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Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Baton Rouge, Louisiana



For months during the Republican presidential primary campaign, Mitt Romney has tried to focus the debate on economic issues.  He has continually argued that the campaign should be about the economy and job creation.  “Bill Clinton beat George Bush by talking about only the economy,”Â he would argue.  But try as he did during the campaign season, his cohorts, also seeking the Republican nomination, kept bringing up those nasty social issues.

But now that he’s the Republican nominee, Mitt is calling the shots and controlling the GOP agenda.  He’s on the attack and seems to be doing a pretty good job of keeping the Democrats on the defensive.  But there’s just one problem.  Romney’s Achilles heel is Republican members of congress, including his new vice presidential nominee, who keep undermining what Romney hopes to be a disciplined conservative economic agenda.

The unemployment rate is 8.3%, which is terrible news for the President and the Democrats.  But day after day, we hear the accusations and countercharges over the Ryan budget, proposed cuts in social security and Medicare, and whether Mitt Romney is a tax cheat or a cold hearted corporate executive that ripped away American jobs and sent them overseas.  Could it get any worse?  Well, yes!

Earlier this week, news broke that some 30 Republican congressmen along with a number of staff members had taken off on a junket to Israel, led by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA).  Also in the number was Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). So two of the three top house Republicans were along for the trip, paid for by the American Israel Educational Foundation.  The organization spent some $10,000 for each of the some 60 attendees on the trip.  Not too surprising, you say, since such junkets, although quite questionable from an ethical standpoint, are par for the course in the nation’s capitol.

But the Holy Sea of Galilee proved tempting for these stalwart protectors of the public interest. After an admitted night of late drinking, a number of congressmen and staff members stripped and plunged into the waters.  And not to be outdone by his colleagues,  congressman Kevin Yoder, from a conservative district in Kansas, stripped completely and dove into the Sea where Jesus walked on water.  The press commentary was incessant all week.  And poor Mitt was stuck with his party’s indiscretions.  Strike one for the candid

Abortion has never been a comfortable issue for Romney.  He is pro life but with the exceptions of rape, incest, and the endangerment of the life of the mother, so he follows the more moderate anti-abortion view. Now that he has the nomination, it’s a subject that for Romney, the less said the better.  But that was before “all hell broke loose” midweek, when Missouri Republican Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin blew the lid off what should have been a reasonable pro-life response.

Akin was quizzed about his stand on abortion by a local Fox TV station in St. Louis. He ignited a firestorm when he answered: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”Â  He concluded that women rarely get pregnant when they are “legitimately raped.”Â Huh?  I’m a lawyer and never knew there was such a thing as “legitimate” rape. The general GOP response was utter panic.  “DEFCON 5, panic for the rest of the ticket, with major intervention needed.”Â  The perennial pro life gang could not abandon Akin quick enough, calling for his immediate withdrawal from the race as Republicans went into full damage control.  Strike two for Romney.

But hang on Mitt.  There is Paul Ryan to settle the waters as the stronghold of financial sanity and the provider of conservative unity to the debate.  Isn’t Ryan the white knight to bring the campaign focus back to jobs and the economy?  Ryan’s rhetoric about the urgency of cutting back on federal spending is music to the GOP’s ears. But wait! Ryan’s voting record in Washington is a mishmash of federal largess. Romney doesn’t have to worry as much about being labeled a flip flopper now that Ryan’s in the picture. Ryan’s fiscal record shows he is right up there with Mitt on that account.

Ronald Reagan’s budget director, David Stockman, says this about Ryan’s fiscal conservatism:  “Mr. Ryan showed his conservative mettle in 2008 when he folded like a lawn chair on the auto bailout and the Wall Street bailout.  But the greater hypocrisy is his phony “plan” to solve the entitlements mess by deferring changes to social insurance by at least a decade. The supposedly courageous Ryan plan would not cut one dime over the next decade from the $1.3 trillion-per-year cost of Social Security and Medicare.”

Year after year, when the budget ceiling was raised, Ryan always voted “yes.”Â  He favored and supported TARP, and most of the recent stimulus giveaways.  In fact, he signed numerous letters seeking stimulus funds for his district, even though he called the stimulus program a “wasteful spending spree.”Â  When George Bush proposed a similar stimulus plan in 2002, putting checks in the mail to millions of Americans, Ryan took the mike on the House floor to give his strong support.  But that was then, before the Democrats took over.  So Romney’s choice of Ryan to help him keep the focus on the economy and jobs, has put Romney himself on the defensive.  Strike three?  Well, not quite yet.

This election is far from over.  There are three presidential debates, and a host of opportunities for Romney to articulate his specific strategy for job creation.  So far, h has not been all that precise on the subject.  Romney has yet to answer the question:  “Can government really invoke sensible programs to create jobs in the private sector?”Â  And it’s probably about time for a few Democrats to shoot themselves in the foot and deter their party’s efforts for unity. So Romney certainly still has a shot.

In the weeks remaining before Election Day, Romney is going to have to find some way to turn the focus of the electorate back on the economy.  It’s not the most important issue for him”¦ it’s the only one if he hopes to have any chance of winning in November.


Elections are won by men and women chiefly because most people vote against somebody rather than for somebody.

Franklin P. Adams

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the nation.  You can read all of his past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownla.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am until 11 am central time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownla.com


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