Still More Laser-like Focus on Jobs

So yesterday on the presidential campaign trail we saw the econo-manic campaign of the business genius Mitt Romney do two basic things: (1) sourly reject with nineteenth-century cliches a step by the Federal Reserve Board that had markets here and around the world leaping like happy puppies; and (2) reiterate even more loudly than before the contention that only the manly-man-ness of Mitt Romney can keep Americans safe.

Long-time if somewhat muted (at least outside the Ron Paul campaign) Republican muttering about stimulative monetary policies broke out into the open in the Romney campaign’s reaction to the Fed’s QE3 announcement yesterday (via policy director Lanhee Chen):

The Federal Reserve’s announcement of a third round of quantitative easing is further confirmation that President Obama’s policies have not worked. After four years of stagnant growth, falling incomes, rising costs, and persistently high unemployment, the American economy doesn’t need more artificial and ineffective measures. We should be creating wealth, not printing dollars. As president, Mitt Romney will enact bold, pro-growth policies that lead to robust job creation, higher take-home pay, and a true economic recovery.

No mention of any details about those “bold, pro-growth policies,” although the upper-end tax cuts that is the lodestar of his and his party’s economic philosophy would “create wealth” all right, for those who are already wealthy. But it’s the ancient gold-bug “printing money” denunciation of monetary stimulus that’s most striking, reflecting a world view in which high interest rates are considered a good thing and all seven deadly sins are inflation. Not exactly the hallmarks of a campaign looking high or low for ways to boost jobs.

Meanwhile, Team Mitt has taken the interesting approach of simultaneously backing off the specific charges the candidate was making the day before about the president’s reaction to violence in the Middle East, while generally becoming much more aggressive in claiming that Romney’s projection of “strength” would itself intimidate troublesome elements in the Middle East and elsewhere into respectful silence.

“There’s a pretty compelling story that if you had a President Romney, you’d be in a different situation,” Richard Williamson, a top Romney foreign policy adviser, said in an interview. “For the first time since Jimmy Carter, we’ve had an American ambassador assassinated.”

Williamson added, “In Egypt and Libya and Yemen, again demonstrations — the respect for America has gone down, there’s not a sense of American resolve and we can’t even protect sovereign American property.”

As on domestic issues, the “Romney difference” isn’t that clear:

“What would the governor do differently? It really starts with having a vision for the future of the Middle East, supporting those that have been shortchanged by the administration,” Mitchell Reiss, a top Romney policy adviser, said in an interview. “There are things that we can do in terms of what we say, the constancy of what our vision is — pluralism, respect for law, human dignity — these are things that you don’t hear from the administration, and the people in the region want to hear that.”

Other than “we’ll do whatever Bibi says,” it’s not clear what any of this means. But it does seem clear the Romney campaign is so locked down on tactical day-to-day maneuvering that it’s lost sight of any coherent strategy or rationale-for-candidacy, as the days quickly pass.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.