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Would President Romney have prevented the 'sequester'? (+video)

Mitt Romney says he could have done better than President Obama on the sequester. But leadership depends on the balance of power as much as knocking heads.

By Staff writer / March 5, 2013

Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney (c.), joined by wife Ann, talks with an unidentified spectator at ringside prior to a welterweight title fight in Las Vegas on Dec. 8. Mr. Romney has emerged from nearly four months in seclusion for an interview with Fox News and is to deliver his first postelection speech this month at Washington’s Conservative Political Action Conference.

Julie Jacobson/AP/File

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If Mitt Romney had won the presidency, would he have headed off the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts commonly known as the “sequester”?

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Mitt Romney is blasting President Obama for failing to lead during the debate over across-the-board spending cuts. Norah O'Donnell reports.

Mr. Romney himself implies that his answer to that question is “yes.” In his big interview Sunday with Chris Wallace on Fox News, Mr. Romney expressed regret at his relegation to the national sideline and said that, if elected, he’d have focused his executive skills on fixing the sequester problem.

“It kills me not to be there, not to be in the White House doing what needs to be done,” he said.

Jeb Bush echoed that sentiment on Tuesday morning, saying in an interview on MSNBC that “I wish Mitt Romney was president right now because I think we’d have someone who would be in the midst of trying to forge consensus,” Bush said. “It breaks my heart that he’s not there, he’s a good man.”

We’re not so sure that President Romney would have succeeded where President Obama has so far failed. But let’s run through his discussion points on the subject, shall we? Maybe you’ll be convinced where we weren’t.

LEADERNESS. In his Fox interview, Romney expressed the common idea that the US chief executive is a lead sled dog pulling the nation in his wake. In the context of an issue of legislative gridlock, such as the sequester, that means the president needs to impose his will on lawmakers, maybe by locking them all in a room until they reach consensus.

“The president brings people together, does the deals, does the trades, knocks the heads together. The president leads. And I don’t see that kind of leadership happening right now,” said Romney.

Yes, but how would knocking a few legislative heads cause the GOP to accept a tax increase? The problem is that there is a deep and substantive divide on fiscal policy between Republicans and Democrats. Invoking “leadership” as a means to close that gap is vague at best.

Dartmouth political scientist Brendan Nyhan calls this the “Green Lantern” theory of the presidency, after the fictional superhero.

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