Scrutinizing Points In Romney's Acceptance Speech
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And I'm Steve Inskeep. We have in front of us, a copy of the speech that Mitt Romney delivered at last night's Republican Convention.
GREENE: And we're going to give a close read to some of the key remarks. And three of our correspondents are on hand to help us.
INSKEEP: NPR's Julie Rovner covers health care, Jim Zarroli covers business, Ari Shapiro has been covering the Romney campaign and is in Tampa. Good morning to you all.
JULIE ROVNER, BYLINE: Good morning.
JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Good morning, Steven.
ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Good morning.
INSKEEP: And let me start with this. Democrats have hammered the president's record, as you know, the private - or rather, hammered Mitt Romney's record, I should say, at the private equity firm Bain Capital, but Romney worked to turn that back into an advantage last night.
(SOUNDBITE OF ACCEPTANCE SPEECH)
MITT ROMNEY: Now we weren't always successful at Bain but no one ever is in the real world of business. That's what this president doesn't seem to understand. Business and growing jobs is about taking risk, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, but always striving. It's about dreams.
INSKEEP: Ari Shapiro in Tampa, what is the underlying disagreement here?
SHAPIRO: Well, as you point out, Bain has become one of the top issues in this campaign. And by Romney's characterization, which you just heard, he has said more than 100,000 jobs were created by Bain. That number is impossible to verify, but he points to companies like Staples, Bright Horizons, Sports Authority - that have thrived.
The Obama campaign points to companies you might not have heard of - GS Steel, Ampad, Cambridge Industries. These are companies that laid people off, ship jobs overseas, in some cases went bankrupt under Bain. And as you heard Romney say, you know, sometimes things fail, but the Obama campaign says the problem is not that the companies failed; it's that Bain profited from their failure.
So while Romney cites Bain as evidence that he can create jobs, the Obama campaign says it's only evidence that he can make money which is the central issue of this campaign, because, as Romney also said in his speech, what America needs is jobs. And if Romney can convince Americans that Bain taught him how to create jobs, well, then he has a winning position.
If not, then his number one qualification for the presidency, that he knows how to make jobs, well, it seems a little less compelling.
INSKEEP: Jim Zarroli.
ZARROLI: Yeah. I mean, I would just say - I think, in this campaign, both sides have tried to exploit the public confusion about what a private equity firm is. It's an investment vehicle. Its purpose is to, you know, find companies and extract hidden value from them. Its purpose is not to create jobs, it's not to eliminate jobs - although that may, sort of, be the result of the investment decisions it makes. Its purpose is to make money. And, you know, that's, I guess you would say, just amorality of the markets, but that's the way it is.
GREENE: Well, Romney has gone beyond saying that he has more business experience than President Obama. He's just attacked the president's handling of the economy, overall. Let's listen to a bit of that from last night.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
ROMNEY: This president can ask us to be patient. This president can tell us it was someone else's fault. This president can tell us that the next four years he'll get it right. But this president cannot tell us that you're better off today than when he took office.
GREENE: OK, Ari, what do the facts show when it comes to the president's handling of the economy?
SHAPIRO: Well, one way to look at this is jobs numbers. And it's true, that four years ago, you know - if you look at the day the president took office - America is worse off. But those first few months, the economy was hemorrhaging hundreds of thousands of jobs. The first full month President Obama was in office more than 700,000 jobs were lost.
But soon, job losses started to slow and eventually the U.S. started gaining jobs, which the economy has done pretty steadily since then - nowhere near the kind of job creation that the economy needs to get out of that enormous hole. So when Romney says the president cannot tell you you're better off today than when he took office, technically that's true.
But the question is, do you start measuring from the day he took office when we were seeing those eye popping job losses, or do you start measuring from a few months later when arguably President Obama's policies were starting to take affect. Do you only hold President Obama accountable for the creeping but more or less consistent recovery that we've seen under his policies or do you also add in those huge losses from the first few months?
INSKEEP: Jim Zarroli, Mitt Romney also threw out this number. He said he'd create 12 million new jobs as president. Is that a realistic prediction for yourself?
ZARROLI: Well, I think the Obama campaign is saying that there is nothing to the prediction, that that would happen anyway. There are independent economists who will say, that's - you know, that's the number of jobs we're going to get anyway.
