When it comes to holding Mitt Romney to account for his serial evasions, it’s now or never.
Tuesday night’s town hall forum is the final debate that will cover domestic issues, so it’s likely the last chance to pin Romney down on some of the crucial policy areas where his shape-shifting has been most blatant. Foreign policy will also be addressed tonight, but the final, and third, presidential debate next week will focus exclusively on foreign policy.
In the last presidential debate—thanks to President Obama’s non-confrontational approach and Jim Lehrer’s limp moderating—many of these issues went unaddressed, allowing Romney to downplay his “severely conservative” positions and present himself as a centrist.
That shouldn’t happen tonight. Whether it comes from moderator Candy Crowley, voters, or Obama, here are the six questions that Romney must be asked—with follow-ups:
1. Taxes: Governor Romney, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found that the math in your tax plan doesn’t add up. There’s just no way to find enough upper-income loopholes and deductions in the tax code—which you won’t specify anyway—to pay for nearly $5 trillion in tax cuts. You’ve cited six studies that support your math, but even Fox News has questioned their independence. Given that you won’t identify the loopholes you’d eliminate, why should we trust you on this?
2. Pre-existing conditions: You said in the last debate that you planned to keep the provision in Obamacare that bans health insurers from denying coverage to Americans with pre-existing conditions. But your campaign then admitted that’s not true. So how would you actually address the problem?
3. Medicare: You’ve insisted that your plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system won’t cost seniors a penny more. But a new study by the nonpartisan and highly respected Kaiser Family Foundation finds that voucherizing Medicare would indeed increase costs for most seniors, including those who choose to stay in traditional Medicare. How can you assure seniors you’re right?
4. Obamacare: You’ve said you plan to repeal Obamacare, which will help provide health insurance to around 32 million Americans. How, specifically, will you ensure that those Americans receive coverage given that the free market doesn’t appear able to solve the problem on its own.
5. Abortion: You recently told The Des Moines Register that there’s no abortion legislation that would become part of your agenda. But your campaign later told a conservative magazine you would “of course” support anti-abortion legislation. Which is it?
6. Social Security: You’ve said you want to raise the retirement age for Social Security, but you won’t say to what. Americans who’ll one day be facing retirement need to know what your plan means for them. Will you tell us what age you think is appropriate?
Of course, asking these questions doesn’t mean we’re suddenly going to get straight answers. But if nothing else, it might help further expose the almost pathological extent of Romney’s strategy of evasion.