A tough discussion about 'hard truths' in the presidential race

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Today, Tribune columnist Eric Zorn debates the 2012 presidential race with conservative activist Chris Robling, a WGN-TV commentator and former executive director of the Cook County Republican Party.

To Chris, from Eric:

On the first night of the recent Republican National Convention, a thrill went up my leg toward the end of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's speech.

"Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to put us back on the path to growth and create good paying private sector jobs again in America," Christie thundered when he at last got around to mentioning your party's presidential nominee. "Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to end the torrent of debt that is compromising our future and burying our economy.

"Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to end the debacle of putting the world's greatest health care system in the hands of federal bureaucrats," and so on.

At last, a candidate willing to level with us about the painful choices ahead!

But of course Romney told no "hard truths" in his speech two nights later. Instead, he gave us the old promise that a generous application of Republican fairy dust — lower taxes and fewer regulations — will magically, painlessly usher in boom times.

But really. Aside from Big Bird, assorted welfare queens and government educrats, who is going to face "hard truths" should Romney be elected? What sacrifices, if any, are people like you, me and Christie going to make?

To Eric, from Chris:

Here is perhaps the hardest truth of all: Things cannot continue as they are.

A senior House Republican who visited here a few weeks ago told donors that if Republicans win across the board this fall, he anticipates tough elections in 2014 and 2016 "because we will make hard calls."

Romney will not allow 23 million people to be un- and underemployed. That means he'll have to change the status quo that has kept the unemployment rate higher than 8 percent for more than 40 months.

His selection of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate shows Romney's willingness to face our fiscal unsustainability squarely. What harder truths are there than third-rail issues such as Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid?

Romney and Ryan have hugged them. President Barack Obama has hidden from them and the recommendations of the panels he commissioned to study them.

Romney will not allow federal spending to perdure at one-quarter of our national economy. He will ratchet that back to one-fifth, at most, which will spur the economy.

Our tax code is a snug harbor filled with safe havens — each built, line-by-excruciating-line, by the most inside of insiders for every special-interest group on Capitol Hill. When Romney says he will cut preferences to broaden the base and lower the marginal rates, it shows up on countless D.C. radar screens as an incoming disruptive threat to the old ways of doing business.

Obama promised change. Romney's hard truth is that he must deliver it.

To Chris, from Eric:

On Medicare, the latest proposal from Romney/Ryan is to let tomorrow's seniors stay in the traditional program if they don't like the idea of getting an insurance coupon instead. What's the "hard truth" there?

As for Social Security and Medicaid, they're designed to assist the elderly and the poor. So I guess those constituencies will learn the meaning of "hard truth." But who else? Who else will go wanting when Romney whacks federal spending by 20 percent?

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Editorial Poll


Andy Green, the opinion editor, has taken the "know a little bit about everything" approach in his time at The Sun. He was the city/state editor before coming to the editorial board, and prior to that he covered the State House and Baltimore County government.

Tricia Bishop, the deputy editorial page editor, was a reporter in the business and metro sections covering biotechnology, education and city and federal courts prior to joining the board.

Peter Jensen, former State House reporter and features writer, takes the lead on state government, transportation issues and the environment; he is the board's resident funny man and capital schmooze.

Glenn McNatt, who returned to editorial writing after serving as the newspaper's art critic, keeps an eye on the arts, culture, politics and the law for the editorial board.

Portland's potty water problem [Poll]

The Portland (Oregon) Water Bureau ordered 38 million gallons of clean, potable water drained after a smirking teen-ager urinated in a reservoir. Was that an overreaction?

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