Mitt the Competent — Mitt the Candidate

I’ve noted in the past that I really, really like competence and the ability to take responsibility, both in the people who surround me and, especially, in the people who are tasked with guiding me. I’ve also noted that Mitt’s Mormonism isn’t a problem for me, and that it shouldn’t be a problem for people who are more religious than I am (something Dennis Prager has tackled too).  I’ve been forgiving of his changed positions on abortion, because I understand those changes, having moved along that trajectory myself over the years.

Mona Charen now points to his spectacular achievements, achievements made all the more impressive by the fact that he makes it look easy:

But then Romney has been masterful in everything he has attempted. It is not insignificant that this cum laude JD/MBA graduate of Harvard guided Bain Capital to become a hugely successful private equity investment firm and rescued Bain & Company from financial collapse. Romney was brought in to save the 2002 Winter Olympics when the games were mired in scandal and $379 million in debt. Romney was able to turn the situation around completely so that the games actually turned a $100 million profit instead. (He also gave back his salary.) That’s not slick, that’s substance.

When Mitt Romney took office as governor of Massachusetts, the state had a $1.2 billion deficit. Four years later it was in surplus. He boasts that fourth and eighth graders in Massachusetts achieved the highest scores in the nation in reading and math, though they were doing so before he became governor as well. But his program of assessment, merit pay for good teachers, English immersion and a focus on math and science may have helped keep them at the top.

It is difficult to find any significant weakness in Romney. He is refreshingly articulate, exceedingly well prepared and self-disciplined, clearly an excellent manager with both private and government experience, happily married with a large, supportive family, and well within the mainstream of conservatism on every major issue. His nomination would not divide the base.

I also think that National Review is correct about the way in which his policies appeal to the broadest principles uniting conservatives (and you know that I care deeply about broad principles that ought to bind conservatives of all stripes):

Romney is an intelligent, articulate, and accomplished former businessman and governor. At a time when voters yearn for competence and have soured on Washington because too often the Bush administration has not demonstrated it, Romney offers proven executive skill. He has demonstrated it in everything he has done in his professional life, and his tightly organized, disciplined campaign is no exception. He himself has shown impressive focus and energy.

It is true that he has less foreign-policy experience than Thompson and (especially) McCain, but he has more executive experience than both. Since almost all of the candidates have the same foreign-policy principles, what matters most is which candidate has the skills to execute that vision.

Like any Republican, he would have an uphill climb next fall. But he would be able to offer a persuasive outsider’s critique of Washington. His conservative accomplishments as governor showed that he can work with, and resist, a Demo­crat­ic legislature. He knows that not every feature of the health-care plan he enacted in Massachusetts should be replicated nationally, but he can also speak with more authority than any of the other Republican candidates about this pressing issue. He would also have credibility on the economy, given his success as a businessman and a manager of the Olympics.

Some conservatives question his sincerity. It is true that he has reversed some of his positions. But we should be careful not to overstate how much he has changed. In 1994, when he tried to unseat Ted Kennedy, he ran against higher taxes and government-run health care, and for school choice, a balanced budget amendment, welfare reform, and “tougher measures to stop illegal immigration.” He was no Rockefeller Republican even then.

We believe that Romney is a natural ally of social conservatives. He speaks often about the toll of fatherlessness in this country. He may not have thought deeply about the political dimensions of social issues until, as governor, he was confronted with the cutting edge of social liberalism. No other Republican governor had to deal with both human cloning and court-imposed same-sex marriage. He was on the right side of both issues, and those battles seem to have made him see the stakes of a broad range of public-policy issues more clearly. He will work to put abortion on a path to extinction. Whatever the process by which he got to where he is on marriage, judges, and life, we’re glad he is now on our side — and we trust him to stay there.

As I noted above with reference to abortion, I’m untroubled by Romney’s changed positions over the years because two things have happened:  (1) the world has changed dramatically since 9/11 and (2) he’s grown older.  As to the first, it signals his intelligence that, in the face of drastic changes at home and abroad, he is capable of revisiting positions and recognizing that they are no longer viable, something the 60s liberals are utterly incapable of doing.  This is not flip-flopping, because these appear to me to be principled changes reflecting reality, rather than any desperate attempt to keep to the right side of the polls.  In this regard, no one should forget that, before the Nazis, Churchill was a liberal.  And as to the second, we all know that people often settle into more conservative positions as they age as they grew in wisdom, stability and experience.

