In a previous post (Dec 10, 2010) in this blog (and in The Intellectual Conservative, Will I Have to Hold My Nose Yet Again?), I confessed that the not unlikely prospect of Mitt Romney securing the Republican presidential nomination filled me with dismay. I pointed out that every Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan was a faux conservative and that I voted for all of them – with my fingers firmly clamped on my nose. In contemplating a vote for Romney, I rued the fact that my fingers would be similarly deployed.
Nothing has happened in the last few months to change the probabilities. Romney continues to build his organization and position himself for a successful run; none of his so-called major competitors (Gingrich, Huckabee, Palin – each of whom, I pointed out in the article, is damaged goods) has done anything to elevate his or her stature; and none of the minor contenders has been able to break out of that forlorn status of “little dwarf.”
So I decided that a closer look at Romney was in order. I read his book No Apology. Here’s the good news. Romney makes a convincing effort toward burnishing his conservative credentials. He hits all the conservative touchstone issues in the book and professes his allegiance to virtually all the principles that identify one as a true conservative: limited government, low taxes, deregulation, strong national defense, family values, free market capitalism and traditional culture. He comes across as sincerely patriotic, reverent of the men who founded our country and the ideals they espoused, inspired by and loyal to the Constitution. He apparently understands that prosperity is created by individuals who develop products and services, and form the businesses that deliver them – not by government programs, spending or regulation. He has a track record of successful executive and managerial experience. And best of all, he clearly loves the United States of America and would strive mightily to protect it – unlike the current occupant of the White House.
On the other hand, there are some disquieting revelations in the book – the most prominent of which include: an enthusiastic reaffirmation of Massachusetts Health Care; the fact that he has drunk from the environmental Kool-Aid and is on the global warming bandwagon; an admission that he basically endorses TARP and the resulting bailouts; and his advocacy of a major role for the Federal Government in education.
These positions are disturbing indeed and worthy of concern. They suggest strongly that at the core Romney is a big government Republican in the mold of Nixon, Ford, Dole, McCain and the Bushes. The pejorative RINO does not seem to be inappropriate.
The matter is of course not yet settled. Is it foolhardy to hold out any hope that the eventual nominee could be a true conservative like Pence, DeMint or Santorum? The history of the Republican presidential nomination process is not encouraging. Thus there might be some solace in the observation that Romney could be the best of the rest of the sorry lot that are chasing the GOP 2012 nomination. Perhaps he’ll take his own book to heart and govern like Reagan if he does achieve the presidency. One can only hope.
Such was my thinking after finishing Romney’s book. And then the March issue of the American Spectator arrived with an article by W. James Atlee entitled “Front-runner Failure.” In it, Atlee points out that Romney would be the latest installment in a long line of candidates to whom the Republicans awarded their nomination as a reward “for long years of service, finishing second the last time around, and politely waiting their turn.” That description most aptly describes Dole and McCain, but it also applies to Nixon, Ford, both Bushes and even Reagan. With the exception of Reagan, these nominations resulted in either an ignominious defeat or a victory by men that “left the Republican Party weaker than they found it.” Atlee’s assessment also accounts for the decades of nose-holding on my part. For heaven’s sake, why would the Republican Party do it yet again?