Executive Director Reports

What really counts: It's the record,not the rhetoric

Along with 70 million other citizens I watched the first presidential debate of the 2012 general election campaign, and like the overwhelming majority of Americans I thought that Mitt Romney outperformed the president.

I've observed President Obama for many years. In fact, he's often reminded audiences that he made his first speech as an elected official to a Council 31 legislative conference after winning a seat in our state Senate.

Frankly, then and every time I've heard him speak since, whether in the legislature, campaigning for the U.S. Senate, speaking at union rallies, running for president or carrying out his duties as commander in chief, I never saw the president as off-kilter as he was that night.

Romney, on the other hand, performed very well. "Performance" is the operative word.

Because while it was hard to believe what I was seeing in the president's demeanor, it was even more difficult to believe what I heard coming from Romney's lips.

The man who famously referred to himself as "severely conservative" in demolishing his primary opponents did a total backflip on a host of issues.

When the president confronted Romney on his $5 trillion tax-cut plan, which overwhelmingly benefits wealthy individuals and corporations and was the linchpin of Romney's economic program throughout the primaries, the Republican candidate denied he ever advocated such a plan.

On health care, after promising to repeal Obamacare, Romney insisted that his health plan would have a key component of that plan - preventing insurance companies from denying coverage because of a preexisting condition. Yet a top campaign official admitted immediately after the debate that the only health plan Romney has released has no such protections.

He also refused to own up to the fact that his health care program would end Medicare as we know it, giving seniors a voucher rather than the guaranteed benefits they currently enjoy. Rather than running on his platform, Romney was running from it.

It's not at all unusual for politicians to change their positions after an election, but I have never seen one so brazenly shift course a month before voters go to the polls.

Romney didn't stop there.

After flipping at the debate, he started flopping back on the campaign trail.

He told the Des Moines Register editorial board that he would not seek to enact any abortion-related legislation as president, then immediately told his anti-choice supporters that he would seek to overturn the 40-year Supreme Court decision that safeguards abortion rights.

Whichever side of a particular issue a voter may be on, they'll find Romney on the same side, because, on so many important issues, he's on both sides.

But there's a notable exception to his two-faced approach to politics: Romney's rock-steady position on organized labor. As the CEO of Bain Capital he laid off workers and forced concessions before closing plants and outsourcing jobs to China.

As a candidate he has blamed unions for the demise of the auto industry, when in fact the autoworkers union worked with President Obama to save our nation's auto industry-and the hundreds of thousands of American jobs that it provides.

Romney went out of his way to speak out in support of the repeal of collective bargaining rights in Ohio, as well as the allout assault on public employee unions in Wisconsin.

Whatever else may happen in Romney's America, you can bet there will be a concerted effort to undermine the organized strength that working people have through their unions.

Gov. Romney's hostility to unions is part and parcel of his disdain for those who haven't been able to climb high enough up the economic ladder to reach its heights.

Nothing could be more telling in this regard than his remarks before a group of wealthy backers, contemptuously dismissing 47 percent of the American people, the folks he claims don't take responsibility for their own lives - seniors or the disabled receiving a Social Security check, students receiving a loan or grant to go to college, or veterans at a VA hospital. Those candid comments give us a much better idea of how Mr. Romney would govern than the points he racked up on the debate platform.

Barack Obama has led our country back from the brink of fiscal catastrophe. He fought a conservative Congress to bring crucial aid to state and local governments - and the jobs they provide - and is trying to do more against fierce opposition.

He brought the American auto industry back from near death. He's ended one war and is winding down another-while strengthening America's war on terrorism.

He might have lost Round One of the presidential debate, but President Obama has won many important rounds in the battle to rebuild our economy. And for that, in my book, he deserves to win re-election.