Distractions

Good to see that while I was so distracted the last week, some things didn’t change. Mitt Romney, for example, is still pursuing his maddening concern-troll tactic of identifying himself with Democrats allegedly unhappy or disappointed with this or that aspect of the Obama presidency. In fact, it’s gotten very weird: he’s taken to citing my TNR colleague Noam Scheiber’s recent book on the Obama White House and the economy as part of his argument that the president sacrificed unemployed Americans to his mad socialist scheme to implement a national health care reform initiative modeled largely on Mitt’s work in Massachusetts.

Now Noam’s naturally having mixed feelings; there’s nothing quite like getting quoted by a presidential candidate to boost those book sales. But he’s made the rather important point that his book suggests Obama may have made a risky choice by devoting attention to health reform that might better have been spent pursuing economic policies Romney has called disastrous:

[I]t’s worth noting that Romney and I have radically different prescriptions for how Obama might have spent his time had he bagged on health care. I argue that Obama should have focused monomaniacally on getting more stimulus; Romney argues that the stimulus was at best wasteful and at worst counterproductive.

So Romney is engaging in a triple deception here: he’s still pretending to think Obama’s approach to health reform is a horrific departure from what right-thinking policymakers would prescribe, and now he’s pretending Obama’s pursuit of health reform prevented him from consummating an economic recovery plan he pretends to consider a job-killing disaster.

The real distraction underway, of course, is Mitt’s own determined effort to avoid discussing his own current “ideas” for both health care (a reversal of reform and the implementation of a “market-based approach” that would eliminate affordable health insurance for upwards of 50 million Americans) and the economy (a combo platter of the worse policies of George W. Bush and Herbert Hoover). But it’s oddly comforting to know that in this turbulent world Mitt Romney can be counted on to remain as crooked as a dog’s hind leg in talking about the actual choices voters will face this November.

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.