With the debt talks ongoing in Washington, most of the Republican presidential candidates are weighing in on the process, urging GOP lawmakers not to compromise. Some even want Congress to drive off the cliff intentionally, or at least say they do to impress the GOP base.

But Mitt Romney, who almost certainly knows better, has generally kept quiet. He doesn’t want to actively advocate for default (because that’s insane), but he doesn’t want to defend raising the debt ceiling, either (because he’d lose party support).

So, the Chameleon Candidate has to resort to rhetoric like this.

Speaking to the Portsmouth Rotary Club Thursday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney called on the president to end the debt crisis.

“Come on, Mr. President,” said the Republican presidential candidate. “You can, by yourself, cut spending, agree to cap the spending and put in place a balanced budget amendment.”

This really is just dumb. The president can cut spending by himself? If memory serves, Congress has power of the purse. Obama is pushing for major spending cuts — too many, in fact — but it’s Romney’s buddies on the Hill who aren’t willing to strike a deal.

But I was especially interested in that last line. As far as Romney is concerned, Obama can “put in place a balanced budget amendment.” I realize that Mitt Romney struggles to keep up with the basics — he’s the guy who thinks we’re in “peacetime” and pretends he has a credible record on job creation — but it is not within the power of the presidency to put constitutional amendments “in place.” In fact, Romney may want to read the Constitution sometime: a president doesn’t even get to weigh in on the amendment process at all. If a proposed amendment gets two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate, a president can’t even veto — the measure would go the states, not the Oval Office.

Does Romney not understand this? If not, why not?

What’s more, note that as far as the former governor is concerned, it’s up to Obama to address the crisis. Again, I don’t know what process Romney is watching, but Congress has to vote on the debt ceiling. Obama can’t force lawmakers to do their duty; no president can.

Romney appears to be taking the coward’s way out of this fight. I wonder if GOP primary voters will mind.

Postscript: A voter in New Hampshire asked Romney today about middle-class families shouldering burdens while corporations that send jobs overseas get tax breaks. He responded by calling for even lower corporate tax rates, and then lied about current levels. Romney’s the frontrunner? Seriously?

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.