Mitt Romney came on my radio show yesterday and fielded question after question on the burgeoning controversy over President Obama’s plans to gut the work requirement for welfare.
We also covered the president’s assault on Romany Catholic schools and hospitals as well as the president’s general disdain for the inconvenient limits on his authority imposed by statute or the Constitution.
“[A]mong people who pay attention to the process of governance and who hold to the Constitution with great strength and passion,” Romney stated, “this becomes a very big issue.”
“I do believe that one of the reasons you’re seeing this kind of intensity among many voters in this country, a lot of Tea Party folks and conservatives of various kinds,” Romney continued, “is that they recognize in this president someone who is skirting by the principles of the Constitution to pursue his own agenda.”
On issue after issue, President Obama has indeed disregarded traditional understandings of the executive’s authority.
The president directed the Department of Justice to drop the legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act before even a single circuit court of appeals had found a flaw in the law which was passed with bipartisan support and signed into law by Bill Clinton and about which candidate Obama had said not a negative word.
President Obama has made recess appointments when the Senate wasn’t in recess.
And we all know what the president did when it became politically useful to declare parts of the Dream Act in operation despite his earlier blunt (and correct) statements that he lacked the authority under the law to do so.
Again and again the president has asserted power he does not have to pursue goals he could not obtain through Constitutional process of law-making and negotiation with the separate but equal branch at the far end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
What, voters ought to be asking themselves, would he do in a second term when his frustration with Congress increases?
Would he simply abolish most of America’s nuclear deterrent on the theory that such a bold move would sweep other nuclear powers along with us?
Would he use the newly discovered power over immigration rules to take his mini-Dream Act initiative to a much larger scale? There are no limits on the so-called “prosecutorial discretion” he employed to exempt certain illegal immigrants from the deportation process.
And what rules would he push through his agencies aimed at the Catholic bishops who have so vigorously and uniformly opposed his diktat aimed at their congregations and the institutions they have established?
Governor Romney is targeting the president’s attack on the work requirement of the welfare reform of 1996, and honest observers on the left side of the political aisle like Mickey Kaus –widely recognized as among the most knowledgeable of all of the welfare reform’s analysts—have detailed why the new rule guts the law, just as Romney focused on the president’s astonishing “You didn’t build that!” proclamation.
Those attacks have to both broaden and connect, however, into a comprehensive statement of the president’s abuse of power and rejection of the limits of his office.
This is a complicated case to make, but Romney is very, very good in the exchanges he has with reporters when they go into detail and when they go longer than the sound-bytes that dominate the evening news.
He should thus seek out more opportunities to have such discussions, contrasting his grasp of detail and command of facts with the president’s increasingly obvious loss of confidence in his ability to talk his way out of any jam.
Team Romney should invite The Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer or Dan Balz, or Politico’s Mike Allen, CNBC’s Joe Kernan, CNN’s Candy Crowley or Fox’s Bret Baier for longer, taped sit-downs on the condition that their exchanges be broadcast in their entirety. The candidate should also seek out longer interviews with Laura Ingraham, Bill Bennett, or any of the key half-dozen national talkers. He’s very good at the long form interview. He should use that advantage.
The choice between Romney and Obama could not be more clear, and Romney enjoys laying out that difference in detail. The debates ahead will be open to the president’s trademark filibusters as Romney and I discussed yesterday, but having established a record of willingness to answer questions directly and at length, Romney will have laid out the case for retiring Obama.
Practice in doing so now will lessen the likelihood of any major mistake in the big showdowns even as the president’s increasing isolation raises the odds that he will have another pratfall like “You didn’t buid that!”
At the core of Romney’s case are the president’s many failed choices, his deeply flawed ideology and his expanding willingness to do whatever he wants to double down on these failed policies.
All Romney needs to do now is lay out that record and contrast it with his abilities. The ceiling for his success in the fall is very high if he reaches for it.