Now, when you get into making predictions about the job market four years from now it gets very difficult. And certainly, in this economy, a lot of people have lost money waiting for the job market to turn around. The fact is 12 million jobs would be 250,000 jobs a month, every month for four years.
Now, we had much stronger than that job growth in the Clinton administration, but we are well below that now. And there's nothing on the horizon to make us think the economy is suddenly going to grow that fast. I mean, certainly when you look at the experience of countries like Japan that have had the kind of financial crisis that we have, you know, it's taken a long, long time to move out of it.
GREENE: All right. Well, let's turn to a different issue. This was one pledge that Romney made last night that caught my attention.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
ROMNEY: As president, I'll protect the sanctity of life, I'll honor the institution of marriage and I will guarantee America's first liberty, the freedom of religion.
GREENE: Julie Rovner, a lot of applause there. What exactly does Romney mean by those phrases?
ROVNER: Well, this is what I call the base-touching part of the speech. This whole section is Romney's way of reassuring the religious right, who have had their doubts about the candidate, remember, that he will be steadfast on their issues. The first phrase of course refers to abortion opposition, that's the sanctity of life. The second is to same-sex marriage, and that part about religious freedom isn't just a throwaway line, it actually refers to the ongoing fight the Obama administration is having with the Catholic church about whether religious hospitals and universities should be required to offer contraception as part of their health insurance plans.
INSKEEP: Now, these things, they would sound too divisive if you talked about them at great length before a mass audience like this, but you want to signal to people.
ROVNER: Exactly, it's code.
INSKEEP: OK. Let's ask about another thing here. Romney did not talk that much about health care which, of course, is a central issue for Republicans, but he did mention, he did bring it up. He promised to rein in costs by repealing President Obama's health care law.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
ROMNEY: His $716 billion cut to Medicare to finance Obamacare will both, hurt today's senior and depress innovation and jobs in medicine.
INSKEEP: $716 billion cut to Medicare. How does Mitt Romney's plan compare to President Obama's law?
ROVNER: Well, of course, you have to put Paul Ryan into the mix now, the vice-presidential candidate. Paul Ryan's budget would also make those same cuts. Mitt Romney said he wouldn't. Now, first of all you need to remember that not all of the $716 billion in reductions in President Obama's health plan actually comes out of Medicare, it does represent future reductions in payments to healthcare providers, but some of it goes right back into Medicare in the form of new benefits for seniors, like more preventive health care and closing the donut hole in prescription drug coverage.
But some of the money does indeed reduce future Medical spending, and the fact is, you can't reduce health care spending and preserve Medicare for 78 million baby boomers without slowing its growth - which brings us to that point that Romney himself made not three minutes in the speech, which is that must rein in the skyrocketing costs of health care.
INSKEEP: You're suggesting that he's for it and against it at the same time?
ROVNER: That's exactly right. And the change that he wants to make to Medicare, which is to make it a voucher-type program, and limit how much the government spends, would indeed save money for the government, but most experts say that it would simply pass that money back to seniors. It wouldn't actually save health care - it wouldn't lower health care spending in general.
INSKEEP: David Greene.
GREENE: OK. So not a lot of foreign policy last night, a lot of domestic issues. But there was one claim Romney made that he's made repeatedly out on the campaign trail.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
ROMNEY: President Obama began his presidency with an apology tour. America, he said, had dictated to other nations. No, Mr. President, America has freed other nations from dictators.
GREENE: Ari Shapiro, the president, an apology tour - did that happen?
SHAPIRO: Well, it's a widely-held notion in conservative circles that the fact-checking website PolitiFact calls it pants-on-fire-false. The president has said things that some conservatives argue contain an apologetic tone. For example, in a town hall in France in 2009, he said America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive, but in that same town hall, he criticized Europe for anti-Americanism.
Presidents, by the way, do apologize for American behavior, every president does, whether its desecrating Qurans in Afghanistan, apologizing to Hawaiians for overthrowing their kingdom 100 years ago as President Clinton did, or apologizing for Japanese internment...
SHAPIRO: ...presidents do apologize, but no apology tour from President Obama.
INSKEEP: OK. Thanks very much to all of you. That's NPR's Ari Shapiro along with NPR's Julie Rovner and NPR's Jim Zarroli giving us a close read of Mitt Romney's speech last night on MORNING EDITION from NPR News.
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