Richard Milhous Nixon said in 1968 that the war in Vietnam was the critical concern of that year’s presidential contest, the one issue that had to be addressed by the candidates. And he addressed it with a “secret plan” to end the war. No details during the campaign, the Republican nominee for president explained; voters just needed to trust him and he would cut the right deals once elected.
Paul Ryan says in 2012 that budgeting to cut taxes for the rich while at the same time doing away with deficits is the critical issue of the presidential contest, the one that has to be addressed by the candidates. And he addresses the issue with a secret plan to cut taxes and balance budgets. No details during the campaign, the Republican nominee for vice president explains; voters just need to trust him and he will cut the right deals once elected.
In the most remarkable exchange of the only vice presidential debate of 2012 came when moderator Martha Raddatz said to Ryan: “You have refused…to offer specifics on how you pay for that 20 percent across-the-board tax cut. Do you actually have the specifics? Or are you still working on it, and that’s why you won’t tell voters?
That’s where Ryan borrowed a political page from “Tricky Dick”:
RYAN: Different than this administration, we actually want to have big bipartisan agreements. You see, I understand the…
RADDATZ: Do you have the specifics? Do you have the… Do you know exactly what you’re doing?
RYAN: Look—look at what Mitt Romney—look at what Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill did. They worked together out of a framework to lower tax rates and broaden the base, and they worked together to fix that.
What we’re saying is, here’s our framework. Lower tax rates 20 percent. We raised about $1.2 trillion through income taxes. We forego about $1.1 trillion in loopholes and deductions. And so what we’re saying is, deny those loopholes and deductions to higher-income taxpayers so that more of their income is taxed, which has a broader base of taxation so we can lower tax rates across the board. Now, here’s why I’m saying this. What we’re saying is, here’s the framework…
We want to work with Congress—we want to work with the Congress on how best to achieve this. That means successful. Look…
RADDATZ: No specifics, again.
RYAN: Mitt—what we’re saying is, lower tax rates 20 percent, start with the wealthy, work with Congress to do it…
RADDATZ: And you guarantee this math will add up?
That was it. No specifics. No plan. Just a plea for voters to trust Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to “fill in the details.”
Vice President Biden, who was already well aware that he was winning the debate he had to win after last week’s presidential debate debacle, pounced. Displaying the skills that would lead 50 percent of undecided voters to tell pollsters that Biden won the debate, while only 31 percent picked Ryan, the experienced vice president hit the inept pretender with the obligatory “I was there when Ronald Reagan tax breaks—he gave specifics” line.