Mitt Romney – Moral Mendacity or Memory Failure?

During Monday night’s Republican presidential debate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was asked a question about what role FEMA should play in disaster relief and whether or not more should be done by the states themselves.

CNN’s JOHN KING: What else, Governor Romney? You’ve been a chief executive of a state. I was just in Joplin, Missouri. I’ve been in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee and other communities dealing with whether it’s the tornadoes, the flooding, and worse. FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that?

His response was not only confusing, but apparently in direct contradiction to the way he governed Massachusetts.

GOV MITT ROMNEY: Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.

Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut — we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do? And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in. We cannot…

KING: Including disaster relief, though?

ROMNEY: We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.

Okay, there are a few problems with this response. First, why is it that Republicans always feel that the private sector can do the government’s job “better”? Exactly what do they mean by that? Notice that John King just lets that slide without asking for any explanation. This is just another example of how the mainstream media that covers politics practices precious little journalism in favor of just letting politicians say whatever the hell they want unchallenged. The only thing that makes any sense to me is that when a Republican claims that the private sector can do something “better” than the federal government, they mean “more profitably.” Of course, the government is not supposed to be doing things “profitably,” they are supposed to do things as thoroughly as possible. They are supposed to serve as many people as possible, not serve some of the people and still have money leftover. if you do that, then you haven’t done your job of serving the People. Government exists to serve the People, not the Private Sector.

Second is the false idea that the states can do everything better than the federal government can. Not so. It’s true that not all one-size-fits-all solutions will work in every state, but that does not mean we have to abandon all federal support. It’s not an either-or choice – either the federal government does things everywhere or it does things nowhere. This is just the same old “States’ Rights” argument from the party that thinks we’re operating under the Articles of Confederation and not the US Constitution. We tried giving the states more autonomy and the results were disastrous. The Founders the republicans love to revere knew this and decided to do things differently.

But the thing that struck me most was Romney’s apparent immorality. He claims that it is “immoral” to “rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids.” Well, Mitt, if you believe that, then why are you a Republican? Republicans bear the most responsibility for our huge national debt. You were governor of Massachusetts during the Bush Administration when our country ran huge deficits. You said in the debate that borrowing more money to provide disaster relief was “immoral.” Was it immoral when you did it? Flooding and severe winter storms have been a problem for your state, and you accepted federal aid for it in 2004, 2005 (and with your state’s Congressional delegation helping), big-time in 2006 (see here, too), and again in 2007. There may be other examples, but I found those after a brief search of the internets. Was it moral for you to ask the federal government to borrow money to help your state with disaster relief back then?

You also claim that the states can do things better than the federal government, but you also expressed support for an idea floated by the Bush Administration in the wake of their disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina to have the Pentagon (a very federal agency) take the lead in responding to catastrophic disasters.

There is almost no support among the nation’s governors for President Bush’s suggestion that the Pentagon could take the lead in responding to catastrophic natural disasters, a USA TODAY survey has found.

Of the 38 governors who responded to a request for reaction to Bush’s comments, only two backed the idea: Republicans Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota.

Looks like both you and your fellow Republican “T-Paw” got some ‘splainin’ to do, Mitt.

Cross-posted at Pick Wayne’s Brain