I think Giuliani is great and would happily vote for him as against any Democratic candidate.  I’m more lukewarm about Thompson and McCain, but would still happily vote for them as against anyone the Democrats field.  I could not vote for either Huckabee or Paul.

With regard to Huckabee, as I’ve said before, I’m sure he’s a very, very nice, good man, but am troubled by his aggressive Christianity, which indicates that he wants to become the nation’s pastor, rather than a Christian man who is president; his compassion run amok, which sees him pardoning evil people left and right (which is fine for an ordinary Christian, but profoundly dangerous for a political leader); his apparent greediness, which recalls another Arkansas governor’s conduct; his profound ignorance of and lack of curiosity about foreign affairs; the religious bigotry he displays in his attacks toward Romney; and his desire to have government police every aspect of my private life, including my diet.  All of these things frighten me about him, and make him every bit as dangerous in my view as a big-government liberal.  It would be the 1990s all over again, except with more God references.

And as for RuPaul, er, Ron Paul, his fellow travelers tell me too much about the man.  He may be talking out loud as a libertarian, but there’s some subliminal code out there that is drawing to him every racist, neo-Nazi, American supremacist, antisemite in America. With that kind of baggage, who needs him?

And so I’m going to second National Review and endorse Romney.  Failing some scandal or meltdown, I agree with the National Review that he is the most broadly conservative candidate and the most competent candidate.  I’m also going to put my faith in the American conservative movement and assume that, in a race between Romney and any Democratic candidate, people who have doubts about Mormons will be able to put those doubts aside and vote for the candidate whose values and political outlook are most closely aligned with theirs.

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Comments

  1. jj says

    I’m a Giuliani enthusiast, having lived through his years in NY when he just absolutely turned the place 180 degrees and it became livable again – but I woiuldn’t have a horrid time with Romney.

    The Republicans have two guys (and they’ll be the two guys – Huckleberry’s cute, but in the realistic long term, forget it) either of whom would strike most fair-minded people as being eminently up to the job, and just fine.

    The dems? Hillary’s concept of “experience” is thirty years of controlling bimbo eruptions (which is what she’s genuinely experienced in) and , apparently, a few trips on Air Force One. This woman has precisely one item on her resume: “married to him.” That’s it.

    Obama is even less experienced than she is – remember what a laughing-stock Dan Quayle was based on his “lack of experience?” He’d served two terms in Congress, and one in the Senate – which is eight more years of experience in governance than Obama has. So how come the MSM doesn’t laugh at Obama’s pretensions?

    Either Romney or Giuliani – both are fine. Both are infinitely more prepared for the job than any democrat currently in sight. In fact, compared to their proven ability, experience, etc. the two most prominent democrats are at best poseurs and clowns.

    Not that that’ll stop our highly educated, broadly informed, and deeply thoughtful electorate from electing one of them…

  2. Danny Lemieux says

    I’m certainly leaning toward Romney but not quite there, yet. Giuliani is my second choice. I would vote for Huckleby only if I had to in order to vote against the Democrats.

  3. mish says

    Mitt Romney’s Mormonism IS a big problem for me. So either I’m a bigot, or perhaps I know more about Mormonism than you?

    First, would a man’s Wahhabi Islam be a problem for you, were he running for President? If not, there’s no point in going on. A man’s faith cannot help but influence his thoughts. Wahhabi’s want to kill the infidels and destroy Israel. Why would you want a President given those known, documented, predispositions? Or how about Scientologist Tom Cruise for President? Would it be wrong to say he’s wacky?

    If we’re agreed so far, then what about the oath of allegiance Mormons swear to their church during their temple ceremony, known as the Law of Consecration? There they swear to God to do all they can to establish a Mormon theocracy. Even atheists who were former Mormons are warning about this.

    Third, you should hear Mormons at their fast and testimony meetings demonstrate their heartfelt belief that some man named Gordon B. Hinckley (in Salt Lake) is God’s oracle on earth. They really believe this, even if you and I don’t. How can Mitt Romney NOT seek advice from his living prophet?

