Opinion

Opinion

Will Republicans settle for Romney?

October 30, 2011

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— 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.

Comments

Liberty_One 3 years, 6 months ago

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

Fossick 3 years, 5 months ago

True enough. I can't imagine a less appealing Republican. Therefore it's probably a done deal.

What will be most interesting will be watching the GOP jump all over themselves with new spending initiatives in spring, 2013. All that stuff about balanced budgets and debt ceilings will disappear in the time it takes to say "domestic legacy."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 6 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.)

jaywalker 3 years, 6 months ago

I actually agree with the President that technology is eating up jobs. The ridicule for that statement has been swift and unrelenting, without much thought behind the criticism like Will displays here.
That being said, only a buffoon would believe that's a perfect platform to share their mindless marginalization of an entire political party. It's that kind of thinking that drives such highly respected institutions like the KKK or the Phelps clan. An open mind is a terrible thing to not have.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 6 months ago

"An open mind is a terrible thing to not have."

Says the poster who can't engage in any discussion without resorting to childish name calling.

jaywalker 3 years, 6 months ago

Like so many of your posts, your attempt to connect two thoughts again ends in failure. Just because someone identifies a fool when they read one doesn't mean they don't have an open mind.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 6 months ago

Huh? There were no thoughts in your post. Only the expression of your need to lash out at someone, anyone.

jaywalker 3 years, 6 months ago

I'm curious if you're even aware of how perpetually obtuse you are, or if that's just part of your shtick.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 6 months ago

I haven't stopped beating my wife either-- that's just part of my schtick.

Katara 3 years, 6 months ago

jaywalker (anonymous) replies…

I actually agree with the President that technology is eating up jobs. The ridicule for that statement has been swift and unrelenting, without much thought behind the criticism like Will displays here. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ It is true that technology is eating up jobs. It was designed to give us more free time and it did. We just didn't equate free time with unemployment.

jaywalker 3 years, 6 months ago

No doubt. I'm sure there's someone that had the foresight to seeing this situation, at least in a science fiction novel. But the exponential advancements in all manners of technology had to take the majority of us by surprise, so it seems likely no one really understood what the ramifications would be. I was in fiber optics at the turn of the century and watched the industry go from nothing to vital to overbuilt in the course of 6 years. Technology propelled it all.

jayhawklawrence 3 years, 6 months ago

I agree with your assessment of the Republican Party.

As for Obama, I think he has definitely been learning on the job and making some mistakes along the way. I still think Obama the rookie is much better than the alternatives thus far.

Facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression plus a world full of challenges we have never seen before, it is clear to me that we have a Congress and political party system that is not up to the task at hand.

jaywalker 3 years, 6 months ago

Your opening line is just plain dumb.
The rest I couldn't agree more with, though I think an actual businessman like Cain might be a better alternative to right this listing country. I think. Not sold as yet. In any case, I do believe it's still President Obama's race to lose.

JohnBrown 3 years, 6 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.

jayhawklawrence 3 years, 6 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.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 6 months ago

"Unfortunately, the pendulum wants to swing the opposite direction, toward unmanaged spending and out of control costs;"

I disagree. Government can reduce spending, but not by sticking it to the poor, the elderly, the disabled and the poor, which is the only answer that Republicans seem to come up with. They are incapable of cutting spending where it really is a drain on the economy because those areas also happen to be major cash cows for major donors and lobbyists who they depend on to keep them in power. (and sadly, way too many democrats play the same game with only a slightly more compassionate face to it.)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 6 months ago

"but not by sticking it to the poor, the elderly, the disabled and the poor,"

25% of US kids live in poverty, so mentioning the poor twice is in some ways appropriate, if inadvertent.

jaywalker 3 years, 6 months ago

Right. 'Cuz it's not a drain on the country when more than half the budget is in entitlement programs. Greece is doing fine.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 6 months ago

Right, shove the old people out to the curb-- after all, a balanced budget and bloated defense outlays require it.

jaywalker 3 years, 6 months ago

"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."

Once again, the majority of your post hits the mark, the above being the glaring exception. Cain's professional career has been outstanding. And he didn't just "sell pizza." He took a virtually bankrupt company and completely turned it around.

jafs 3 years, 6 months ago

And, if I were looking for advice on how to run a successful business, I'd ask somebody like him.

Being president of the US, though, is a rather different job.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 6 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!!!!!

Flap Doodle 3 years, 6 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.

DillonBarnes 3 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.

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