60 Minutes recently interviewed both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. The primetime telecast was an opportunity for both candidates to do some pre-debate posturing. Here are three takeaways from each candidate (analysis from the peanut gallery included at no extra charge).
The Good: Romney on social welfare programs
Romney appears to have two firm positions in regards to programs like Social Security and Medicare: stop the growth of the programs and institute means testing measures. Twice during the interview, Romney even offered straight answers to policy questions:
Pelley: So you’re going to cap the growth on those social welfare programs?
Romney: Exactly right.
Pelley: So in the Romney administration, in the Romney plan, there would be means testing for Social Security and for Medicare?
Romney: That’s correct. Higher income people won’t get as much as lower income people. And by virtue of doing that– and again, that’s for future retirees. For– by virtue of doing that, you’re able to save these programs on a permanent basis.
Refreshing. Romney’s solution for one of the country’s biggest financial challenges is fair and logical.
The Bad: Romney on health care
Romney: In my state, we found a solution that worked for my state. But I wouldn’t take what we did in Massachusetts and say to Texas, “You’ve got to take the Massachusetts model.”
This is just another example of how Romney’s greatest achievement in public office has become one of his greatest liabilities as the Republican candidate for President, and that is sad. He refuses to elaborate on why his prototype would not work in other states, and in fact he has suggested many times just the opposite. In 2007, he told Newsweek, “I’m proud of what we’ve done. If Massachusetts succeeds in implementing it, then that will be a model for the nation.” Well, Massachusetts has succeeded in its implementation of health care reform, but in order to appease the right-wing critics of the Affordable Care Act, Romney cannot even fully support an identical program which benefits millions of Americans.
The Ugly: Romney on helping the middle class
Romney: What I would like to do is to get a tax reduction for middle income families by eliminating the tax for middle income families on interest, dividends, and capital gains.
While Mitt Romney certainly has a crafty understanding of America’s tax code, he apparently has no understanding of what a middle income family is. If he thinks middle income earners are concerned with dividends and capital gains taxes, he might as well eliminate the taxes on dressage expenses and in-home vehicle elevators to sweeten the deal. As much as I would like to give Romney credit for offering something more substantive than “see me after the election,” this particular proposal demonstrates just how out of touch he is with anyone outside of America’s aristocracy.
The Good: Obama defending his foreign policy
Obama: Well, let’s see what I’ve done since I came into office. I said I’d end the war in Iraq. I did. I said that we’d go after al Qaeda. They’ve been decimated in the Fatah. That we’d go after bin Laden. He’s gone. So I’ve executed on my foreign policy. And it’s one that the American people largely agree with. So if Gov. Romney is suggesting that we should start another war, he should say so.
The President implying that Mitt Romney wants to start “another war” (presumably with Iran) puts Romney in a difficult position—especially with some of his biggest campaign donors (cough, cough, Sheldon Adelson, cough, cough). With Obama’s stated strategy of defending Israel as an ally, the only drastically different policy stance is supporting a pre-emptive strike on Iran. Since Romney has deemed it toxic for any of his ideas to align with Obama’s (see health care), he has been forced into sounding ever more bellicose in regards to Israel’s defense. However, should his actions ever have to match his rhetoric, he could quickly find himself entrenched in another Chinese financed war in the Middle East.
The Bad: Obama on Wall Street reform
Obama: “I mean, we passed historic legislation that strengthened our financial regulations.”
The President mentioned his regulation of Wall Street more than once, but considering Wells Fargo is still a top contributor to his campaign, it is hard to believe Obama has instituted the changes that are needed to reign in America’s financial institutions.
The Ugly: Obama failing to promote his agenda
While President Obama did mention his proposed JOBS Act from last year, he failed to articulate this as the focal point of his campaign. Here is what he did say:
Obama: My JOBS Act that I presented to Congress over a year ago, we said, “Let’s help put folks back to work. Let’s make sure that we are getting construction workers on the job, rebuilding our infrastructure.” It’s estimated that would create an additional million jobs right now. But we haven’t seen full implementation of that plan.
This was a great opportunity for Obama to contrast his number one priority for the country with the Republicans’ number one priority from two years ago, which was “making sure President Obama is a one term president.” The President did not succeed in the interview at illustrating this fundamental difference in political philosophy because he did not seize on the opportunity to juxtapose the two fundamental ideologies. Instead, he left America with an impression of a campaign without a top priority.
(See both interviews in their entirety: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57518495/campaign-2012-obama-vs-romney/?tag=contentMain;contentBody)