Tuesday, January 17, 2012

WHAT TO MAKE OF MITT: A liberal looks for light in a Romney presidency

As a candidate, Romney is a liar and a fraud. But a Romney presidency might not be as terrible as we liberals fear.
As a political candidate, Mitt Romney is a liar and a fraud. That much is clear from his campaign web site, which contains a number of falsehoods about President Obama’s supposed “failures,” and Romney’s innumerable misleading and evasive statements during his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. (See the end of this blog post if you require proof of Romney’s lies and misrepresentations.)

Nevertheless, despite his public mendacities, equivocations, and deceptions, Mitt Romney has, according to current polls, at least a 50/50 chance of being the next president of the United States. So we liberals need to imagine what such a presidency might mean. Just how bad would it be?

Well, pretty bad. But, in my opinion, probably not horrific in a Dick Cheney/George W. Bush kind of way.

A Romney presidency would probably not be as bad as the two-headed presidency of Cheney-Bush.

I’ve read as much as I can about Mitt Romney, including his campaign web site. Here are links to three good articles about him: from Vanity Fair, from New York magazine, and from The New York Times. Believe it or not, if these articles are to be believed, there are some encouraging things about Mitt Romney. Here are some of them.

  • according to every account, he loves his wife and kids and has been a faithful husband and a caring, involved father
  • his wife has multiple sclerosis and has battled breast cancer
  • once upon a time, his wife gave money to Planned Parenthood and said she favored stem cell research (she is currently silent on these subjects)
  • he has lived in a foreign country and speaks a foreign language (France, French)
  • he has a history of doing significant amounts of weekly volunteer service, even while he was becoming a rich businessman
  • he is worth more than $200 million
  • it is widely reported that, as a businessman, he believes in data, not gut instinct
  • he is reasonably articulate and certifiably smart
  • he’s a Mormon
  • his father was a moderate Republican who challenged the Barry Goldwater conservatives in 1964
  • he almost died in a car accident in France in 1968; one of his passengers did die (the accident was not his fault)
  • he is, by all accounts, frugal to the point of stingy
  • he is, by all accounts, a very hard worker
  • the Tea Partiers and other far-right-wing Republicans do not like him
  • he has a proven history of making organizations more efficient
  • he passed some legislation with Democrats in Massachusetts
  • he raised fees in Massachusetts to try to balance the state budget
  • he once supported legislation in Massachusetts that lowered greenhouse gases, and he has expressed belief in human contributions to global warming

     Yes, I find all this to be encouraging, should Romney become president. Notice that most of it has nothing to do with Romney’s expressed policies. As a political fraud and liar, Romney simply cannot be trusted to say what his policies really are while on the campaign trail. (Ironically, this may help him get elected: Conservatives will believe what he says to them. Moderates will believe he’s more moderate than he claims to be when he speaks to conservatives.)
     But his personal history gives one some hope that his will not be a Dick Che—er, George W. Bush sort of presidency.

All accounts say Romney is a loving, loyal, dedicated husband and father.

      Here’s what I find encouraging in the above bulleted list:

  • He’s upright and unhypocritical in his family life. I don’t care about a president’s sexual peccadillos (see Bill Clinton, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, FDR), and I don’t believe that just because someone is faithful to his wife he’ll be a good president (see Rick Santorum and Ron Paul). It wouldn’t matter to me if a president were divorced. But it’s a good start when a man is unfailingly faithful and publicly loving to his wife, especially when she’s been seriously ill (see, by contrast, John Edwards and Newt Gingrich).  Romney’s grown sons also adore him and work hard for his campaign—they do more, apparently, than just smile at his speeches. I’m just old-fashioned enough to believe that a man who is a loved husband and father at least isn’t altogether morally corrupt and selfish and is likely capable of making sacrifices for others.
  • His wife’s once-overt support for Planned Parenthood and stem cell research suggest that he might at least be open-minded about issues of sex education, science research, contraception, and (perhaps) abortion. He himself once attended a Planned Parenthood fundraiser (!).
  • The fact that he’s lived in France (when he was a Mormon missionary), speaks the language, and actually professes to like the French gives him a big cosmopolitan head start on the jingoistic know-nothings of the far right (remember “liberty fries”?).
  • During his rise in business, Romney gave many hours each week to Mormon church work, voluntarily. I respect a man’s volunteer work, for whatever decent cause, especially if it comes when he’s first making his way in the business world. It shows that money is not his only motivation in the world and that he can respect other motivations, as well.

