When Will Romney Offer Policy Specifics?

11903_mittromney When Will Romney Offer Policy Specifics? BLOG VIEW: Election Day is four months away, and the Mitt Romney campaign appears to have settled into a bizarre strategy: Have the presumptive Republican candidate say as little as possible about how he would solve the major issues facing the nation.

Part of this strategy is to avoid a repeat of the disastrous gaffes that plagued Romney during the Republican primaries. Lest we forget, this is the same candidate whose idea of a humorous story was recalling how his father laid off scores of workers by shutting down a factory. And this is the same aspiring leader who interrupted a candidates' debate by trying to force Texas Gov. Rick Perry into shaking hands on a $10,000 bet – Perry, who was castigated by many for running a somewhat dimwitted campaign, was intelligent enough to leave Romney alone in the foolishness of his behavior.

The problem with this strategy is that it corners Romney into merely being the "I'm not Obama" candidate. And while that will clearly satisfy many voters who are unhappy with the current scheme of things, it does not answer questions about what a Romney administration will try to accomplish.

In late May, Romney economic adviser Glenn Hubbard told the Wall Street Journal that Romney was planning a series of campaign speeches that will propose a new system for dismantling failing financial institutions that differs from the current Dodd-Frank Act requirements. Hubbard also said that the candidate would put forward a plan to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Even more intriguing is the promise by Hubbard that Romney will provide his vision for the future of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Hubbard offered two scenarios: Romney might eliminate the agency and reassign its powers to existing to financial regulators, or he might realign its position within the federal government and make it more accountable to congressional oversight.

However, it has been more than a month since Hubbard gave that interview, and Romney has yet to make any major policy speech relating to housing finance and financial reform. Indeed, the few times that he's been actively pressed for details regarding fiscal issues – especially in an embarrassing interview on CBS News centered on tax policy – Romney failed to give clear and concise answers to very specific questions.

And on the rare occasions when Romney appears to be offering a preview of what he would bring to the White House – most notably, at a supposedly off-the-record Florida fundraiser in April, when he suggested possibly shutting down the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – the Romney campaign insisted the former Massachusetts governor was only floating ideas and not offering a chiseled-in-stone agenda.

Romney has been in pursuit of the White House for years, and one might think that by this point, he would be able to showcase a cogent and precise agenda of how he would guide the economy. Quite frankly, his continued vagueness on very important issues – especially in regard to housing finance and regulatory reform – is disconcerting. If this continues, I suspect that many voters will reject his evasiveness by re-electing President Obama or by avoiding both candidates and sitting out the election.

Woodrow Wilson once remarked, "Absolute identity with one's cause is the first and great condition of successful leadership." But that only goes so far. To date, the only cause that Romney has been identified with is getting himself elected – and until he finds a cause that includes specific strategies that could positively impact the lives of the other 311 million people who share the country with him, I don't see how he can achieve his self-oriented goal.

Phil Hall, editor, MortgageOrb

(Please address all comments regarding this opinion column to hallp@mortgageorb.com.)


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