Some Questions Too Tough?
I’m a talk radio junkie, and like so many, I listen with great interest when the various candidates for public office appear on the various talk-shows. Some talk-show hosts won’t ask very hard-hitting questions, while others will ask the tough questions even of friends. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to make an educated guess about which sort of host gets many more requests for air-time, and which do not. Still, the thing that I use as a gauge of the worthiness of a candidate is their relative courage in facing hard questions. Many of you will have noted that I hold Mark Levin in high esteem, because his passion and his intellect combine to make for one tremendously good show. He’s funny, outspoken, and most of all well-reasoned, and he’s always polite to guests though he has been firm. During this campaign season, he’s mentioned his preferences for Bachmann and then Santorum when the Minnesota Representative bowed out. He was always gracious to them, but that didn’t stop him from asking some tough questions.
He also talked to Gingrich, of whom he had been fairly critical, and he was tough but fair to Gingrich, and even defended him against the blatant hit-piece by Elliot Abrams. He talked to Cain, and to Perry, and has had a standing invitation for Huntsman, Paul and Romney since the beginning of the campaign season. Huntsman quit the race, but Paul and Romney haven’t done the show, and he’s been particularly critical of Ron Paul at times, so I understand he might have burnt that bridge a little, but he’s said repeatedly that if Mitt Romney is the nominee, he would support him, and yet Romney is always too busy to be on, and Levin doesn’t talk to campaign staffers in lieu of candidates. I realize Levin has been tough on Romney, but no more than on Gingrich, and this distinction was telling for me. If a candidate won’t face Mark Levin on-air, how is he to be expected to compete in a national debate against Barack Obama and the moderator(s) who will almost assuredly be predisposed to Obama’s side?
I was actually impressed by Newt Gingrich when he went on Mark Levin’s show, not merely for his answers to Levin’s probing questions, but mainly because he had the courage to go on, despite the fact that Levin had been fairly critical of Gingrich. Mitt Romney has exhibited no such courage to date, and it’s interesting to me because if you want to “audition” before an audience of conservative and Tea Party types for the job of President, stepping up to the plate on Mark Levin’s show is a good way to demonstrate that you’re willing to stand in the batter’s box even when a few fastballs are high and inside. Romney continues to show no such inclination, and that’s troubling to me and to millions of other conservatives who’d like to hear him answer a few questions from “the Great One.” The problem is that Romney isn’t interested in an appearance with Levin just now. I’m sure if he’s nominated, he’ll appear thereafter when it’s “safer,” because Levin will be on the team at that point.
For a listener and a conservative, this is troubling to me, because it hints at Romney’s strategy of winning the nomination with only sparse conservative support. His calculus is clear: If he wins the nomination, you’ll be faced with the choice to support him, Obama, or simply stay home, and he’s hoping you’ll do the former in preference over the other two alternatives, and it’s his operative assumption that you will. For my part, I’d prefer a candidate to work a good bit harder for my support, because he believes I might well exercise one of the alternatives. After all, the vote is the only real leverage we have with any of these candidates. Let’s call that the “conservative nuclear option.” What a candidate like Romney gambles is that you will see that the fall-out will land on your own head, thus giving you just enough motivation to forgo that messy option.
It’s for this very reason that I always keep my voting options open. I want candidates to understand that having an “R” next to their name doesn’t make anything “automatic.” It’s the only tool an average voter like me has to use as leverage, and if I give that up, I’ve got nothing else, and they know it. You might suggest that this is “extreme,” but I’d ask you what I have otherwise. What keeps any politician even vaguely in line if they don’t have fear of losing our voting support? When you’re talking about a Gingrich or Santorum, without a crowd of deep-pocket contributors, it’s important, but when you’re talking about a deep-pocketed Mitt Romney, it’s really all we have. Rick and Newt need our fives, tens, twenties, and fifties. Romney can live without them. As an example, he’s presently outspending Santorum in Wisconsin by a ratio of 50:1. With this in mind, what Romney wants and needs from us is the only thing we have with which to influence his course: Our votes.
For those of us who can’t contribute thousands of dollars, or millions, what it should make plain is the value of our votes, not in terms of dollars, but in the serious impact they have on the future of the country. You would think with all of that at stake, Mitt Romney would find the time to appear on Mark Levin’s show, but so far, he hasn’t and conservatives like me are beginning to wonder why. We know Levin has taken him to task, but no more than Newt Gingrich, and Gingrich had the fortitude to appear, leaving conservatives to fill in the blanks on their own: Is it that Romney is afraid of that interview now, or is it that he simply doesn’t care about the opinion or the votes of an audience he assumes will come back to him for lack of options later?
I tend to think it’s more of the latter than the former, because while Levin asks some tough questions, he doesn’t overplay his hand or go off the deep end with GOP candidates in that fashion, so other than the possibility of a slip-up, I don’t think Romney has anything to fear. I think he’s simply playing it safe. I believe he assumes that 98% of that audience will have no choice but to vote for him in the general election, so why risk it? I don’t think candidates should be permitted to make such assumptions, but for obvious reasons, it’s easy for them to get away with it. I don’t know what Mark Levin might ask Mitt Romney if given the opportunity, but I have my own short list:
- Governor Romney, if you did not win the nomination, could the Republican party still count on your active support in the November election?
- If you are nominated and elected President, you’ve said you would repeal Obamacare. Is that still the plan, and if you succeeded in overseeing its repeal, would you seek to replace it with something else, and if so, what?
I believe he’d answer the first appropriately, although if it came to pass, I have my doubts about how active his support would be based on 2008. I think the second question would be the one to trip him up, because it’s the one nobody in media is really asking. They ask him if he’d repeal, and he says yes, but what is never discussed is what he would then do on the issue. Would he simply return things to their pre-Obamacare state, and walk away, or would he seek to replace it with something similar albeit not much less egregious? Would he tinker with it around the edges instead?
These are the questions conservatives would love to hear answered, because I suspect that he plans the latter option, if he’d move on the legislation at all. I think if he were pinned down by this question, he’d be forced to either reveal his plans or tell a whopper. Of course, I’d love to hear the answer to one question I suspect Levin would ask:
- Governor Romney, you’ve said you would issue waivers to every state immediately. Could you tell me which section of the statute permits such waivers?
This is one of the bits of Romney’s repeal pledge that has been suspect in my mind for some time, and Levin was really the only person in media I’m aware of who picked up on the significance. I have looked, and I can’t find where there is authority for any waivers in the statute, and any such “waivers” would likely result in immediate legal challenges launched from the left. Sure, they won’t say anything about it now, because it’s their guy issuing phony waivers, but those waivers won’t be permanent in any case, and you can expect that if a Republican president issued such a waiver to states, the left would mobilize to the courtrooms to argue there is no such statutory authority.
I believe this last issue is certainly one reason Mitt Romney won’t get within a country mile of a phone line upon the other end of which is the Mark Levin show. It would be a fiasco if Levin asked him this and he was unable to satisfy the question with an answer. As you can see, there’s every reason for Romney to play it safe and avoid Mark Levin like the plague during the primary season, but it’s also the reason I can’t get behind Romney. By avoiding Mark Levin, he’s really avoiding all of us who want to hear his answers to these questions. It would have been great to get an answer to these in a debate, but for all the smoke and mirrors, these were never raised in full. If Mitt Romney wants the support of conservatives, he’s going to need to answer these at some point, or risk going into the general election unsure of whether conservatives will give him their unqualified support. He’ll need every vote to defeat Barack Obama.