Romney (center) with Bain Capital colleagues, jokingly showing off their money in the firm's early days. Perhaps Romney's wealth will make him immune to money if he's ever in the White House.

  • He’s so rich that he might just be immune to money. He won’t use the White House to feather his own nest; it’s already well feathered. Other rich people won’t intimidate him. He knows that money can’t buy contentment. (Every rich person knows this. It’s the would-be rich that don’t.) He also understands that one must spend money to make money; that’s what investment companies like Bain Capital do. It’s also, he might understand, what stimulus plans like Obama’s do. Basically, what Romney did with the companies Bain Capital bought is exactly what Obama did with Chrysler and General Motors. Romney might (hypocritically) condemn those bailouts on the stump, but in his heart he might know they’re right.
  • Romney’s well-documented belief in “data,” as opposed to, say, George W. Bush’s “gut feelings,” suggests that he might (might) be less likely to create policies for purely ideological reasons. He might actually pay attention to numbers from the Congressional Budget Office and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Romney will sound better than George W. Bush when giving speeches, and he probably won’t have to read from note cards like Ronald Reagan when answering questions. That’s not saying much for his speaking ability and brains, but it puts him ahead of a lot of past and potential Republican presidents.
  • With a Mormon in the White House, the protestant evangelicals (Perry and his gang) and the Catholic superconservatives (Santorum, Gingrich) will be on the outside looking in; their power will continue to wane—a very good thing. As a Mormon, perhaps Romney will have some sympathy for other religious minorities like Jews, Muslims, and atheists.
Romney is said to idolize his late father, George, a moderate Republican who fought against Goldwater conservatives in 1964. Perhaps, when all is said and done, he will emulate his father better than he has done so far.

  • As the son of a moderate Republican whom he, by all reports, idolized, Romney at least understands that there is no disgrace in being a moderate Republican. Once he is in office, he can be as moderate as he wants, and there will be nothing the Tea Partiers can do about it, short of suicidally running a third-party candidate in 2016. That the Tea Partiers have been fighting him all along in the primaries means he will owe them very little when the election comes around; he will owe moderate independents more. A moderate Romney who has fought the right-wing fringes may be willing to further marginalize the Tea Partiers—another good thing.

The car crash he was in in France in 1968 should make Romney sympathetic to those who are sick or injured. A passenger died in the accident while Romney was driving. Though the accident was not his fault, this might generate some humility in him, as well.

  • Having had a near-death experience in that automobile crash many years ago should give Romney a sense of his own mortality and of the pain that can come with a long recovery from injury or illness. This should generate in him some empathy for those who are sick or injured. That someone died while he was driving, though the accident was not his fault, should generate a bit of humility, too.
  • A frugal, smart, hard-working president who has a proven track record of making organizations more efficient wouldn’t, in and of itself, be a bad thing in the White House. (Note, however, his history of creating “efficiencies” at the cost of workers’ livelihoods, apparently with no second thoughts and little concern for the human beings involved.)
  • He’s proved he can get some things done in compromise with an opposition party (though he did veto something like 800 Democratic bills while governor of Massachusetts).

Like nearly all Republican candidates, Romney has signed the no-tax pledge demanded by tax-hater Grover Norquist (above). As governor, however, he was willing to increase revenues by raising fees in Massachusetts.

  • While he has signed the idiotic Grover Norquist No-Tax Pledge in order to get the nomination, the fact that he raised fees to make budgets work in Massachusetts suggests that he is not just a cut-spending-at-all-costs politician.
  • The fact that he actually believes in global warming and the role that humans are playing in it makes him sound actually, well, sane, compared the Republican alternatives.

      So there. A Romney presidency might not be a disaster. That’s the best I can say about it.
      But it would be bad: 

The next president will almost surely get to replace moderate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—a scary thought if Romney is elected. Two other moderate justices may also leave in the next four years.

