Will Republicans settle for Romney?

October 30, 2011


— The Republican presidential dynamic — various candidates rise and recede; Mitt Romney remains at about 25 percent support — is peculiar because conservatives correctly believe it is important to defeat Barack Obama but unimportant that Romney be president. This is not cognitive dissonance.

Obama, a floundering naif who thinks ATMs aggravate unemployment, is bewildered by a national tragedy of shattered dreams, decaying workforce skills and forgone wealth creation. Romney cannot enunciate a defensible, or even decipherable, ethanol policy.

Life poses difficult choices, but not about ethanol. Government subsidizes ethanol production, imposes tariffs to protect manufacturers of it, mandates the use of it — and it injures the nation’s and the world’s economic, environmental and social (it raises food prices) well-being.

In May, in corn-growing Iowa, Romney said, “I support” — present tense — “the subsidy of ethanol.” And: “I believe ethanol is an important part of our energy solution for this country.” But in October he told Iowans he is “a business guy,” so as president he would review this bipartisan — the last Republican president was an ethanol enthusiast — folly. Romney said he once favored (past tense) subsidies to get the ethanol industry “on its feet.” (In the 19th century, Republican “business guys” justified high tariffs for protecting “infant industries”). But Romney added, “I’ve indicated I didn’t think the subsidy had to go on forever.” Ethanol subsidies expire in December but “I might have looked at more of a decline over time” because of “the importance of ethanol as a domestic fuel.” Besides, “ethanol is part of national security.” However, “I don’t want to say” I will propose new subsidies. Still, ethanol has “become an important source of amplifying our energy capacity.” Anyway, ethanol should “continue to have prospects of growing its share of” transportation fuels. Got it?

Every day, 10,000 baby boomers become eligible for Social Security and Medicare, from which they will receive, on average, $1 million of benefits ($550,000 from the former, $450,000 from the latter). Who expects difficult reforms from Romney, whose twists on ethanol make a policy pretzel?

A straddle is not a political philosophy; it is what you do when you do not have one. It is what Romney did when he said using TARP funds for the General Motors and Chrysler bailouts “was the wrong source for that funding.” Oh, so the source was the bailouts’ defect.

Last week in Ohio, Romney straddled the issue of the ballot initiative by which liberals and unions hope to repeal the law Republican Gov. John Kasich got enacted to limit public employees’ collective bargaining rights. Kasich, like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, is under siege. Romney was asked, at a Republican phone bank rallying support for Kasich’s measure, to oppose repeal of it, and to endorse another measure exempting Ohioans from Obamacare’s insurance mandate (a cousin of Romneycare’s Massachusetts mandate). He refused.

His campaign said his refusal was principled: “Citizens of states should be able to make decisions ... on their own.” Got it? People cannot make “their own” decisions if Romney expresses an opinion. His flinch from leadership looks ludicrous after his endorsement three months ago of a right-to-work bill New Hampshire’s Legislature was considering. So, the rule in New England expires across the Appalachian Mountains?

A day after refusing to oppose repeal of Kasich’s measure, Romney waffled about his straddle, saying he opposed repeal “110 percent.” He did not, however, endorse the anti-mandate measure, remaining semi-faithful to the trans-Appalachian codicil pertaining to principles, thereby seeming to lack the courage of his absence of convictions.

Romney, supposedly the Republican most electable next November, is a recidivist reviser of his principles who is not only becoming less electable, he might damage GOP chances of capturing the Senate: Republican successes down the ticket will depend on the energies of the tea party and other conservatives, who will be deflated by a nominee whose blurry profile in caution communicates only calculated trimming.

Republicans may have found their Michael Dukakis, a technocratic Massachusetts governor who takes his bearings from “data” (although there is precious little to support Romney’s idea that in-state college tuition for children of illegal immigrants is a powerful magnet for such immigrants) and who believes elections should be about (in Dukakis’ words) “competence,” not “ideology.” But what would President Romney competently do when not pondering ethanol subsidies that he forthrightly says should stop sometime before “forever”? Has conservatism come so far, surmounting so many obstacles, to settle, at a moment of economic crisis, for this?

George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Agnostick 2 years, 5 months ago

More on topic...

Really, this is just an exercise to fill bandwidth, time, and column inches to the 24/7 never-ending propoganda beast.

Pick something today, and Fate will rock your boat tomorrow.

53 weeks 'til the election... and a lot of things could happen in 53 seconds...


