“Hard Truths” Vs. “Suicidal” Policy Details

In his speech to the Republican National Convention last night, New Jersey governor Chris Christie declared that would-be president Mitt Romney will share “hard truths” with the nation on debt and the economy. “Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to put us back on the path to growth and create good paying private sector jobs again in America. Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to end the torrent of debt that is compromising our future and burying our economy,” said Christie.

Christie's praise for Romney was reported by a number of media outlets. Less remarked upon was the fact that Christie's promise of economic “hard truths” from Romney is undercut by the Romney campaign's stated and steadfast refusal to release details of their economic proposals.

Christie's remarks were quoted by the Associated Press as part of his “broad indictment of Democrats.” The Los Angeles Times reported: “After detailing his own accomplishments for some time, Christie pivoted to Romney, saying he would 'tell us the hard truths we need to hear to put us back on the path to growth.'” CBS News noted simply that Christie “called on Americans to face the nation's 'hard truths' this November, and embrace a 'new era of truth-telling' when deciding the country's political future.”

But as Bloomberg's Josh Barro noted, there is a yawning gulf between Christie's rhetoric and the reality of the Romney campaign:

Romney's platform contains no discernable hard truths. At a time of record budget deficits, Romney is running on a plan to cut income tax rates by 20 percent. He says he will broaden the tax base to offset the revenue loss, but he won't say how -- that would be a hard truth.

Romney says Medicare is unsustainable, and yet he promises no changes to the program before 2022, even pledging to spend hundreds of billions of dollars more than President Obama would over the next decade. Saying that Medicare cuts have to start now, as they do in Obama's plan, would be a hard truth.

Romney has a 59-point economic plan with no content about monetary policy or housing policy.  The vast majority of the plan could have just as easily have been proposed in 2007, before the housing and financial crises rocked the economy. Saying what he would do about the specific economic problems of our time would probably involve telling some hard truths.

Indeed, immediately after Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate, the Romney campaign rushed to tell reporters that they would maintain their longstanding policy of avoiding specifics with regard to policy proposals. Politico reported on August 17: “Advisers say the campaign has no plans to pivot from its previous view that diving into details during a general-election race would be suicidal.”

Since then, the candidates themselves have hewed closely to the no-details strategy. As the Washington Post's Greg Sargent noted, Romney specifically told a Time interviewer that he wouldn't discuss details of his tax plan because “our Democrat friends would love to have me specify one or two so they could amass the special interest to fight that effort.” Ryan told Fox News that he couldn't say when the Romney budget plan balances because “we haven't run the numbers,” and declined to offer tax specifics to Fox News' Bret Baier, saying instead that the details would be worked out with Congress after they're elected.