  • When Ruth Bader Ginsburg—and, possibly, Steven Breyer and Anthony Kennedy—leave the Supreme Court in the next couple of years, Romney’s appointments would hugely warp the court to the right; all balance on it will be gone for another 20 years.
  • Any attempts to regulate the financial sector of the economy would fail.
  • If he overturns Obama’s health-insurance plan, health-care costs would (according to the Congressional Budget Office) suffocate the economy by 2020.
  • Unions would get even weaker; workers will be treated worse and worse.
  • Ordinary worker wages would continue to stagnate, relative to inflation.
  • Economic inequality would remain the same or grow worse.
  • The poor and the unemployed would suffer more deeply than under a Democrat.

It's a sad hope, but perhaps Romney would be a president like Nixon in that he would be more moderate in office than he was in campaigning for the nomination.

    Of course, if (and I say heaven forbid) Romney is elected president, he might turn out to be like Richard Nixon: a man so safely Republican that he can do Democratic things, just as Nixon-the-Red-Baiter opened the door to China and Nixon the pro-business conservative signed the Environmental Protection Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act. We can only hope.
     Meanwhile, I plan to give as much time and money as I can afford to President Obama’s campaign for president. Even if Romney’s not a Cheney-like devil or a G.W. Bush dupe, I just don’t trust him.


For those who require it, here’s hard evidence of Romney’s lies and misrepresentations:

Romney’s campaign web site, for example, claims that the unemployment rate is above 9%  and that since the Obama stimulus-plan money was spent, 2.5 million jobs have been lost. There’s even a chart on his web site that claims that the unemployment rate without the Obama stimulus was predicted to have gone down to 6% by now; the “source” of the chart is said to be the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which in fact has never made such a prediction.

The truth: the jobless rate is currently 8.5% and falling, down from a high of over 10%, and the economy has added jobs for 18 of the last 22 months—the period since the stimulus money actually entered the economy. More than 2 million jobs have been added in total since Obama’s stimulus took effect.

So we know Mitt Romney is willing to lie in public, even on his own web pages. (Interesting fact: If you Google “Mitt Romney lies,” you get 242,000 hits. Obviously I’m not alone in pointing out that he’s a liar. For a listing of more conservative lies, see this article by Andrew Sullivan, himself a fiscal conservative, but an honest one. http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/01/15/andrew-sullivan-how-obama-s-long-game-will-outsmart-his-critics.html )

This chart, which is on Romney's campaign web site, tells several lies. First, it shows the latest unemployment rate as more than 9% and rising. In fact, the unemployment rate is 8.5% and falling. Second, it shows that unemployment without Obama's stimulus was predicted to drop to about 6% today, and it lists the source of this prediction (and everything else in this chart) as the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS has never made such a prediction or offered any of the other information on this chart. (The chart entirely leaves out who made the prediction of what would happen without the stimulus.) Finally, the chart implies that Obama predicted that the unemployment rate would drop to less than 6% by now. No one in the Obama administration ever made that prediction—especially once they learned, after several months in office, that the Bush recession was far worse than originally thought.

The “fraud” part of Romney is clear in other ways: He now disowns the idea that people should be required to buy health insurance, for example, even though he bragged about that very idea when he was governor of Massachusetts. He claims he “helped create more than 100,000 jobs” while he ran the investment company Bain Capital, but he can’t provide any facts to back up that claim—because there are no such facts. He supported abortion rights when he ran for governor in a liberal state (Massachusetts) but now that he has to run for the presidential nomination in front of the reactionary Tea Party, he is anti-abortion. He discounts the inequalities in the economy, but he refuses to release his own tax forms that would let us see where he stands himself in the economy. And so on. Months from now, we will see Romney retreat from his right-wing positions when he has to pitch himself to moderate independents in the general election.

When my father wanted to compliment someone, his highest praise was “He has integrity.” It meant that a person was honest, morally upright, and courageously consistent, not hypocritical or pandering. In the public sphere, Mitt Romney utterly lacks integrity.


  1. Excellent and well thought out. Good job.

    1. ED, you did an excellent piece of work, thoughtful and easily accessible - I applaud your responsible engagement with civic duty. I admire the time and commitment it took to write it. Thanks! Fred Stern, NYC

  2. You're a good friend, Fred. Thanks.