Felicia Muftic: This long trial by fire
The length of it is brain-numbing, but there is an offsetting value. This long trial by fire gives us greater insight into the candidates' character, perspectives, priorities, and background that soars beyond the issue of the moment. We get a better initial impression of which direction his/her knee will jerk, and how that translates into policies that affect us.
Publicly stated Issue positions and platforms are still important because they support or contradict first impressions . A wealthy candidate may be “of and by” a certain background, but what that candidate is “for” could either contradict or validate first impressions. We have had many wealthy presidents who still advocated policies benefiting the less fortunate. Mitt Romney does not fit that mold.
Barack Obama in 2008 made some good initial impressions: In ringing rhetoric and quiet interviews he convinced Americans he understood them because his life story of coming from a white, struggling middle class family of loyal American grandparents. He was of, by and for policies that recognized the declining income of the middle class relative to the upper 20 percent that began years before the Bush crash of 2008.
That impression, fortified by supporting policies, trumped the attempt by the Republicans to paint him as an angry black, or a secret Muslim who would sell out America to the jihadists.
Familiarity can also bring contempt. Documented character flaws could be Newt Gingrich's Achilles heel, but so far it has not stopped him. It is yet unknown how that would translate on the national stage when contrasted with Romney's or Obama's living the ethic of family values.
Romney is coming across as not being comfortable in his own skin. He seems to be a person who fears that if voters realize what a cold-hearted, privileged businessman he is, they would not believe he has their good interest at heart. His caginess about releasing his tax returns and discomfort with his 15 percent personal income tax indeed plays right into the hands of the Occupy Wall Street movement that raised the awareness of the unfairness of income disparity.
An initial impression of Romney as a rich guy disconnected from the middle class is backed up by what policies he supports. They are not for the middle class. On public record is his throwing Romneycare under the bus, dumping it on the states with no requirement to make heath care affordable to many more than can pay for it now. On his website he promotes a tax structure that decreases taxes on the rich and increases taxes on some poor. Missing is how he will pay for increasing spending on the Pentagon, a more interventionist foreign policy, and reduction of the wealthy's income tax contributions to the Treasury. His priorities would leave little money for investment in education to enable the middle class to achieve their American dreams or to provide infrastructure job creation or to fund block grants to states to provide services, in spite of his lip service to those goals.
Romney has been a flip-flopping pig in a poke when it comes to Social Security and Medicare. He has changed views and now differs from the remaining GOP field by not yet subscribing to their “privatization” or “replacing it with savings accounts invested in Wall Street.” His disquieting solution: Let's sit down and talk.
However, for sure he wants to make employees pay entirely for their own unemployment insurance by investing it in a savings account. He proposes no safety net if those unemployment savings accounts run dry . He rests most solutions on his brand of job creation proposals, lax regulation of business and lower taxes for the well off, the very same policies that led to the middle class's income disparity and the economic disaster Obama inherited.