Romney: Unclear on the Concept of Separation of Powers

“By the way, when I get rid of Obamacare and I get rid of Dodd-Frank and I get rid of Sarbanes-Oxley, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to have any law or any regulation.  It means I want to make sure it’s modern, it’s updated, it goes after the bad guys, but it also encourages the good guys.”—Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.

First, presidents don’t “get rid” of legislation they don’t like.  Congress has to repeal legislation (although, yes I realize that in some cases the president has some discretion in terms of the application of a given law).  It is a pretty fundamental aspect of the structure of the US government.  Romney is speaking as though he is running for Prime Minister is a parliamentary system.

Second, can this be any more platitudinous than this quote?  Who is opposed to “modern” and “updated” legislation that “goes after the bad guys” whilst also “encourag[ing] the good guys”?

Granted, that second point is just how politicians speak (and my picking on it is somewhat gratuitous), but the first point is a pet peeve of mine:  how can the American public make informed decisions about government if the people who aspire to serve in that government talk about it in nonsensical ways?   At a minimum it would be nice if candidates for office spoke about government in a way that would give one the impression that they could pass an intro to American government course.

FILED UNDER: Politics 101, Quick Takes, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Scott says:

    Does Romney remember why Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank came into being? Does he want to go to the place where there were real bad guys doing bad things financially and they were his peers? As for Obamacare, how come no Republican has come out to repeal Medicare Part D?

  2. Ron Beasley says:

    Romney is sounding more and more like Gingrich which is pretty scary. I’m beginning to think that the guy is just not very bright.

  3. Gromitt Gunn says:

    I’m guessing he still supports of the repeal of Glass-Steagal despite all of the subsequent evidence that argues against the repeal.

  4. Hey Norm says:

    @ Ron…
    No, he is talking to people that are just not very bright.

  5. Jerry Johnson says:

    IT WOULD BE NICE TO SEE SOME BALANCED CRITICISMS ON YOUR BEHALF OF THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION. I AM NOT SUGGESTING YOU DO NOT HAVE THEM AVAILABLE, BUT COULD FIND NONE IN YOUR WORKS. HE IS GUILTY OF THE SAME RHETORIC AND TACTICS THAT YOU ARE FINDING ROMNEY GUILTY OF.

  6. @Jerry Johnson:

    First, no need to shout (let alone to do so in bolded text).

    Second, is what I have written nullified or otherwise untrue because I did not criticize Obama at the same time I am criticizing Romney?

  7. John Peabody says:

    Romnwy is smart, not dumb. Politicians have to use vocabulary that doesn’t make them sound nerdy or “too smart”. That Texas twang worked for George W.

    Romney has to make silly statements like this for the 80% that do not read political blogs.

  8. al-Ameda says:

    @Jerry Johnson:

    IT WOULD BE NICE TO SEE SOME BALANCED CRITICISMS ON YOUR BEHALF OF THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION. I AM NOT SUGGESTING YOU DO NOT HAVE THEM AVAILABLE, BUT COULD FIND NONE IN YOUR WORKS. HE IS GUILTY OF THE SAME RHETORIC AND TACTICS THAT YOU ARE FINDING ROMNEY GUILTY OF.

    It would be nice if you discovered the problem with your CAPS LOCK key.

  9. Jerry Johnson says:

    If you are arguing for a more healthy and honest public dialogue, is it not necessary to practice as we preach? Your omission of criticism would not be interpreted as tacit consent when the other guy does it if you were to have ever offered criticism of the O man and his similar transgressions. I ask again, any links to these criticisms? Because there are many to be had.

  10. ernieyeball says:

    Lest we forget.
    Our 37th President, Richard Milhous (Tricky Dick) Nixon on Executive Power.

    “Well, when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.”
    Interview with David Frost (19 May 1977)

  11. @Jerry Johnson: Here’s the thing: I heard this quotation today. It sparked a response in my mind, which I turned into a blog post. This is how blogging tends to work.

    I expect that I could find similar utterances from everyone who ever ran for the presidency. Do I have to track all those down before I can criticize this specific utterance?

    If a statement is problematic it is problematic regardless of other statements that might be likewise problematic.

    You are objecting, it seems to me, on partisan grounds (I am here criticizing Romney and not Obama) and really paying the actual point no mind.

  12. David M says:

    @Jerry Johnson: Romney can’t repeal the laws he claims he will get rid of, at least not without Congress. Do you have examples of Obama making similar claims? If anything Obama is known for preferring to wait and encourage Congress pass laws (repealing DADT is a good example of that).

  13. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Scott: Answers to your questions:
    1) Probably not
    2) Yes.
    3) Because they understand the term “political suicide” at least viscerally?

  14. mantis says:

    @Jerry Johnson:

    You can get your own blog and then you get to choose the topics to discuss. They’re easy to set up.

    Welcome to the Internet. Opinions may vary.

  15. Gustopher says:

    Are there really that many people in the uninformed electorate who want fewer regulations on Wall Street?

    Let’s assume they have no idea what the regulations do, think the financial sector imploded at the exact moment Obama took the oath of office, blame the collapse of the housing market on black folks buying homes, and spend their off time punching spotted owls. Does a signifant segment of the voters seriously trust Wall Street more than the government, even the crazy people?

  16. anjin-san says:

    @ Jerry Johnson

    We already have a number of “But, but, but, but…. Obama!” whiners on OTB. That role has been filled. Do you have anything intelligent to add here?

  17. Gustopher says:

    @Jerry Johnson: If you want to play “Both Sides Do It”, you do have to come up with an example, however trite and contrived it is. There are plenty of excellent examples on this very site.

  18. Jenos Idanian says:

    Let me take up the “But Obama” angle — but with a slight twist.

    Obama pledged to get rid of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell, the Defense of Marriage Act, and the Bush tax cuts, all of which were passed by Congress. In one case, he succeeded; in a second, he’s finding a way to get rid of it without involving Congress; and in the third, he keeps negotiating away his pledge.

    Now, that’s not saying Obama doesn’t have a serious “unclearness on the concept of separation of powers” He came out and said that it would be highly irregular for the Supreme Court to overturn ObamaCare and he just up and decided the War Powers Act didn’t apply in regards to Libya simply because he said so, just to cite one example with each branch.

    But Romney’s declarations are entirely in the spirit of past presidential candidates — and in many cases, they went on to keep those pledges. Presidential power is quite clearly constrained, but presidential influence allows them to go beyond those limits — if they can gain the cooperation of the other branches.

    If one wants to get totally pedantic, any candidate who brings up changing tax rates is “forgetting” that, by the Constitution, any such measures have to start in the House of Representatives. But any president who can’t work with at least a portion of Congress to get legislation introduced is a poor president indeed.

  19. MBunge says:

    @John Peabody: “Romnwy is smart, not dumb.”

    Says who? Why is their an assumption that “successful businessman” or even “guy who saved the Olympics” = smart? It’s my experience that you need certain talents to succeed in business or any sort of mass enterprise, but above average intelligence is not one of them.

    Mike

  20. Jenos Idanian says:

    @MBunge: “Their” is an assumption of Romney’s intelligence based on similar criteria for Obama’s intelligence — Romney earned a joint JD/MBA from Harvard. He was in the top third of law graduates, and in the top five percent of his business class.

    That smart enough for you?