Right now, President Obama and Mitt Romney are looking for the one line that will stand out as the defining line of the debate, a line that encapsulates the candidate’s reason for running and all his frustrations with the other guy. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a solution for the nation’s problems. But it does have to immediately resonate with voters.
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In 1980, the quip that stood out was challenger Ronald Reagan’s dismissive, “There you go again...” to President Carter. Folks knew exactly what Reagan meant: that we had seen through Carter’s attempts to attack Reagan’s supposedly “radical tendencies” as a dodge to distract voters from Carter’s responsibility for an ever-weakening America.
This time around it’s a safe bet that President Obama will try out another quip to further characterize Romney as an out-of-touch millionaire. It’s much less clear what quip the Romney team is looking for. His campaign has suffered from lack of clarity all along. The debates would be the perfect moment to fix on one. And frankly, we think we have one, based on the president’s own record.
During the debate on Wednesday night, President Obama will undoubtedly be asked to defend his record. Mr. Romney will be asked to respond. When he does, Romney should wait a beat -- as Ronald Reagan knew how to do so well -- and ask: “Another broken promise, Mr. President?”
Most Americans need to be reminded of just how many promises this president has broken. When you truly believe the government can fix almost anything, you’re bound to promise much more than can be fulfilled. Thus, Romney has a rich field to plow. The only problem will be brevity, because there are so many examples. But allow me to mention a few, each one of which could be condensed and followed by the refrain: “Another broken promise, Mr. President?”
*The stimulus will prevent unemployment from rising above 8%, and will fall to 5.6% by 2012.
This promise was presented on page 4 of the President’s January 2009 stimulus report. Of course, we know how this turned out. But it’s more than the abysmal unemployment numbers. The president added insult to injury by cooking the results of his failed “stimulus.” A $4.3 billion federal funding program for 36 wind farms still claims to have created 7,200 jobs. But when The Wall Street Journal went to all those projects in February, they found that they employed only 300 people. And speaking of “green projects,” how can we fail to mention….
*Solyndra, “leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future.”
About $535 million of your tax dollars were wasted on this white elephant. While the nation struggled through high unemployment and falling real wages, your tax money subsidized huge salaries, financial protection for the president’s investor friends, and a glass palace filled with expensive, modern art and steam rooms that are now on the chopping block. While there are at least a dozen other “green” failures like this one, Solyndra was supposed to be his shining example of a government-directed “New World” economy. Of course, the president denies that he favors just green energy, claiming…
*”I’m committed to an all-of-the-above energy program."
Except for all of the ones that actually work, like cleaner-burning coal, offshore oil and gas drilling and fracking for gas and shale oil, a process that has led to unemployment rates of less than 3% in North Dakota. But while an energy-friendly president could help us become energy self-sufficient and create jobs without spending a dime of taxpayer money, this president was too busy pushing through...
* Obamacare, which “…won’t add another dime to the deficit.”
Any sixth grader could have told you that adding 30 million people to the insurance roles could not be done for free. Far too late, the CBO and others have figured out that the price tag for Obamacare will actually be in the trillions. And speaking of Obamacare, remember these:
*”Health premiums will go down $2,500 by the end of my first term.”
In fact, the Kaiser Family Foundation recently found that health premiums have gone up $3,000 since President Obama was in office.
*Under Obamacare “you will keep your health insurance. This law will only make it more secure and more affordable.”
But as the CBO has pointed out, many employers will find it cheaper to drop their health plans, pay a fine and leave the coverage up to the government, which costs taxpayers more money and forces the insured onto some as-yet-unknown type of coverage.
*My goal is to strengthen and preserve Medicare.”
In fact, Obamacare cuts about $716 billion from Medicare over 10 years. While the economy will be center stage, there may be room for at least one promise Obama made about our standing in the world:
*"Since my election…you're starting to see some restoration of America's standing in the world."
After recent events in the Mideast, does anyone really think that our standing in the Arab world is stronger than it was? The Muslim world respects strength, not vacillation, and certainly not an apologist.
If Gov. Romney focuses on the theme of broken promises, he can always end by reminding him of the following promise made early on:
*”If I don’t fix the economy in three years, then I’ll be a one-term president. "
To which Mr. Romney can say: “Mr. President, this is one promise I’m determined to help you keep.”