Eve of Michigan primary (and more pro and con on Romney)

Interviewed on C-SPAN, John Zogby says the Michigan race is too close to call. While Romney leads McCain by double digits among Republicans, Republicans make up less than half the people expected to vote in the Republican primary. Zogby says 17 percent of the voters in the Republican primary will be Democrats, and 35 percent Independents. That means that over half of the voters in the Republican party will be non-Republicans. Such a system is insane and an outrage and must come to an end.

If Romney wins solidly among Republicans but loses the primary because Democrats and Independents vote for McCain, how can anyone argue in good faith that he therefore ought to leave the race? Romney is running for the nomination of the Republican party, not for the nomination of the Independent party, not for the nomination of the Democratic party, and not for the nomination of the McCain party.

I just saw Romney speak at an economic club in Detroit and I say once again that in intelligence, energy, readiness to lead, and overall presidential qualities, he towers over the other Republican candidates. I am at a loss to understand the widespread hostility and contempt for this man.

- end of initial entry -

LA writes:

I do not take issue with people who feel that none of the “top-tier” Republican candidates this year is worth supporting. That’s a reasonable view, and, as someone who last voted for a Republican presidential nominee in 1992, it’s a view I am not far from myself. What I take issue with is the widespread inordinate hostility toward Romney, on both the left and the right, amounting to irrational bigotry.

RB writes:

You may want to consider certain representational characteristics of Romney that make him not only a target of the elite in the Establishment, but also trigger programmed responses from the voting public at large. Of course, there are some who will simply not vote for him because of his faith—but this doesn’t really explain or start to get to the heart of the matter. The reality is that Romney is a confident, intelligent, articulate, and successful white American man with a large family and deep moral convictions. These simple facts of his existence fly in the face of everything that has become America and the program to eliminate its white majority. Of course, I highly doubt that Romney is a ‘race conscious’ individual and he leaves much to be desired in terms of policy and on the issues, but he is a representation that triggers a negative response in those that are either against the white majority or those of the white majority who hate themselves enough to see him defeated—thus defeating themselves in the process.

The truly tragic part about this is that there seems to be a rather large percentage of Republican party voters that are deeply self-hating at a fundamental level of their existence.

LA replies:

I think there is something to what RB is saying. I cannot help but believe that a good deal of the irrational animus against Romney, the desire by so many people to denigrate him far beyond what he deserves, is triggered by the fact that he is a “together” individual, not a typical denizen of our messy culture.

LA writes:

A reader points out that Zogby assumes a much higher Democratic turnout than other pollsters, with 48 percent of the voters being Republican, and therefore puts McCain in the lead. Other pollsters predicts a much higher Republican percentage, and put Romney in the lead. See this.

Lawrence B. writes:

I’m not sure I would agree with the speculation that conservatives’ dislike of Romney largely boils down to self-loathing. With all the things you mention—“intelligence, energy, readiness to lead, and overall presidential qualities”—you don’t argue that Romney appears to be an authentic conservative. I believe that he comes off as inauthentic, and it’s that inauthentic quality that may be making it hard for some conservatives to support him. [LA replies: I have repeatedly stated since I first discussed Romney almost a year ago that he is not an authentic figure, politically that is (I think that as a man he is very solid, as a politician he is very malleable). I’ve also explained why, looked at in balance, that is not necessarily a fatal defect, especially given the much worse defects of the other candidates. We’re facing the likelihood of Hillary or Obama becoming president and attempting to socialize America. Should we not vote for their best opponent, because he’s insufficiently authentic?]

Honestly, I have serious reservations for supporting any Mormon for President, for religious reasons, but I also have concerns about Romney as an individual. For instance, I am deeply concerned about two things Romney said in his speech on religion. First:

“Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin.”

This is all very well and good, and precisely what a candidate for the White House should say and probably must say to get elected. But, and I stand to be corrected, I believe that Mormons believe their church’s president is a literal prophet from God: another Moses or Isaiah. If that’s true, and Romney understands this basic tenet of his faith, then he’s not being honest with somebody. Either he’s being dishonest with his church, in that he doesn’t really believe its president is a prophet through whom God could reveal a specific message to the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth; or he’s being dishonest with us, in that he believes his church’s president really is a prophet but that he’s telling us what we want to hear about the influence that prophet could exert.

Second, he said this:

“There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church’s distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution.”

This is not only complete nonsense, it’s a repulsive argument to make. To their discredit, National Review downplayed the outrageous nature of this statement, but even they acknowledged its inaccuracy:

“It may be unwise for many reasons for voters to expect political leaders to go into these details, but the Constitution has nothing to do with it: The religious-test clause prevents governments from barring people from running for office because of their religion; it lets voters make their decisions, and politicians try to influence their decisions, however they wish.”

Asking a presidential candidate questions about his faith isn’t unconstitutional. As a law school grad, Romney should know this, and I don’t know what’s more disturbing, the possibility that he misconstrues the Constitution so thoroughly or the possibility that he thinks he can lie to our faces about its contents.

