Friday, January 27, 2012

Anyone But Newt

I haven't written much in this space about the Republican Presidential primaries (or anything else for that matter) but the momentarily at least the spirit moves so I'll put two cents in.

As we all know, there's been a lot of theatrics and volatility from the candidates this cycle. Some of this comes from the sort of candidates who ran or considered running. Some of it was from the demands of the Republican voting base. Whatever it was, largely as a result of this sometime around October or November I fell in love with Mitt Romney. Whatever other virtues or faults he may have, I was deeply impressed by his bearing and ability to concentrate on fulfilling objectives, without getting sucked into meaningless drama.

From there, in my estimation at least, everything fell into place. In particular, there's two things about Mitt's depth of experience that leads me to hope he'll be an excellent candidate and an excellent President. First of all, that the trend in American governance is to have ever-more complicated rules, jurisdictions, funding streams, bureaucracies and so on. For most of us on the Right, that means we want to elect political powers who is the most reactionarily opposed to such things, eg Ron Paul. That's a substantial mistake IMO. For largely the same reasons that these bureaucracies are unaccountable in their arbitrary authority over us as individuals, they are also substantially unaccountable to the nominally higher boxes in the org chart. We're past the point where we need liberal Democrats to expand the reach of government. As things stand now, government grows as a matter of simple inertia and extends its reach simply by running on autopilot. Therefore, I'm less interested in who wants to tear down various arms of government and much more interested in who can. By that standard, I find Mitt Romney to be an excellent candidate.

Moreover, Mitt has a particularly comprehensive resume to be President. He was an executive at Bain Capital, he successfully rescued the Salt Lake Olympics at a time where it appeared to be heading toward failure, and he was also governor of Massachusetts. In the course of such things, he's professionally interacted with a wide variety of people. It's not exactly the case that Mitt Romney already knows everybody he'll be dealing with if he becomes President, but he does know the types of people he'll be dealing with and in particular how to evaluate their credibility.

All this is the longhand way of say I'm supporting Mitt and background for this Victor Davis Hanson post at NRO today. I'd like to sympathize with VDH's point and dial down the intraparty antagonism, especially given that policy-wise Newt and Mitt are probably much closer to each other than either one is to President Obama.

Unfortunately that's not the only variable in the equation. The reality is that by any plausible standard, Newt really is de facto disqualified from the Presidency. Newt really did cheat on his second wife with his third wife. He really did buy, with said third wife, a half million dollars worth of jewelry from Tiffany's. He really was found guilty of ethics charges by the House of Representatives and paid $300K in fines to resolve them. He really did make a public spectacle over being forced to depart from the rear entrance of an airplane as opposed to the front entrance. He really did receive well over a million dollars for lobbying or consulting for Fannie Mae. You might be able to get away with one or two of these things, but not all of them. (And this list is by no means exhaustive. There's more where that came from.)

The point for Newt-supporting conservatives to understand is, these are not bogus MSM narratives aimed at keeping conservatives down, they are just plain true and widely acknowledged by all parties as such. Newt is de facto disqualified for reasons having nothing to do with Mitt and if Mitt weren't running the GOP establishment would have to mobilize to find Anyone But Newt.

By contrast, Mitt's weaknesses aren't disqualifying. He helped create comprehensive collectivized medicine in Massachusetts, he's weak as a retail candidate, and he once made the family dog ride on the roof in a car trip. People can be upset about Romneycare if they want to, but that's not disqualifying. It's certainly legitimate to oppose Romney on those grounds, but for those who feel that way if they don't want Romney to have the nomination it's incumbent on them to find a different acceptable candidate. Newt Gingrich is not it.

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