Who was that man debating President Obama in Boulder last night? He looked like Mitt Romney. He sounded like Mitt Romney. But the words coming out of his mouth were totally different from anything I had ever heard Mitt Romney say. It’s no wonder President Obama looked like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights. He was ambushed.
Obama had come to Boulder prepared to debate a Republican opponent who had declared his disdain for anyone that accepted government aid or didn’t earn enough to pay federal income taxes. That opponent had lauded the Paul Ryan budget and even picked Ryan as his running mate. That opponent had pledged to repeal Obama’s federal health care insurance reforms “on day one.” That opponent had assured his Republican supporters that he would slash capital gains and corporate taxes, shut down Planned Parenthood, replace Medicare with a voucher system, and free Wall Street from government regulation. That opponent had enthusiastically adopted the Republican Party’s ultra-conservative platform.
Instead, Obama faced a kindly pragmatist who expressed compassion for the poor, concern for the middle class and determination to set America’s fiscal house in order. And this revised edition forcefully but smilingly assured voters he would do no harm in the process. He positively, absolutely had no intention of giving lavish tax breaks to the rich. How could anyone believe that? What he really plans to do is lower your taxes – and yours and yours and yours. By 20 percent even.
Yet none of the government benefits you now receive would be affected. Social Security is safe. So is Medicare. Everything would be the same – only better. Just trust him.
And perish the thought that such a plan would add to the national debt. That’s the last thing he would do! His plan would lower taxes while actually slashing the deficit. How? Well, he would close “loopholes” in the tax code, for one. But not the tax codes that benefit the middle class. No, whatever gave you that idea?
It’s the rich who would lose some of their loopholes. Which ones? He didn’t say. He would work that out with Congress. As for Wall Street, well, of course those guys had to be regulated. Whatever gave you the idea that he would let them have their own way? Actually, he would get even tougher on the scamps – none of that “too big to fail” nonsense, for example.
And how could anyone have thought he would repeal Obama care? After all, wasn’t Obamacare patterned after the plan he had introduced as governor of Massachusetts? No, he would tweak it here and there, of course, but only to make it better. And in doing so, he would spend no money, introduce no new taxes, and return that $716 billion that President Obama planned to take from Medicare benefits.
Never mind that the $716 billion in the president’s health care reform plan comes from efficiencies over time and a crackdown on fraud. No matter that Romney has been called out repeatedly for claiming it would affect benefits. So what if it was a lie? He repeated it anyway. And his voice rang with sincerity as he did it.
Yes, he would pour trillions into a military buildup. But that’s what presidents are for, is it not? Don’t you want America’s fighting force to be the envy of the world?
What President Obama faced was a new, improved version of himself. A magical version of himself, able to do all the things he tried to do but couldn’t. How? Never mind. It would all be worked out through Romney’s business acumen, as well as amiable bipartisanship and compromise with Congress.
As for the extreme views Romney expressed in those primary debates and on the campaign trail so far? Why, he was only kidding. Of course he wouldn’t do anything like that! You think he’s crazy? He was just saying all that to make those nut cases trust him. You know how it goes.
Blindsided by Romney’s incredibly audacious fantasies, Obama could only bow his head and smile in disbelief. He didn’t even bother to defend himself against the inevitable attacks – loaded with exaggerations, misrepresentations and lies though they were.
And as for Jim Lehrer, he was helpless against the affable bullying of Mighty Mitt. He should give back the money they paid him to moderate the debate.
I am sure the pundits all agree that Romney carried the day. What they probably won’t ask is which Romney? And how soon will the old Romney reappear?
And where does Paul Ryan go from here? Will he, too, be transmogrified? Will the Ryan who debates Joe Biden be a kindly, caring populist who never heard of Ayn Rand?
Will he, too, be like the spider in the nursery rhyme, enticing the fly into his beautiful parlor?