    It’s all documented at http://romneyforpresident.townhall.com/

    Like Mormonism, the blog isn’t what it seems. (Can I say that here?)

    Funny photos too!

  4. Ellie says

    I am troubled that Romney is tongue-tied when he is surprised. He seems over-rehearsed to me. It appears that he is passionate only icw his religion. This all indicates to me that he is not being spontaneous, honest with us.

    Any person who brags that he has never had a fight with his wife of 38 years is either clueless or controlling. So I’m sticking with the devil I know. If Romney is the nominee, I’ll look again.

  5. expat says

    mish,
    There is a difference in being born into a religion and converting to one. In the first case, one has his life experience of how that religion has been interpreted by family and community and how it has provided a foundation for values and morality. Conversions can also be based on experiencing how the new religion has affected its practitioners, but there is a rationality hurdle to be overcome. However, some conversions can occur because of rebellion, group pressure or similarly superficial grounds.
    BW,
    My thinking is very similar to yours on Romney. I think the country could use a time with a calm, competent, intelligent grown-up in charge. I also think he could defend his values rationally without having to rely on a theological argument that may not resonate with the wider population.

  6. Ellie says

    I am listening to WABC radio in NY. They are asserting that the likely nominees of both parties (Hill/Mitt) create the “perfect storm” for an independant run.

    I agree.

  7. Marguerite says

    Mish – I think Romney is well aware that we do not live in a theocracy here – we are a religious nation with a secular government. I know a bit about Mormons and am not impressed w/everything I’ve seen or all that they believe. But I do think he would be able to separate church and state. I can’t say that for the secular ‘progressives’ who wish the state to draft policy to force unbelievers to sing in their choir.

  8. mish says

    Marguerite:

    I rarely get into debates in blog comments, much preferring to talk one on one so I can know better where you’re coming form.Having said that, a short retort.

    While it’s nice of you to think (hope, believe?) Mitt Romney can separate church and state, I can only submit that you must not know Mormons very well or what it’s like to be in a cult. I know that’s circular – so let me try to give examples.

    Numerous examples of Mormon federal judges n Utah sitting in cases directly involving their church as a party, ruling in favor of their church, only to be overturned on appeal.

    Sitting on a case where you are associated with one of the parties is against the law. 28 U.S.C. S144. Yet Mormon judges steadfastly refuse to recuse, believing, like you, they can remain impartial. But if you’re on the losing, non-church side, wouldn’t you question their impartiality? The best (worst) example of this so far is Judge Ted Stewart, who finally recused himself after numerous requests, a writ of mandamus, a 3rd judge intervening, etc. Google for yourself and see.

    But step back and ask yourself if a KKK member can separate his thoughts that blacks are animals. He is inherently incapable of doing so, just as an Arab is incapable of rationally thinking about Jews. But no one in a cult knows they’re in a cult, so asking them if they’re biased is pointless. I trust you wouldn’t want Tom Cruise for Surgeon General of the US (as Psychiatry expert) even if Cruise insists he’s not in a cult and can think clearly about metal health issues.

    I assume you do not live in Utah? There, even if you didn’t know Mormon theology, you would know how Mormons think and how they often misuse their power in government for their members and church.. Better to play it safe and not vote a Mormon in the White House. In this case, Mitt Romney.

    Ellie:

    Search that romneyforpresident blog. There’s a post with a Stepford Wives photo. It explains why Mitt and Ann may never have had a fight.

    In Mormonism, the husband has to call the wife up from the dead. If she’s not pleasing to him, he may not call her up. There is a GREAT amount of pressure to be the “perfect” wife in Mormonism. If you know any Mormon women, you can see this for yourself. Their hair is always perfect, etc.

    Expat:

    I agree with your first observation, but don’t know where you were going with it. In any event, Mitt Romney is what we call a “True Believing Mormon.” He is a generational Mormon, thoroughly entrenched in it. It has skewed his earliest thoughts before he knew he had any. The indoctrination into Mormonism by Mormon families is difficult for regular Americans to conceive. I know a former Mormon who still has revelations about what they put in her head. It’s hard for her to know what “normal” is, having never been normal. It is overwhelming.