DillonBarnes 2 years, 5 months ago

As always, the deciding factor will be the moderate voters. Romney is the only one in the field I see who has a chance to beat Obama. Democrats can hope that a 3rd party 'tea party' candidate makes a push further dividing the Republican party.


Paul R Getto 2 years, 5 months ago

"Will Republicans settle for Romney?" === Short answer, "yes."


Flap Doodle 2 years, 5 months ago

"...fundamentalist christians..." sighting! Everybody chug whatever drink you are holding now. If it had been "...neoconservative fundamentalist Christians.." you would have had to take off your shoes. Play along at home with the merrill drinking game.


Richard Heckler 2 years, 5 months ago

Hey George Will where are the republicans? The republican party is dead and was overthrown by the anything but fiscal conservative, liberal spending,fundamentalist christians with a touch of war profiteers and the oil glutton industry.

The republican party is dead!!!!!


jayhawklawrence 2 years, 5 months ago

If you give your dog food from the table, he will always come and beg for food while you are trying to eat. It is almost impossible to break a dog of this habit.

In the same way, Republicans (mostly) have used the lure of tax cuts to gain favor with American business and now it has become a huge problem. Business owners are addicted to tax cuts and smaller government rhetoric (mythology). Getting rid of irresponsible politicians and changing the tax cut mindset which is leading our nation to ruin are critical issues to consider for all Americans in this next election.

Unfortunately, the pendulum wants to swing the opposite direction, toward unmanaged spending and out of control costs; the biggest complaint of the American business owner and the main reason they don't trust government with money.

Politicians cannot manage anything and there is not one clear choice in the current crop of Democrats and Republicans, including Obama, that gives confidence to the average American business owner.

Nobody really believes a guy that can sell pizzas is a credible candidate. Let's get real. This is not Saturday Night Live. This is our country's future at stake.

The election is down to Mitt Romney and Obama. Both of these guys need to convince American business leaders that they can get the job done. For American business owners It is coming down to a choice between dumb and dumber and I think it will be a close race.


JohnBrown 2 years, 5 months ago

"a national tragedy of shattered dreams, decaying workforce skills and forgone wealth creation" that was brought to us by the Republicans.

I am fairly convinced that the current crop of 'Republicans', from McConnell to Cain, are more interested in garnering political power than in doing what's needed to fix this country.

George W took us to war, twice, and never asked us to help shoulder the burden through higher taxes or the sale of war bonds. This is the first time in our history that we didn't fund a war. Instead, he and the others told us to "go shopping". Not satisfied with this, they then went and actually lowered taxes while spending was dramatically increasing. In all George W and McConnell and the others doubled our debt, then this past August raised a stink about paying for that debt - and while doing that, created uncertainty in the bond market as to whether the US does have "good faith" to pay for what it has already spent.

It is no longer about Liberal versus Conservative; it's now about creative forces versus destructive forces. Today's Republicans are about tearing down. They want to tear down the Social Contract, tear down respect for our Commander in Chief (thus diminishing the soldiers he commands) by questioning his citizenship, tear down the Constitution by instituting restrictive voting laws based on the lie there is too much voter fraud.

They say they are for "smaller government", but they use Big Government policies to attack Planned Parenthood, and unions.

They say the "stimulus didn't work". here they are right. It didn't work because the economic mess the stimulus was designed to aid was bigger than we thought. We need more stimulus. They argue we had perfect foresight and given that, the failed stimulus is proof the remedy is something else, but this is a purposefully false argument since aiding the economy 'too soon" would only help O'Bama's re-election, and as Sen. McConnell said "my first priority is ensuring Obama is a one-term president".

Republicans are purposefully not doing anything that would help Obama, even if this means letting the country suffer in the meantime because it won't help them politically in 2012.

What selfishness.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 5 months ago

"Obama, a floundering naif who thinks ATMs aggravate unemployment, is bewildered by a national tragedy of shattered dreams, decaying workforce skills and forgone wealth creation. "

When George gets personal, he really goes after it, doesn't he?

Of course, what George just can't quite fathom is that as disappointing as Obama has been, the Republican Party is completely bankrupt of both ideas and integrity, which means that all of its current candidates are either completely unable to get through the Republican primaries (they just are big enough wackjobs) or unable of unseating Obama in the general election (because they are too much of a wackjob.)


Liberty_One 2 years, 5 months ago

Romney is the banks' candidate; enough reason to not vote for him and enough reason why he will win.


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