One of the most enduring moments from the GOP primary debates took place in August of 2011, when all 29 presidential candidates onstage were asked if they would turn down a deficit-reduction deal composed of 10 dollars of spending cuts for every one dollar in new tax revenue, and every single candidate said they would. The moment perfectly encapsulated an anti-tax zealotry that leaves seemingly no room for compromise, and, to this day, continues to stymie Congress’s ability to reach a deal on reducing the debt. But in his first post-election interview yesterday on Fox News Sunday, Mitt Romney revealed that, actually, he would have taken the deal:
CHRIS WALLACE: Why not be the one who stands up there, raises your hand and said, of course, if it was 10 for one, I’d do it?
MITT ROMNEY: Again, because if you’ve said that you’re not going to raise taxes, then they’d say Romney’s changed his position. He said he wouldn’t raise taxes, now he’s saying he will. He’s changed his position.
CHRIS WALLACE: But you would have accepted $10 in spending cuts for $1 in revenue.
MITT ROMNEY: Yes, that’s — that’s a fairy tale, because no one is going to give you $10 in spending cuts for $1 in revenue increase.
In other words, it’s not that Romney actually opposed the idea of trading a small tax increase for a huge spending cut on policy grounds. Like Jon Huntsman before him, he just didn’t want to be called out for being a flip-flopper. Romney seems to be blaming “they” — fellow Republicans, presumably, but also the Obama campaign and the media — and the gotcha games that “they” would have played. But, clearly, the root of Romney’s predicament was his willingness to disavow all tax increases in the first place. Don’t make blanket oaths against new tax revenue, and you won’t have to worry about “flip-flopper” blowback when you voice support for a wildly favorable compromise. Problem solved.