    This indoctrination cannot help but skew Romney’s thinking as President in ways that we, and not even he, is aware of. But, for example, when you believe that Jesus is going to rule and reign from Independence, MO, that must certainly affect how you think about Israel and the Mid-East, just as Biblical prophecy affects my thinking about such things. (In my defense, no one is telling me what to believe. I read the Bible by myself outside of any organization.)

    Okay gang, sorry to hit and run, but gotta go. It’s going to be a busy month until the Primaries are over. Thanks for letting me participate.

    Google around for yourselves about Mormonism, not so much for the theology, but how it affects the adherents. Target the ex-mo groups. They have the best stories detailing the control they were under.

  9. says

    Romney looks like the guy on Leave it Beaver. Giuliani looks like Nosferatu and with racist Judeosupremacists like Daniel Pipes and Norman Podhoretz guiding his foreign policy decisions he is sure to be even crazier than George Bush.

  10. says

    Romney is not a Utah Mormon (LDS), meaning he is probably not an extremist. My partner was raised LDS in Utah, and I’ve spent some quality time with Mormons. (Those Mormon girls from Moraga were really into sex back when I was a teen in the Sea Scouts.) I’m fine hanging out with Mormons, they fit well into American society. They are hard working and polite. But they have some serious loony-tune ideas.
    If Romney wins the primary he will lose the general election. The reason? Ex-Mormons who feel they have escaped from an evil cult will become a vocal opposition. There is a whole heck of a lot of them and they are well organized on the internet. Ex-Catholics, for instance, don’t particularly want to associate with each other, but Ex-Mormons bond over having escaped a cult.
    My partner has sworn that she will not vote for a Mormon under any circumstances.

  11. Deana says

    The Mormons I have met have all been very devoted to their families, hard-working, dedicated to excellence, and kind. Romney strikes me as being very competent and not prone to nonsense so while he isn’t the perfect candidate for me, I wouldn’t be upset with him.

    I admit, though, that I do not know much about Mormonism. But is the reason there is such concern about what influence might be exercised by Mormons with Romney as President, is it because something like that has been happening while he has been governor of MA? Is there any basis for this with him?

  12. says

    Outside of the partisan heat we are standing in, there is very little substantive difference between Obama, Clinton, Romney, Guiliani, and Bush for that matter. Romney is a left of center Republican. We don’t know if he has taken orders from the Mormon Living Prophet because that would be a secret. But Mormons do take orders from the Prophet and form local bishops.
    But let’s face it, America loves religion but we could not elect an Haradi Orthodox Jew, an Opes Dei Catholic, a Jehovis Witness or Christian Scientist who refused medical care to their own child…this list could go on.
    If Romney has a chance it is in convincing people that he is a weak uncommited Mormon, and likes the TV show Big Love!

  13. jj says

    Everybody has looney-tune ideas, Scott. Take a run through Deuteronomy chapter 13, which deals with how Jews (and presumably Christians, since they left it in), are supposed to handle people (even their own children) who disagree with them on matters religious and tell me how it differs from the kindly strictures of Islam. Not much forgiveness in sight, is there?

    But that’s a chapter that Jews and Christians have matured sufficiently to ignore. (Though one wonders if God agrees with that viewpoint – they are after all allegedly his words!)

    The point is all religions, if you go and read the fine print, feature chapters, ideas, and doctrines that are clearly insane and fit nowhere in the modern world. (Or any other world, most of ‘em.) They all have things to just not talk about very much, or rather shamefacedly change the subject when they come up; and this is what most people do.

    So, I suspect, does Mitt. He takes what he values from it in terms of his personal morality, but chooses to have only one wife, and I doubt he pays more mind to Gordon Hinckley than most Catholics do the pope, or most Buddhists do the Dalai Lama.

    Gordon was elected or apointed – or even anointed – by a process no less weird than the pope was (else how did everyone know who it was going to be well before the conclave started?) and probably considerably LESS weird than the process that anointed the Dalia Lama.

    Mitt is a fairly astute guy, he’s aware that he’s running for President and not Great Bird of the Galaxy.

  14. says

    What matters to me is how many enemies of America Mitt is willing to kill.

    I wouldn’t say that that is all that matters to me, but it is a primary component underlying all else. Just as Bush’s compassionate conservative component fuels most of his foreign and domestic policies.

