Political Capital with John Harwood

A Willful Distortion

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney is a big (and very rich) boy, and has earned some of the shots that have come his way in the 2008 presidential race. Most prominent among them have been barbs at the evident calculations he has made in flip-flopping on key issues to appeal to the conservative Republican base.

But the jabs at his comment last night on presidential authority to use force -- which have come from pundits and rivals alike --  can only be made by those making a calculated decision to ignore what Romney actually said and its obvious meaning.

Yes, Romney said he would "sit down with your attorneys."

But he said it by way of DISMISSING its importance as an obstacle. That was clear when he immediately followed the lawyers reference with, "Obviously the president of the U.S. has to do what's in the best interest of the U.S. to protect us against a potential threat."

In other words, the plain import of Romney's words was that he would act if he deemed it necessary whatever the lawyers said. This is also the view of the Bush administration, which last time I checked hadn't abolished the White House Counsel's office.

To suggest that Romney was articulating a different view is simply to grab hold of a cheap hook -- only Democratic sissies care what lawyers think -- and run with it despite the fact that Romney was espousing the Bush position on this question.

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