The Vagueness of Mitt Romney's Positions

After revisiting Mitt Romney's interview with Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation on Sunday, I am still quite intrigued as to why Mitt Romney cannot muster up a position for anything.  First, he dodged four times in answering whether he would repeal President Obama's directive to de-prioritize deporting illegal youths (I don't want to call it an executive order anymore, since it's not).  Then, he managed to sidestep Schieffer's question, which asked him where he would find the revenue to balance out his proposed tax cuts:
SCHIEFFER: You haven’t been bashful about telling us you want to cut taxes.  When are you going to tell us where you’re going to get the revenue? Which of the deductions are you going to be willing to eliminate? Which of the tax credits are you going to — when are you going to be able to tell us that?
ROMNEY: Well, we’ll go through that process with Congress as to which of all the different deductions and the exemptions —
SCHIEFFER: But do you have an ideas now, like the home mortgage interest deduction, you know, the various ones?
ROMNEY: Well Simpson Bowles went though a process of saying how they would be able to reach a setting where they had actually under their proposal even more revenue, with lower rates. So, mathematically it’s been proved to be possible: We can have lower rates, as I propose, that creates more growth, and we can limit deductions and exemptions.
After reading that exchange, one word truly stands out in my mind: vague.  Now, I believe there could be two reasons for this.  The simple explanation, obviously, is that Mitt Romney doesn't really have a specific plan.  One could certainly make the case for this on his immigration reform, as it was truly something that he didn't expect to have to deal with.  In a way, he was expecting help from Marco Rubio, that--even though it might probably still have negligible effect in courting hispanics in the end--at least the freshman senator had a plan to seemingly help deal with immigration and possibly shore up some latino votes.  But that's as far as it goes.  He has no specific plan on what to actually reform in immigration.  All he was intending to do is just to pivot from that and focus on the message of how the economy is floundering under President Obama's watch, stressing that the latinos have been hit hardest in recent years, without getting into the specifics of what he intends to do about it.  When you have no plan, just point to the other guy so the focus is on him and all his failures.

The second explanation is that Mitt Romney does have specifics, but chooses not to reveal them because if he reveals them, then it is probably game over for his campaign.  I think a little bit of that was also revealed in that interview with Bob Schieffer.  Continuing on from the previous conversation:

BOB SCHIEFFER: But you're not--
MITT ROMNEY: --but my view-- my-- my view is the right way to do that is to limit them for high-income individuals because I want to keep the progressivity of the code. One-- one of the absolute requirements of any tax reform that I have in mind is that people who are at the high end, whether you call them the one percent or two percent or half a percent, that people at the high end will still pay the same share of the tax burden they're paying now. I'm not looking for a tax cut for the very wealthiest. I'm looking to bring tax rates down for everyone, and, also, to make sure that we stimulate growth by doing so and jobs. For me, this is all about creating good jobs.
BOB SCHIEFFER: But people at the top would-- would be paying the same-- basically the same--
MITT ROMNEY (voice overlapping): Share.
BOB SCHIEFFER: --at the same share (INDISTINCT) beginning.
MITT ROMNEY: Yeah, I'd be looking for-- I think that's important to say, look, I'm not looking to reduce the burden paid by the wealthiest.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Okay.
MITT ROMNEY: I'm looking to keep the burden paid by the wealthiest as the same share as it is today.
So there we have it.  Repeated three times, this is what Mitt Romney truly believes as sound policy.  He signed Grover Norquist's pledge, and that's what he will stand by. So, it's not like he can't take a stand for a position.  Rather, his exact plans, such as being against the wealthy paying their fair share, are not going to be popular with the general public.  Rounding back to the first quote with respect to him not knowing what to cut, it's actually because of the second reason: the truth will make the public turn against him.  With his endorsement of Paul Ryan's budget plan throughout the primary and even up to now, if the public only sees what exact things are proposed in that budget, they will freak out.  Thus, it is better for him to stay vague on this issue.

In the end, however, I feel that it's probably a mix between the two.  On some issues, such as immigration, he doesn't personally have a plan.  He's just going to flip flop to whatever position will gain him the most votes from latinos without pissing off his right wing supporters.  On other issues, he has a plan, but he cannot reveal it, as it will make him highly unpopular.  Do you know what this reminds me of? This is exactly how a CEO runs a company, and reminds me again of Charlie Pierce's piece back in January:

In case you missed it, his son, Willard, had one of those moments yesterday, when Matt Lauer was chatting with him about the way Willard had made an additional fortune at the corporate chop-shop known as Bain Capital. Willard's initial response to criticism on this score was to paint everyone criticizing him as being jealous of Willard's fabulous life. Lauer asked him:

"Are there no fair questions about the distribution of wealth without it being seen as envy, though?"

Willard thereupon dropped a bomb on himself.

"You know I think it's fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms.... But the president has made this part of his campaign rally. Everywhere he goes we hear him talking about millionaires and billionaires and executives and Wall Street. It's a very envy-oriented, attack-oriented approach."

Those words, and the entitled attitude with which they are so luxuriously chandeliered, should kill any campaign being conducted in 2012. The country is still staggering, blinking, out of the rubble of an economy that was shattered by an industry full to its gunwales with Willard Romneys. He is campaigning in South Carolina, where unemployment is pushing up at 10 percent. Do those people want to leave their fates up to a bunch of fancy haircuts in "quiet rooms" where they discuss how much more flesh they can pick off the carcass of what is laughingly called the "middle class" of this country?

Yes, all these discussions which have seemingly annoyed the GOP candidate, in his mind, should be discussed in quiet rooms, in board rooms where the elite few make decisions for the many.  Large corporation CEO's are never interested in discussing exact future plans of the company--the whereto's and whyfor's--with the ordinary employee.  The common employees usually just get an overview, a vague bullet list of talking points, on where the CEO wants to take the company, but usually are left in the dark about the details.  All they are supposed to do is to trust his judgment and do as they're told.  Unfortunately, this will not work with the general public.  Even if Romney makes this election a referendum against Obama, the majority of the people, including many independents who have not made up their minds, still would like to know what he stands for, what specific new ideas he will bring to the table and supposedly rescue us from the economic doldrums.

I'm sorry, Mitt.  You cannot run a country from quiet rooms.  The people deserve to know what your true intentions and plans are for our future, and if you are not willing to take a stand, then you will not be elected.  It will be interesting today to see if he starts to do so by taking a position on immigration while speaking at The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials annual conference.  Judging from the past few days, however, I don't have high hopes for it. Indeed, it is time for him to take a stand on the important issues.  If not, he might as well concede and just go back to his quiet room.