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.