But this I do know: either possibility puts a giant question mark on his fitness to lead, and no authentic conservative would ever argue that the Constitution puts that sort of limit on the people, that they can’t even ask political candidates whatever question they want. [LA replies: This is so typical of the anti-Romney phenomenon. Candidates make wrong and incorrect statements all the time; but Romney makes one incorrect statement, and boom, that totally disqualifies him! The book is closed on Romney! Have you ever thought of how many incorrect things Ronald Reagan said?]]

Looking at the general impression of the speech, it certainly has the appearance of a presidential address, so in that sense I can understand why Romney has Kathryn Lopez acting like a teenaged Justin Timberlake fan, but the details of the speech matter immensely. These details can’t be dismissed because the very qualities which are supposed to make Romney appealing—such as his intelligence and experience—should lead us to conclude that he’s careful in what he says and lead us to look more closely at what he says. Doing so, I see someone who’s saying what needs to be said to win the election, even if it flies in the face of his own religion’s doctrines or the actual contents of the Constitution. For that reason I’m not quick to conclude that people who have reservations about Romney are self-loathing or otherwise irrational. [LA replies: Lawrence B. expects us to believe that because Romney said he would not follow the dictates of the president of the Mormon church in his actions as president of the U.S. this in and of itself proves Romney to be dishonest and dishonorable and therefore he shouldn’t be president. That’s way too much to swallow; we don’t know that it means that. Again, politician make all kinds of inconsistent statements, but Romney makes one, and that disqualifies him. This carping, unfair over-reaction against Romney from so many quarters, this piling on against him, makes me take his side even more than I otherwise would do.]

Steven Warshawsky writes:

Although I prefer Rudy Giuliani to the other GOP candidates, Romney would be my second choice among this very flawed group.

What I am a surprised by, however, is how enthusiastic you are for Romney, despite the fact that his views and record are not very “conservative.”

For one, Romney is an outspoken supporter of President Bush’s “freedom and democracy” project in the Middle East. On his website, Romney actually states that the goal is to “change the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions of Muslims,” and that the way we can do this is, e.g., through “a new type of Marshall Plan” to bring development and human rights to the Middle East. No other candidate comes close to this level of “Sharansky-ist” rhetoric. So Romney gets it 100% wrong on the most important foreign policy issue of the day, and promises not just to continue President Bush’s failed strategy but to intensify it.

Second, do you support government-controlled, collectivist solutions to “the health care crisis”? Romney does. While his proposals are not as sweeping as Hillary’s or Obama’s, they nevertheless move in the direction of socialized medicine. Something like 1/8 of the economy is tied to health care. Medicare already represents a huge component of the tax-and-redistribute welfare state. Romney would increase the government’s role in health care. Like many successful businessmen, Romney does not trust the free market. He thinks he can “manage” the economy better than individual consumers. Since when did socialism became a part of what it means to be a conservative?

Lastly, what reason do you have to believe that Romney will accomplish significantly more re immigration than any of the other candidates? Surely a little more than McCain or Huckabee. Who can say whether Romney would do more than Giuliani? I doubt he’d be as strong as Thompson on this issue. Sadly, immigration appears to be a minor issue for the broad electorate. With a Democrat-controlled Congress, not much progress will be made on this issue by any GOP president.

I have heard it said, I think correctly, that Romney will carry on the policies of GWB: liberal internationalist on foreign policy, continued expansion of the welfare state at home, compassionate conservative approach to most social issues. Romney repeatedly reminds us that he subscribes to the basic tenets of multiculturalism. See his religion speech, or his stated views on Middle Eastern policy, or his constant assurances during debates that he favors immigration (just not the “illegal” kind).

I can understand the view that says Romney is the “best” choice among the available group of candidates. But I don’t understand your apparent enthusiasm for Romney. Does it just come down to the fact that he has an admirable family life? I have no idea what “intelligence, energy, readiness to lead, and overall presidential qualities” are supposed to signify. Frankly, this is what Democrats say about Hillary and Obama.

Now I know you don’t like long emails, so feel free to click delete. And if you lack the inclination or time to respond, click delete as well. That’s OK with me.

Still, I respect your ability to analyze the day’s political events, and would like to know what substance about Romney I’m missing.

LA replies:

I’m NOT enthusiastic about him politically, for all the reasons I’ve given, and for the additional reasons you’ve given here. Politically I think he’s a questionable and ambiguous figure, with an uncertain core. But as I’ve said many times, my concern is to find an acceptable alternative to the Democrats. Romney (unless Thompson starts rising) is the only viable candidate for that slot. I also think he TOWERS over the other GOP candidates and I can’t understand people’s unfair contempt for him while they tout a hideous open enemy of conservatism like McCain, so I’m trying to counteract that.

On the specific points, I oppose moves toward socialized medicine, I oppose Romney’s Bush-like policy on Islam, and I’ve previously said that Romney is not good on immigration and multiculturalism. I don’t like mainstream, neoconservative Republicans. I haven’t voted for the GOP candidate since 1992. But this is the GOP we have. If we want to avoid having Hillary or Obama as president, then Romney is the one. If we decide it’s not worth it, we vote write-in for Tom. But right now, if we want to keep alive the possibility of an acceptable alternative to Hillary and Obama, Romney must win.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 14, 2008 09:30 PM | Send

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