Mitt Romney, candidate for president, seems not to be able to make up his mind. George W. Bush famously labeled himself the "Decider" when in office, but it seems Mitt is proving to be the "Can't Decider" this time around.
Romney has shown this trait on several issues in the campaign so far. Some important event or political policy problem gets into the news, the reporters covering his campaign flock to Mitt to find out his position, and it turns out to be: "we'll get back to you on that." Which never actually happens. Call Mitt a "Profile in Timidity" if you will.
To a certain extent, all politicians running for office try to play this game. Holding a strong position on any contentious issue will, after all, likely lose you the votes of those who don't agree with such a position. But Mitt seems to be taking this game to new levels. If they haven't already, the Obama team should really consider running one of those "it's 3:00 A.M." ads soon (to put it another way). Because there is being politically savvy, and then there is Mitt Romney's inability to take a stance on just about anything.
The case in point this week is, of course, immigration. Can any Romney supporter explain exactly what Mitt's position is on the Rubio/Obama "mini DREAM Act"? The man is all over the map on the issue, trying to have things about six ways at the same time. If the man actually had a position, it might be defensible from a certain point of view, but having no position (or every possible position) at the same time is simply indefensible, when you consider the job he's running for.
Back in December, during the primary race, Mitt said the following, when asked about the subject: "The question is, if I were elected and Congress were to pass the DREAM Act, would I veto it? And the answer is yes." He went on to say: "For those who come here illegally, the idea of giving them in-state tuition credits or other special benefits I find to be contrary to the idea of a nation of law. If I'm the president of the United States, I want to end illegal immigration so that we can protect legal immigration." At the same time, however, he seemed to support a part of Rubio's idea -- allowing people who serve in the military some sort of (unspecified) legal status.
Other past statements from Romney draw an equally hard line on immigration, stretching back to the 2008 campaign. His 2012 campaign website has plenty of such language on it, but contains nary a word on the DREAM Act.
Since then, Romney has said he would "consider" Marco Rubio's plan of allowing residency -- but not citizenship -- to the DREAM Act folks (or at least the military ones, it's hard to tell). Rubio conveniently never actually put his plan on paper, meaning that Rubio's plan itself was nebulous and undefined. On top of these shifting sands, Romney was rather vague on his support for any of it. Call it vagueness squared.
The goal was, of course, to "send a message" to Latino voters that perhaps, at some future date, Republicans might actually do something other than scapegoating immigration for political gain among nativists. But this "message" would not actually define what that future step would entail, of course.
Last Friday, President Obama decided that endlessly waiting for Marco Rubio to come up with some sort of magic bill which had any sort of prayer of passing the Republican House of Representatives was a fool's game, at best. So he acted -- to immediately implement the broad outlines of what Rubio had been suggesting (it's impossible to be any more precise than that, since Rubio's bill never actually existed). This threw a rather large cat among the GOP pigeons. With the stroke of a pen, Obama co-opted a Republican campaign strategy. What to do? Support the idea, in an intellectually-consistent fashion? Or denounce it because everything Obama is for is obviously not the right thing for Republicans to support?
Here is Romney, trying to thread this needle last Friday:
I believe the status of young people who come here through no fault their own is an important matter to be considered and should be solved on a long-term basis so they know what their future would be in this country. I think the action of the president today makes it more difficult to reach that long-term solution because an executive order is of course, a short-term matter and can be reversed by subsequent presidents. I'd like to see legislation that deals with this issue, and I happen to agree with Marco Rubio. If I'm president, we'll do our very best to have that kind of solution.
Um... what? Mitt agrees with Rubio. He wants a long-term solution, at some unspecified future date. Obama's action "makes this more difficult" in some unexplained way (even though Obama would sign the Rubio bill tomorrow, obviously, if it passed). He warns that future unnamed presidents could reverse this decision, but then even though he is running to be a future president, he refuses to say whether he would do so or not. Even though Obama has just achieved a large portion of Rubio's goals, Mitt won't say whether he even supports those goals or not -- instead he believes "the status of young people who come here through no fault their own is an important matter to be considered and should be solved on a long-term basis so they know what their future would be in this country" -- which, roughly translated, already exists, as: "your status and future is that you will be deported." The closest Mitt comes to even having an opinion on the matter is that it is "a matter to be considered and should be solved on a long-term basis."
Once again, Mitt as "Profile in Timidity."
