In a classic case of  “the pot calling the kettle black”, President Obama this weekend accused GOP candidate Romney of holding extremist views which he will certainly implement if he is elected to our nation’s highest office.  He’s hypocritically right on one count, and, I hope, wrong on the other.

Extremism is a measurement of how far someone’s beliefs vary from some fixed point.  In most cases, that fixed point is called “the mainstream”–whatever that is.  How does one define mainstream?  Is it determined by use of public opinion polls, comparative voting records, historical analysis, or some other measurement?  Let me illustrate this point:  if I accept (as I do) the teachings of the Bible as clearly taught by a comprehensive, literal understanding of the Book, then from the standpoint of the Scriptures, I am not an extremist (for want of a better term, I guess I would be normal).  However, if the fixed point of reference is the religious beliefs of the average American today, I would be so far out of the ordinary that I would be called an extremist.

So is candidate Romney a political extremist?  When compared to President Obama, he certainly is.  When compared to the opinions of democrats who consider themselves progressives, liberals, or moderates, he certainly is.  When he is compared to the general population as portrayed in public opinion polls, he is somewhat extreme.

But if the same measure is used of President Obama, the same thing can be said of him.  He endorses and voted to maintain all forms of abortion, including the late-late-late term “partial birth abortion,” which opinion polls consistently oppose.  His voting records in the state legislature and in the Senate were so far out of the mainstream that his voting record was measured as the “most liberal” of all lawmakers during his terms.  His most recent budget proposal was so extreme that it did not receive a single vote in either house of Congress.  And I’m not even going to talk about what the average American would think about the President if they truly understood his agenda with regard to foreign policy, immigration, and welfare.

But Candidate Romney wants to see dramatic changes to Medicare–a stand not supported by the average citizen.  The scope of his proposed budgetary cuts scares a lot of Americans.  His economic proposals regarding the demonized large financial institutions would be opposed by a majority in a popular vote.  And since public opinion polls for the past two years have shown more support than opposition for gay marriages, I guess his position on the traditional family would be called extremist, too.

So let’s concede that Gov. Romney is at least as much an extremist as President Obama;  will he implement those beliefs in the form of policy changes?  The president is limited by the US Constitution as to what he can do.  Any policy change that affects a current law must be passed by both houses of Congress.  Any constitutional change must be approved by Congress and the state legislatures.  The powers of the President to implement a new agenda are limited by both the Congress and the US Supreme Court; and any candidate who promises to make sweeping changes upon election is blowing the smoke of wishful thinking into our faces.  (For example:  does Gov. Romney really believe that he has the power to repeal the Affordable Health Care law?  Congress might have something to say about that.)

Unless, of course, a president chose to ignore the Constitution and the laws; unless he ordered his executive departments NOT to enforce existing legislation; unless he were willing to assign the privileges of citizens to illegal immigrants; unless he were willing to ignore the 9th and 10th amendments; and the like.  It is hypothetically possible that a president could implement policies in such ways–but that would be beyond extremist; that would be radical.