yet the only way Reid wins is that Romney doesn’t disclose his tax returns. That just might happen.

On the tax returns, Romney is borrowing a page from the Sarah Palin playbook. Palin ran out the clock while never disclosing her medical records. As far as the MSM was concerned, Palin got away with it. Candidates disclose their tax returns and medical records, but Palin and now Romney want to be exceptions, and feel perturbed if you think otherwise.

Romney has run this race with arrogance — more than even 2008. Too much humility is bad, but from an objective standpoint, Obama has a more comfortable balance between arrogance and humility.

When the GOP assembles in Tampa, Romney will have to give a speech on why Americans should elect him president. He should start by looking into his reflection and asking “why do I want to be president.” For his sake, he should tell himself and the rest of us really soon.


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