One of the most remarkable things about Mitt Romney’s run for the White House is that the presumptive Republican nominee is allowed to attack President Obama on everything from saving the automobile industry to immigration. Yet, the news media rarely point out that Romney is against many things – especially if proposed by President Obama – but is usually evasive on what he is for.
Politico recently published a story entitled, “Mitt Romney’s no-policy problem.” It stated, “Vague, general or downright evasive policy prescriptions on some of the most important issues facing the country are becoming the rule for Romney. Hoping to make the campaign strictly a referendum on the incumbent, the hyper-cautious challenger is open about his determination to not give any fodder to Obama aides hungry to make the race as much about Romney as the president.”
The most recent example involves President Obama’s position on Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which deals with illegal immigration. After Congress failed to pass a bill, President Obama issued an executive order that incorporated many of the provisions of the bill, something Obama called “a temporary stopgap measure.”
Speaking to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, Romney said, “I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the president’s temporary measure.” And what is Romney’s long-term solution? We don’t know because he isn’t saying.
Romney, with the media acting as a willing accomplice, has also lambasted Obama on gasoline prices. But everyone knows that a sitting president has about as much control over gasoline prices as a meteorologist has over the weather.
The federal Energy Information Center says the cost of crude oil accounts for 76 percent of the cost of one gallon of gas; refining expenditures and profits are responsible for another 6 percent; distribution marketing and retail costs add 6 percent; and taxes contribute 12 percent. Still, Romney was able to gain media coverage by pretending that President Obama, not market factors, dictates the price of gasoline.
The price of a gallon of regular gasoline peaked at $3.97 in April. But that figure has since fallen to $3.41, according to the AAA. Shouldn’t Obama now get credit for tumbling prices?
Caution about religion
Finally, I don’t think a candidate’s religion should be fair game in most instances. That’s why I objected to the media trying to ‘Velcro’ the outspoken Rev. Jeremiah Wright to candidate Obama.
Similarly, I have advised against focusing on Romney’s Mormonism. But if the media is going to hold Obama responsible for the statements of Rev. Wright, then Romney should be asked what he did to repudiate the church’s former teachings.
Although there were two Black priests under Mormon founder Joseph Smith, his successor, Brigham Young, instituted a policy of excluding males of African descent from the priesthood. In 1949, he said, “What chance is there for the redemption of the Negro? The Lord had cursed Cain’s seed with blackness and prohibited them the Priesthood.”
That policy remained in place until 1978.
Journalists have a responsibility to press Romney to move past his carefully studied talking points. And they can do that by forcing him to share what he plans to do beyond criticizing President Obama.
George E. Curry is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service.