Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin wrote this morning that the media's coverage of the 2012 race is terrible because they're just not engaging with the substance of Mitt Romney's campaign. Citing Post columnist Ruth Marcus, she pegged "intellectual laziness" among the press as her chief concern: "I think 'intellectual laziness' in the media corps ('how much easier to critique a candidate's gaffe than to dissect his tax plan') is the most pervasive and serious issue."
Rubin's complaint was fortuitously timed for a couple of reasons.
First, it coincided with Alex Pareene's knife-edged examination of Rubin's own intellectual rigor. In short, Rubin's views on any given subject mirror those of Mitt Romney, which is to say that they're extremely malleable. Pareene wrote of Rubin's reaction to Romney's indecision on moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem:
"As for Jerusalem, it really is time to stop promising something that the U.S. can't and shouldn't deliver unilaterally," she wrote, in direct opposition to everything she'd ever written on the subject before. Romney has now, of course, come around again: He has made the pledge to move the embassy, and Rubin, predictably, has returned to her initial position.
Second, Rubin herself gave us a taste of that intellectual rigor this morning with her own "dissection" of Romney's economic proposals. Reading an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal from former Bush and current Romney economic adviser Glenn Hubbard, Rubin was impressed with the "four substantial policy initiatives" Hubbard laid out. Those allegedly substance-heavy policies are rote GOP boilerplate: Reduce federal spending, lower taxes, entitlement reform, and deregulation:
Stop runaway federal spending and debt. The governor's plan would reduce federal spending as a share of GDP to 20% -- its pre-crisis average -- by 2016. This would dramatically reduce policy uncertainty over the need for future tax increases, thus increasing business and consumer confidence.
Reform the nation's tax code to increase growth and job creation. The Romney plan would reduce individual marginal income tax rates across the board by 20%, while keeping current low tax rates on dividends and capital gains. The governor would also reduce the corporate income tax rate -- the highest in the world -- to 25%. In addition, he would broaden the tax base to ensure that tax reform is revenue-neutral.
Reform entitlement programs to ensure their viability. The Romney plan would gradually reduce growth in Social Security and Medicare benefits for more affluent seniors and give more choice in Medicare programs and benefits to improve value in health-care spending. It would also block grant the Medicaid program to states to enable experimentation that might better serve recipients.
Make growth and cost-benefit analysis important features of regulation. The governor's plan would remove regulatory impediments to energy production and innovation that raise costs to consumers and limit new job creation. He would also work with Congress toward repealing and replacing the costly and burdensome Dodd-Frank legislation and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Romney alternatives will emphasize better financial regulation and market-oriented, patient-centered health-care reform.
This counts as "substance?" What programs will Romney cut to get spending down? What does "broaden the tax base" mean? What will be put in place of the repealed health care law? Rubin didn't seem concerned.
To cap it off, she wrote: "The problem has not been a 'lack of ideas' or lack of 'details' by Romney." This after the Romney himself said he will not release details of his economic proposals until after he's elected.
"Intellectual laziness" indeed.