Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Romney spending too much time on defense

By William J. Bennett, CNN Contributor
July 18, 2012 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Mitt Romney addresses a campaign rally Tuesday at Horizontal Wireline Services in Irwin, Pennsylvania.
Mitt Romney addresses a campaign rally Tuesday at Horizontal Wireline Services in Irwin, Pennsylvania.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • William Bennett: Too often Mitt Romney has been on the defensive in the campaign
  • He says Romney shouldn't apologize for his business experience but should trumpet it
  • Bennett: Romney's record in business compares well with Obama's handling of economy
  • Romney's health care program in Massachusetts was superior to Obama's health reform, he says

Editor's note: William J. Bennett, a CNN contributor, is the author of "The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood." He was U.S. secretary of education from 1985 to 1988 and director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H.W. Bush.

(CNN) -- In politics, if you're not on offense, you're on defense.

Lately, Mitt Romney's campaign has been spending too much time on the defensive, fighting off allegations of outsourcing at Bain Capital, a suggestion from the Obama campaign that he might have committed a felony, and tax return demands. It's time to go on offense.

When it comes to Bain Capital, Romney shouldn't wallow in the vagaries of Securities and Exchange Commission filings or when his tenure ended or began. He should proudly trumpet his business experience in the private sector in its entirety.

Bain Capital used private money to invest in and rebuild companies. Some companies failed, but an even larger number succeeded, and those failures didn't leave the American taxpayers with the bill, like Solyndra.

William J. Bennett
William J. Bennett

Across the board, Romney had a "sterling business career," and those are President Bill Clinton's words, not mine. Would anyone say the same thing about President Barack Obama's tenure as the CEO of the American economy?

Being on offense means that Romney must proactively push his conservative bona fides, not with personal attacks against his opponent, but with bold, reasoned arguments that cast his vision as the preferred vision for the country. This means putting the tax return issue behind him one way or the other, either by releasing them in full or closing the door permanently. And this also means tackling head-on the areas he is most reluctant to address, particularly health care.

Borrowing from the wisdom of Mona Charen, Romney must explain to the American people that Romneycare was by no means the same as Obamacare. It was a state, not federal, mandate, and the law itself was less than 200 pages, while Obamacare was more than 2,000. Obama's plan involves more than 100 new boards and commissions; what could be one of the largest tax increases in American history; an unelected rationing board (the Independent Payment Advisory Board), whose role is to control Medicare costs; Department of Health and Human Services-mandated contraception coverage; cuts to Medicare; a massive expansion of Medicaid -- a system already burdened by high costs and poor care; a large expansion of the Internal Revenue Service; and an HHS secretary granted wide, ambiguous enforcement powers.

Ad war likely to get even uglier
Obama: Big money no match for Americans
Romney doubles down on tax returns
Obama ad slams Romney on outsourcing

For those without insurance Romney preferred bond payments to a mandate. In particular, he vetoed an employer mandate, coverage for illegal immigrants and the Public Health Council, an Independent Payment Advisory Board-like bureaucracy. His vetoes were overridden by the Democratic Legislature, and his objections to the mandate disregarded. Romney did sign the original bill, and he can be faulted for not foreseeing the changes Democrats would make to it, but to consider Romneycare and Obamacare equals of any sort is wrong.

Romney's instincts in Massachusetts were conservative, and yet a large portion of the American public doesn't know that or thinks otherwise -- a problem that comes from letting the media or opponents set the terms of the debate. Rather than constantly fighting off fastballs, Romney needs to start throwing some of his own.

Ronald Reagan, with his candor and ever-sunny disposition, was a master at staying on offense by talking directly to the American people, not the talking heads. Romney can do the same and has demonstrated that already.

Last week at the NAACP convention in Houston, Romney delivered his best speech of the campaign so far. He spoke courageously, clearly and directly to the black community. "I am running for president because I know that my policies and vision will help millions of middle class Americans of all races, will lift people from poverty, and will help prevent people from becoming poor in the first place. My campaign is about helping the people who need help. The course the president has set won't do that. My course will," Romney declared. Now that's going on offense.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of William J. Bennett.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
Stuart Gitlow says pot is addictive and those who smoke it can experience long-term psychiatric disease.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1645 GMT (0045 HKT)
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
July 29, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
Alan Elsner says Secretary Kerry's early cease-fire draft was leaked and presented as a final document, which served the interests of hard-liners on both sides who don't want the Gaza war to stop.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1818 GMT (0218 HKT)
Rick Francona says Israel seems determined to render Hamas militarily ineffective.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1743 GMT (0143 HKT)
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 2028 GMT (0428 HKT)
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1939 GMT (0339 HKT)
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1852 GMT (0252 HKT)
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1744 GMT (0144 HKT)
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1635 GMT (0035 HKT)
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2225 GMT (0625 HKT)
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1533 GMT (2333 HKT)
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1245 GMT (2045 HKT)
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1850 GMT (0250 HKT)
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1209 GMT (2009 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT