A few weeks ago, Mitt Romney visited with the Weekly Standard and made the case for pre-election policy secrecy. The Republicans noted that during previous campaigns, when he'd tell voters what he planned to do in office, they would disapprove of his ideas, leading him to believe it's preferable to remain vague in public until after the election.
If the truth might cost Romney votes, the argument goes, then the truth should be hidden from the public. In private, however, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is apparently willing to be a little more candid. Yesterday, Romney spoke at a fundraiser at a private home in Palm Beach, Florida, unaware of the fact that reporters could hear his remarks.
Romney went into a level of detail not usually seen by the public in the speech, which was overheard by reporters on a sidewalk below. One possibility floated by Romney included the elimination of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Cabinet-level agency once led by Romney's father, George."I'm going to take a lot of departments in Washington, and agencies, and combine them. Some eliminate, but I'm probably not going to lay out just exactly which ones are going to go," Romney said. "Things like Housing and Urban Development, which my dad was head of, that might not be around later." [...]Asked about the fate of the Department of Education in a potential Romney administration, the former governor suggested it would also face a dramatic restructuring.
The fact that Romney is considering shutting down HUD is certainly new information.
What's more, the former governor added that he might also eliminate the second-home mortgage deduction, as well as deductions for state income and property taxes. This, too, is a level of tax-policy detail we haven't heard from Romney thus far. Indeed, it's no small revelation -- it suggest a Romney administration would try to pay for tax breaks that benefit the wealthy by eliminating tax deductions, some of which are popular with the middle class.
But what struck me as interesting is that Romney still isn't willing to outline a detailed agenda, even when talking to wealthy donor friends, and even when he thinks reporters and the public won't hear about it.
At one point at this fundraiser, talking about parts of the government he intends to eliminate, Romney said, "I'm not going to actually go through these one by one."
In context, I don't think he meant he wouldn't go through them at last night's event; I think he meant he wouldn't go through them during the 2012 campaign because his views would be too controversial for the American mainstream.
In other words, Romney is cagey about his intentions no matter where he is or who he's talking to. Americans are supposed to vote for Romney first, then discover what he'd do in office after he wins.
Remember, as far as Romney is concerned, Obama is guilty of playing a "hide and seek" game when it comes to pre-election policy specifics. As Romney argued two weeks ago, "Unlike President Obama, you don't have to wait until after the election to find out what I believe in -- or what my plans are."
The former governor is taking the whole "rubber/glue" strategy to depths I hardly thought possible.