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Where’s the Beef? (The Sequel)

June 18, 2012

Mitt Romney’s suggestion a couple of weeks ago that the Constitution should require a president to have three years’ experience working in business prompted me to observe that Romney’s campaign to date has favored quick laugh lines over serious discussion of actual issues.  I commented that the questioning of Romney stand-ins by two different CNN news anchors was redolent of Clara Peller’s demand, “Where’s the beef?”  And I concluded that Romney is going to have to get serious about policy pretty soon.

I submit that this weekend began the vindication of my doubts as to the location of the bovine meat product.

A Bob Schieffer interview with Mitt Romney ran on “Face the Nation” on Sunday.  Schieffer asked Romney about President Obama’s decision, announced last week, to allow certain illegal immigrants to apply for work visas.  Romney blasted Obama for waiting until the last few months before the election to address the problem of illegal immigration, contending that if Obama was genuinely concerned with illegal immigration he would have worked with Congress on a legislative solution “in his first three-and-a-half years.”

We will not trouble to count the layers of fiction that Romney had to pile onto the reality of President Obama’s record to get to his accusation of unconcern.  (OK, we’ll count just one layer of fiction:  it’s just not true.  The president made immigration reform a top priority beginning in April 2009.)  Of more relevance to the point at hand is the fact that when Schieffer repeatedly asked Romney whether he would repeal Obama’s non-legislative measure, Romney repeatedly refused to answer the question.

This is but one, relatively minor indication that the beef has gone missing.  Here’s another example:  Romney’s comments on the economy during the same interview left the viewer similarly without carnivorous satisfactions.  He said that government is too big, taxes are too high, and people need jobs.  He refused to specify one tax loophole he would close, and he refused to say how he would make up the revenue lost to tax cuts – although he vaguely suggested that tax cuts would raise tax revenue by spurring economic growth.

I submit that close review of Mitt Romney’s campaign reveals a pattern of platitudes, fact-free critiques of President Obama’s tenure, and remarkably few actual policy proposals.  And I submit that the media is catching on.  This morning CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield waxed emphatic on Romney beef-free appearance on “Face the Nation.”  MSNBC’s “First Read” noted it as well.

Just one more point about Romney’s refusal to say whether he would repeal Obama’s executive action on illegal immigrants.  One can have a certain sympathy for Romney’s predicament.  On the one hand, opposition to Obama’s directive would be problematic for Romney.  Obama’s policy is to allow immigrants who were brought to this country as children, who are in or have completed high school or are military veterans, who have lived in the country for at least five years, who have clean criminal records, and who are under 30 years old, to obtain temporary legal status by applying for work visas.  Senate Marco Rubio of Florida, rising Republican star, once proposed a bill that would do the same thing.  The policy is humane and moderate.  It has the support of clergy, and it virtually begs for the quotation of scripture:  “Let the little children come to me.”

On the other hand, Mitt Romney, like so many other Republicans today, seems to be constitutionally incapable of agreeing with anything that Barack Obama says or does, even if it was a Republican idea in the first place.  So Romney was caught between the old unstoppable force and unmovable object, and his response was to throw his hands in the air and promise to figure it out later.

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