Not Mitt, not Newt
The Daily Oklahoman used Sunday morning's editorial to shout at Oklahoma Republicans to rally 'round Mitt Romney. In a nutshell, the editorialists said we need to stop wasting time flirting with other possibilities. We need to forgo the frivolous notion of a competitive primary season. Instead, ve musst alles goosestep in lockstep in support of the Only Candidate Who Can Restore America's Greatness. "Now!" they shouted. Heil Romney!
Yes, that is the wire-service photo that the Oklahoman used to illustrate their online endorsement. My copy appears to have a rectangular smudge.
We in the Heartland wait and watch as the Republican debates rage on -- as if we will all text in our votes and pick a winner to stay on the island. This must stop! It is maddening to those of us with strong conservative convictions in the middle of the country. It is enabling Obama to fatten what is already the plumpest campaign war chest in history while the Republicans drain their resources battling each other.
We believe in the primary system, but even a good system can be detrimental when carried too far. To unseat the incumbent, we need total focus on November, not sideshow politics that will dilute the Republican efforts.
Hear that, Republican grassroots volunteers, contributors, and voters? Your deliberating about the best candidate for our party's nomination is mere "sideshow politics." Resistance is futile! You will be assimilated!
Good people do the right thing at the right time regardless of party politics. They don't wait for others. The time to unite behind Romney is now, not after Iowa or New Hampshire or the Oklahoma primary in early March. Now!
"Dad-blast it! I said, now! now! now! you cretinous mob!"
I was fascinated to see that there was a joint editorial meeting involving Romney and the Oklahoman and the Washington Examiner. Were Oklahoman editorial writers summoned to Washington for an audience? Or were they conferenced in on speakerphone? Did Oklahoma not even rate a visit for an endorsement?
There has been a steady stream of Romney endorsements in recent days. It's almost as if a desperate candidate, conscious that he is no longer regarded as inevitable, conscious that a majority of Republican voters want someone besides him to win the nomination, is trying to restart the bandwagon. What do you suppose he is saying behind the scenes to these editorial boards and elected officials to get them to jump to his side?
Even columnist Ann Coulter has gone from saying Romney would lead us to sure defeat against Obama to saying he's the most conservative candidate in the race and the best one to beat Obama, while insulting conservative Tea Party voters in the process.
Romney's fluidity in moving from one position to its near opposite on social and fiscal issues makes it hard for me to trust him. In 2007, Joan Venocchi of the Boston Globe documented Romney's extreme flip-flops on abortion.
Paul Rahe says Romney a chameleon and documents even more statements of the earlier version of Romney which contradict the current Romney's views on a wide range of issues. Rahe's conclusion is that he can't be trusted and that he's not that hot a candidate anyway.
I cannot see how any conservative can support Mitt Romney. I can see how conservatives might vote for him - certainly, if he is the only alternative to Barack Obama, and also if there is no other plausible Republican candidate, as Ramesh Ponnuru argues on National Review Online. But if we do vote for him, we should not lie to ourselves about what we are doing, and we should keep the heat on him if he is elected.
I should perhaps add that I do not regard Mitt Romney as a shoo-in. He is not an especially accomplished politician. He is a man who won one election. When he ran for Senate, he lost. When he considered running for re-election as Governor, he chose not to do so because he knew that he would lose. When he ran for the Republican nomination in 2008, he lost. If you watch his debate with Ted Kennedy and his interview with Bret Baier and consider the manner in which he misrepresented Romneycare in the Las Vegas debates, you can see why he lost. His responses, when he is not mouthing boilerplate that he has memorized, seem contrived. He is evasive and sometimes petulant. One can see him calculating with regard to what would best play with the general public, and what he says and does is often inept. He often looks like what he is: a man with no political principles who is pandering, and he is actually pretty bad at pandering. He is not quick in discerning which way the wind is blowing. He spent the last four years preparing for the 2011/12 campaign, and he blundered and blundered badly in the manner in which he positioned himself for the race. It is perfectly possible that Barack Obama will make mincemeat of him in a televised debate. Ted Kennedy did.
Michael Barone, who went to high school with Romney, relates a quote from a Romney colleague:
Asked by friends what Romney was really like, one Bain Capital veteran responded, "Which four or five of the Romneys do you mean?"
Flexibility of strategy and tactics are fine; flexibility of principle is not.
Rahe writes that Newt Gingrich is no better than Romney -- the two are "peas in a pod":
In short, Gingrich is a lot like Romney. Neither man recognizes that the source of our problems is government meddling and the distortion that this produces in what would otherwise be a free and relatively efficient market. What they think of as a cure is, in fact, the disease. Fannie and Freddie, with the help of a Federal Reserve Board that kept interest rates artificially low for a very long time, produced the subprime mortgage bubble and the subsequent economic crash. If healthcare is outrageously expensive and health insurance can be hard to get, it is because of the manner in which the federal and state governments structure and regulate the market. What these managerial progressives in their desperation to manage the lives of the rest of us fail to understand is that the intellectual presumption underpinning the aspiration to "rational administration" that they embrace is the principal cause of our woes....
It is a scandal that the Republican Party cannot do better than these two at a time of opportunity like the one in which we live.
So, for me, it's not enough merely to replace Obama: He's a symptom of the problem, rather than the underlying cause. The ship of state has become encrusted with barnacles upon barnacles, and, if the next guy isn't committed to getting rid of them, we're still going to sink....
This next term is critical for America, not just because (if the IMF is correct) it may mark the end of America's long run as the world's leading economy but because, if Obamacare is not repealed in the next four years, it will never be repealed.... Once the Obamacare goodies kick in, getting back across the Rubicon will be a tough job. Nothing in Mitt's past suggests he's got either the stomach for that fight or the savvy to win it....
So, if these are "crazy and extraordinary times," go with the crazy, right? Newt certainly thinks bigger than Mitt, but unfortunately he thinks in the same direction of unbounded micro-managerial faux-technocracy.
Steyn's concluding paragraph sums up the reason behind my futile attempt to get Tom Coburn to file for the Oklahoma primary. It seems we're stuck with two mediocre choices before the voting begins (and it has nothing to do with Mitt's Mormonism or Newt's adultery):
It's a tragedy that the Republican nomination has dwindled down to a choice not worth making. Yet not a single real vote has yet been cast. Iowa and New Hampshire will do us all a favor if they look beyond the frontrunners and keep genuinely conservative candidates in the game.
Me? I'm pulling for Santorum.
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