Mitt Romney has got a new ad out that outlines what he’d do on his first day as president of the United States. It’s a positive, introductory spot – probably an attempt to counter President Obama’s attacks on his Bain Capital record. But is it realistic?
We ask that because candidates for president often make sweeping campaign promises that actual presidents don’t have the power to carry out. And to us it appears as if the Romney ad is no exception to this rule. (Candidate Obama did the same thing. We’ll get to that in a second.)
Let’s take a look at the video, shall we? The ad is only 30 seconds, short and punchy. “What would a Romney presidency be like?” is the first thing viewers see. Then the narrator, over upbeat music that sounds like a newscast theme, says, “Day One, President Romney announces deficit reductions, ending the Obama era of big government, helping secure our kids’ futures.”
Let’s hold it right there. The president of the United States cannot “announce deficit reductions.” He can propose deficit reductions that Congress may or may not approve, after months of partisan dispute and enough press conferences to fill 10 C-SPAN channels. We’re not questioning Romney’s commitment to fiscal discipline. We’re just saying the magic spell “descendum budgetata” works only in Harry Potter.
OK, back to the ad. Second, the narrator says, “President Romney stands up to China and demands they play by the rules.” Yes, the US president can completely do that. It’s not an exaggeration. Whether China will do anything in response, or whether that’s different from what the current administration thinks it’s been doing, is another question.
Finally, the ad ends with, “President Romney begins repealing job-killing regulations that are costing the economy billions.” This is mostly doable – presidents do have the power to issue executive orders and (generally) control the regulatory output of executive agencies. We’ll note, however, that the word “begins” here is crucial – it’s a longer process than you’d think, involving proposed new rules, publishing in the Federal Register, comment periods, and bureaucrats who may or may not want the whole thing to slow to a slug’s pace.
So there you have it. As to Obama, remember the campaign slogan “Change”? One word, big promise. Turns out that requires a lot of other people to go along, and is harder to accomplish in many areas than 2008 campaign spots implied.