  15. says

    (Though one wonders if God agrees with that viewpoint – they are after all allegedly his words!)

    That is the fundamental problem with all Revealed Religions. How do you know that the words written down by human beings really were from God or not?

  16. Al says

    Well, I’ve learned a hell of a lot more about the Mormon religion in this string than in the last 59 odd years. It’s a young denomination and growing. Unlike my chosen denomination, Episcopalian, which is shrinking. As the American branch of the British version of Catholicism, we’re far too polite to force our perspectives on someone else. And maybe we should alter that behavior. It is a good perspective and a good group of people.
    When JFK was elected, my father declared loudly the country was in trouble. He had endured the Catholic bigotry in Jersey City in the late 1910s. While JFK’s handling of Cuba had a rocky start, his (shush) conservative economic
    policies strengthened the nation. Romney’s success in “Taxachussettets” bodes well for his success on a larger scale. And yes, there is more to being President than just the economy. But he has learned how to improve his part of the planet constructively, allowing for most of the caciphoney of competing voices to agree. So, I don’t think he will try to push us toward a Theocracy.
    However, my take from this string and other sources is that Mit could have as much anti Romney baggage as Clinton has anti Hillary baggage. I would hate to see what the MSM would do with some of the comments on this string.
    My guy is Rudy. He is a liberal Republican, which makes him problematic for many in the party. But we must win this. And Rudy can do it. My only problem with his campaign is that he seems to be only talking about terrorism. He has many achievements to boast of, which will excite conservatives. He has a twelve point policy statement which touches on most of the major issues. He turned the crime rate around in NYC by enforcing the laws on the books.(radical concept) He grew the economy by lowering taxes. (an anathema to Liberals) He is positive and forward looking. Then again, my perception of Rudy’s campaign may have been influenced by our friends in the MSM.
    It’s going to be a verrrrry interesting year.
    Al

  17. BrianE says

    With regard to Huckabee, as I’ve said before, I’m sure he’s a very, very nice, good man, but am troubled by his aggressive Christianity, which indicates that he wants to become the nation’s pastor, rather than a Christian man who is president; his compassion run amok, which sees him pardoning evil people left and right (which is fine for an ordinary Christian, but profoundly dangerous for a political leader); his apparent greediness, which recalls another Arkansas governor’s conduct; his profound ignorance of and lack of curiosity about foreign affairs; the religious bigotry he displays in his attacks toward Romney; and his desire to have government police every aspect of my private life, including my diet. All of these things frighten me about him, and make him every bit as dangerous in my view as a big-government liberal. It would be the 1990s all over again, except with more God references

    I’m not particularly a fan of Huckabee, but I find this paragraph troubling. I wonder how you came to these conclusions, since we know the reliability of the media at conveying facts.
    Given your characterizations “aggressive Christianity”, “compassion run amok”, “pardoning evil”, “apparent greediness”, “profound ignorance”, “religious bigotry”, “frighten me”, “dangerous”, I find it hard to believe you really believe he’s a “very very nice, good man”.

    The only two of those accusations I feel qualified to comment on is his “aggressive Christianity” and “religious bigotry”. He’s a former pastor, so being comfortable with what he believes and willing to share that shouldn’t be labeled as aggressive, IMHO.

    As to his comments about Mormonism, what he said is accurate. Mormonism bears little resemblance to historical Christianity. The God they worship is different, the Savior they profess is different, and their view of history, their view of sin, etc. are all distinct. If pointing that out makes you a bigot, I guess we have different definitions of bigotry.

    IIRC, Huckabee’s comments about Mormon theology came at a time when folks were implying that Mormonism and Christianity were not so different. If he pointed out the differences for political reasons, that makes him a politician, not a bigot, IMHO.

    As to Romney, mish makes good points, though my inclination would be to vote for him anyway if he were the Republican candidate. As I said during the last election, we’re voting for President, not Pastor in Chief. I don’t know how committed he is to the Mormon faith, but I suspect he is a Mormon more by birth than belief. What a quandary that would put all those libertarian types, who disdain religion so much.

    I didn’t support Huckabee in the last election because I question whether he’s electable. If I had had my choice, Newt would be president, but I don’t think he’s electable either. And neither are in that position because of what they believe but because the caricature of created myth will be too hard to overcome.

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