Mitt Romney is doubtless capable of forming a coherent argument in response to any question that requires knowledge, analysis and judgment. His problem just now is that his current positions are predetermined by his need to pander to the GOP base -- which in itself would leave him with the relatively simple sophist's task of making the weaker argument seem stronger -- and then further contorted by his need to justify past actions and positions, which were less distorted by a less extremist constituency.
Wooing GOP primary voters, he must wax as paradoxical as the most ardent lover. Reading the transcript of his recent discussion with the editorial board of the Washington Examiner, I was reminded of a folk song that poses a string of riddles:
I gave my love a cherry that had no stone,
I gave my love a chicken that had no bone,
I gave my love a story that had no end,
I gave my love a baby with no cryin'.
How can there be a cherry that has no stone?
How can there be a systemic financial rescue that has no bailouts of individual institutions?
If the contagion of sovereign debt default reaches our shores by virtue of banks here, holding, let’s say, Italian debt, I would not bail out those banks. I would let them go through the restructuring process that has long existed in this country, and hopefully let them recover. The only time I see us having to act to – I can’t use the word bailout, that’s an awful word – to support, preserve, that’s the word I’m looking for; I don’t look to preserve individual institutions. But if I thought that all the institutions were going to go under, that there would be a cascade of all the financial system in this country collapsing, then that would be a candidate for action to prevent our currency and our financial system from disappearing.So..what happens when several major institutions face simultaneous collapse, including, perhaps, when the collapse of one might trigger the collapse of all?
I don’t think we will face that again as a nation, but I think we did face that at the end of President Bush’s term. I think there was a very real risk that the entire financial system in this country would collapse, implode. And that that action was necessary. Was it identical to what I would have hoped for? No. But was it essential to keep the entire financial system from imploding? I think so.
How can there be a chicken that has no bone?
How can Medicare wean the healthcare delivery system off of a fee-for-service payment model if it's converted to a private voucher program?
I also believe that in setting that amount [of the annual voucher to purchase Medicare coverage], you would look to see what competition is providing. You will have private health care plans that offer the care of individuals for a certain cost. That will tell you something about the level of subsidy that's necessary. And that competition that exists in the private sector will also inform your thoughts about the subsidy that would be applied to people receiving Medicare. My inclination is that the subsidy opportunity is the same whether you are purchasing a private plan or traditional Medicare. When I say traditional Medicare, Medicare provided by government.Medicare administrators' power to move healthcare providers away from fee-for-service is based on their market clout as the largest payer for healthcare. Private insurers generally pay more and so -- in Medicare Advantage plans -- cost the government more.
I think it's unlikely that Medicare will remain an open-ended fee-for-service-type product that it is today but I think its more likely to take on a capitated rate or more extensive managed care provisions than you're seeing currently employed.
So my view is your [sic] going to limit the growth -- as a principle you're going to limit the growth in the subsidy that goes to this retirement healthcare system based upon the competition that exists in the market and a determination by Congress of the budget amount that can be applied to subsidy.
How can there be a story that has no end?
How do you reform immigration policy without granting some undocumented aliens legal status or undertaking mass deportations?
What I support is focusing on securing the border and when we secure the border and have convinced the American people that we do not have a flow of illegal aliens coming into the country, then we can address what we're going to do with the 11 or 15 million that are here. I don't think that there is a call for rounding people up and taking them out of the country. I don't think that that’s the process that’s necessary to maintain our system. I don't want to, however, during this process, say anything that encourages another wave of illegal immigration. And so by as Speaker Gingrich did, that he thinks at some point during this process anything that encourages another wave of illegal immigration. And so by saying, as Speaker Gingrich did, that he thinks at some point people should be entitled to stay here permanently, if you will, a form of amnesty, then I think that he encourages another wave of people coming in and saying, “Hey if you get there and if you hang on long enough, you get to stay.”Since the Great Recession hit, a combination of reduced economic opportunity and increased border enforcement has reduced the inflow of undocumented aliens by three quarters. Would Romney get it to zero before he unveiled a plan for resolving the status of 10-11 million undocumenteds currently in the U.S.? If so, that would indeed be a story that has no end.
FREDDOSO: Have you not said enough to encourage that just now, simply by saying, "Well, once we've secured the border, we can do something?" Is that…
ROMNEY: I don't think so. I think, in fact, that virtually every Republican I know that's spoken about illegal immigration says the same thing. I listened to Lindsey Graham the other day and he said, "secure the border, stop the flow of illegal aliens into the country, and then we can address the issue of what to do with the people who are here illegally today." I do have my own thoughts on that. I actually have a plan in mind, I haven't unveiled it. There are other people I'd like to sit down with and review it with me.
How can there be a baby with no cryin"
How can you neutralize Newt without inflicting 'colicky baby parent syndrome' on us all for six months?
I am very concerned that this president is putting America on a path toward appeasement internationally and entitlement domestically. That we go from being a merit-opportunity society to an entitlement society. And it’s going to require a dramatic change in Washington by someone who knows how to lead. And transforming, turning around and leading major enterprises is what I have done throughout my life. And I have only been able to do that by bringing people together and engendering consensus.That is actually, discounting the lie about international appeasement, a pretty good answer. And in fact, notwithstanding the absurd constraints he's placed on himself, Romney said some interesting things in this interview -- about alternate Medicare payment models, about the terrible risks of bombing Iran, about weaning the U.S. off employer-provided health insurance.
And that’s a characteristic of my past. Speaker Gingrich has a very different past, in terms of his leadership style and in terms of his life experience. I spent my life leading enterprises, as head of two different businesses, head of an Olympics, and the governor of a state. The Speaker has a different background.…
But can he woo successfully with his paradoxical presents?
Originally published Dec. 8, 2011