Two days later, Mitt still had no coherent answer to the basic question: "What would you do if you were president?" CBS' Bob Schieffer sat down with Romney, and asked him the question multiple times, to no avail:
BOB SCHIEFFER: The President said, Friday, the government will no longer seek to deport eight hundred thousand of these young illegal immigrants who were brought into this country by their parents. I think you said this is just a short-term solution to a long-term problem, but would you repeal this order if you became President?
MITT ROMNEY: Well, let's step back and-- and look at the issue. I mean, first of all, we have to secure the border. We need to have an employment verification system to make sure that those that are working here in this country are here legally and then with regards to these kids who were brought in by their parents through no fault of their own, there needs to be a long-term solution so they know what their status is. This is something Congress has been working on, and I thought we are about to see some proposals brought forward by Senator Marco Rubio and by Democrat [sic] senators, but the President jumped in and said I'm going to take this action. He called it a stopgap measure. I-- I don't know why he feels stopgap measures are the right way to go and he--
SCHIEFFER (voice overlapping): Well, what would you do about it?
ROMNEY: Well, as-- as you know, he was-- he was President for the last three and a half years, did nothing on immigration. Two years, he had a Democrats' House in Senate [sic], did nothing of permanent or-- or long-term basis. What I would do is I'd make sure that by coming into office I would work with Congress to put in place a long-term solution for the-- for the children of those that-- that have come here illegally--
SCHIEFFER (voice overlapping): Would you--
ROMNEY: --and I've said, for instance, that-- that those who served in the military, I would give permanent residents [sic], too.
SCHIEFFER: Sure, but would you repeal this?
ROMNEY: Well, it would be overtaken by events, if you will, by virtue of my putting in place a long-term solution with-- with legislation which creates law that relates to these individuals, such that they know what their-- their stat-- setting is going to be--
SCHIEFFER (voice overlapping): But would--
ROMNEY: --not just-- not-- not just for the term of the President, but on a permanent basis.
SCHIEFFER: I-- I won't keep on about this but just to-- to make sure I understand, would you leave this in place while you worked out a long-term solution or would you just repeal it?
ROMNEY: We'll-- we'll look at that-- we'll look at that setting as we-- as we reach that. But my anticipation is, I'd come into office and say we need to get this done on a long-term basis, not this kind of a stopgap measure. What-- what the President did, he-- he should have worked on this years ago. If he felt seriously about this, he should have taken action when he had a Democrat House and Senate, but he didn't. He saves these sort of things until four and a half months before the general election.
SCHIEFFER: Well, why did you think he did that?
ROMNEY: Well, I-- I think the timing is-- is pretty clear. If he-- if he really wanted to make a solution that dealt with these kids or with the illegal immigration in America, then this is something he would have taken up in his first three and a half years, not in his last few months.
SCHIEFFER: So he did it for politics?
ROMNEY: Well, that's certainly a big part of the equation.
Once again, can any Romney supporter actually answer the question of what Mitt Romney believes or what he would do if elected? I certainly can't figure out what the man stands for, other than that he'd prefer it if all of this happened at some future time after he was elected. He won't even specify what he wants done, just that it preferably happen at some future date.
There are plenty of people who disagree with Barack Obama's recent action on immigration. For the life of me, I can't even figure out if Mitt Romney is one of them or not. Does he support Rubio's goals? Don't know. Does he support Rubio's goals, but only if Rubio is the one who gets the credit? Maybe, but it's hard to tell. He seems to be keen on the idea of a "long-term" solution, but refuses to say what that solution should be. He doesn't like Obama's short-term solution, but he hasn't made up his mind whether he'd continue it or not before a long-term solution is in place. Or, perhaps, he has made these decisions, but just refuses to tell the American public what they are.
As I said, there are indeed people who disagree with Obama's action, and are out there fighting it on the merits and drawbacks. Mitt Romney is not one of them. I haven't heard a single critic of President Obama yet say anything remotely like: "Well, Obama is wrong, and Mitt Romney has the right idea on this subject." Nobody's defending Romney's position because he simply doesn't have one. Or, if he does, he won't say what it is.
Mitt Romney, to refresh your memory, is running for the office of President of the United States of America. As either the "Can't Decider" or the "Won't Decider." This does not bode well for that hypothetical 3:00 A.M. phone call, folks.
-- Chris Weigant
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant