Romney should focus on ideology

August 10, 2012


— There are two ways to run against Barack Obama: stewardship or ideology. You can run against his record or you can run against his ideas.

The stewardship case is pretty straightforward: the worst recovery in U.S. history, 42 consecutive months of 8-plus percent unemployment, declining economic growth — all achieved at a price of another $5 trillion of accumulated debt.

The ideological case is also simple. Just play in toto (and therefore in context) Obama’s Roanoke riff telling small business owners: “You didn’t build that.” Real credit for your success belongs not to you — you think you did well because of your smarts and sweat? he asked mockingly — but to government that built the infrastructure without which you would have nothing.

Play it. Then ask: Is that the governing philosophy you want for this nation?

Mitt Romney’s preferred argument, however, is stewardship. Are you better off today than you were $5 trillion ago? Look at the wreckage around you. This presidency is a failure. I’m a successful businessman. I know how to fix things. Elect me, etc. etc.

Easy peasy, but highly risky. If you run against Obama’s performance in contrast to your own competence, you stake your case on persona. Is that how you want to compete against an opponent who is not just more likable and immeasurably cooler, but spending millions to paint you as an unfeeling, out-of-touch, job-killing, private-equity plutocrat?

The ideological case, on the other hand, is not just appealing to a center-right country with twice as many conservatives as liberals, it is also explanatory. It underpins the stewardship argument. Obama’s ideology — and the program that followed — explains the failure of these four years.

What program? Obama laid it out boldly early in his presidency. The roots of the nation’s crisis, he declared, were systemic. Fundamental change was required. He had come to deliver it. Hence his signature legislation:

First, the $831 billion stimulus that was going to “reinvest” in America and bring unemployment below 6 percent. We know about the unemployment. And the investment? Obama loves to cite great federal projects such as the Hoover Dam and the interstate highway system. Fine. Name one thing of any note created by Obama’s Niagara of borrowed money. A modernized electric grid? Ports dredged to receive the larger ships soon to traverse a widened Panama Canal? Nothing of the sort. Solyndra, anyone?

Second, radical reform of health care that would reduce its ruinously accelerating cost: “Put simply,” he said, “our health care problem is our deficit problem” — a financial hemorrhage drowning us in debt.

Except that the CBO reports that Obamacare will cost $1.68 trillion of new spending in its first decade. To say nothing of the price of the uncertainty introduced by an impossibly complex remaking of one-sixth of the economy — discouraging hiring and expansion as trillions of investable private-sector dollars remain sidelined.

The third part of Obama’s promised transformation was energy. His cap-and-trade federal takeover was rejected by his own Democratic Senate. So the war on fossil fuels has been conducted unilaterally by bureaucratic fiat. Regulations that will kill coal. A no-brainer pipeline (Keystone) rejected lest Canadian oil sands be burned. (China will burn them instead.) A drilling moratorium in the Gulf that a federal judge severely criticized as illegal.

That was the program — now so unpopular that Obama barely mentions it. Obamacare got exactly two lines in this year’s State of the Union address. Seen any ads touting the stimulus? The drilling moratorium? Keystone?

Ideas matter. The 2010 election, the most ideological since 1980, saw the voters resoundingly reject a Democratic Party that was relentlessly expanding the power, spending, scope and reach of government.

It’s worse now. Those who have struggled to create a family business, a corner restaurant, a medical practice won’t take kindly to being told that their success is a result of government-built roads and bridges.

In 1988, Michael Dukakis famously said, “This election is not about ideology; it’s about competence.” He lost. If Republicans want to win, Obama’s deeply revealing, teleprompter-free you-didn’t-build-that confession of faith needs to be hung around his neck until Election Day. The third consecutive summer-of-recovery-that-never-came is attributable not just to Obama being in over his head but to what’s in his head: a government-centered vision of the economy and society, and the policies that flow from it.

Four years of that and this is what you get.

Make the case and you win the White House.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


jayhawklawrence 1 year, 8 months ago

Is the Religious Rite still Christian?

Many so called Christian ministers have become political activists for right wing causes. These activities seem to drum up a lot of excitement and fear mongering rhetoric about abortion and gays is always well received by a certain part of the population. Sometimes you wonder if their shared hatred of anyone left of far right is their main source of inspiration.

But when you look at the statistics, Christianity is in decline in America and this trend is accelerating. Young people, who are more educated and more tolerant are being turned off by the right wing rhetoric that seems to reward the upper 1% at the expense of everyone else. The Ryan plan seems like the final piece of the puzzle to gut social programs such as Medicare, Social Security and Pell grants in order to give even more huge tax cuts to rich people.

There is a revolt in the Catholic Church by nuns who are willing to stand up against the "vatican" on issues related to poverty, gender and feminist issues. The Catholic Church seems at times to be pushing towards a right wing agenda but is hampered by their own membership which is much more moderate.

The Religious Rite may be inspired by political victories such as those in Kansas but they need to understand that the cost over time may be something they have overlooked.

I think the cost of the Brownback takeover of Kansas government will cost much more in the long run and it may have a profound effect on our religious communities for years to come.


camper 1 year, 8 months ago

I am sure glad that President Obama is not an idealogue. I am sick and tired of idealogy. Sick of it because I am guilty of it too. It is what we need less of.


FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 8 months ago

Willard needs to "focus" on Flex's "ideology" by asking George to be his running mate. by FalseHopeNoChange


headdoctor 1 year, 8 months ago

I figured it is high time for Mit Romney to join the long list of past participants.


Machiavelli_mania 1 year, 8 months ago

Oh yeah, focusing on ideology will further crush the GOP, owhich seems to be the end goal for the Religious Rite. Go ahead and encourage Mitt to be a fool, like the Religious Rite is. Go right on ahead and tell him to break up a party and let the Dems win.

Directed to the Religious Rite, is there one unique thought in your head, one that you actually created for yourself from life experience and the use of some kind of foresight??!!

Published Aug 7th, 2012

GOP Insider: How Religion Destroyed My Party In the new book, "The Party Is Over," veteran Republican Mike Lofgren writes about the rise of politicized religious fundamentalism and how the GOP devolved into anti-intellectual nuts.


Cait McKnelly 1 year, 8 months ago

Romney really should focus on ideology. It would make Obama's re-election a slam dunk.


verity 1 year, 8 months ago

If the ACA should be repealed, we're going to run into some big problems taking back the parts that have already been instituted. That may be the point where people start to regret what they wished for.


beatrice 1 year, 8 months ago

I believe Romney will run on his deep conviction to not release his tax returns.

Can any of the Romney supporters here tell us what he stands for and how he intends to achieve his goals? All I've heard is that he isn't Obama, that he doesn't support the healthcare act that was based on his healthcare act, and that he believes everyone should be wealthy and pay the low percentage of income taxes he pays. Beyond that...what is there besides hair?


beatrice 1 year, 8 months ago

I believe Romney will run on his deep conviction to not release his tax returns.

Can any of the Romney supporters here tell us what he stands for and how he intends to achieve his goals? All I've heard is that he isn't Obama, that he doesn't support the healthcare act that was based on his healthcare act, and he believes everyone should be wealthy and pay the low percentage of income taxes he pays. Beyond that...what is there besides hair?


yourworstnightmare 1 year, 8 months ago

When is Romney going to release his tax returns? What is he hiding?

John McCain knows, as Romney provided McCain with his tax returns in the VP vetting process.

McCain chose Palin, calling her the better candidate Yikes!

We all know Romney is rich, so it can't simply be that. There might be some unsavory things in his returns.


Pastor_Bedtime 1 year, 8 months ago

Much of this will be alleviated once Romney's tax records are revealed. And clearing up this mess about the golden magic dancing horse and offseas savings accounts will be helpful in locking in my vote.


Flap Doodle 1 year, 8 months ago

As others are saying: "...The point is that more than any President we can recall, Mr. Obama isn't trying to persuade voters that he deserves to stay in office because of his philosophy, record or positive vision for the country. Rather, his case is that he deserves re-election because Mr. Romney is worse, and he is so very much worse because of things that were invented in the West Wing but are detached from reality. The entire theory of the Obama campaign seems to be that the more outrageous the claim the better, because the more you repeat it the more the media will talk about it, and the lie will achieve a kind legendary truth.

A postmodern postscript: The Obama campaign was at first more than happy to slipstream behind the Priorities USA smear, refusing to disavow the cancer ad and deflecting questions by claiming not to "know the specifics" (Robert Gibbs) or "know the facts" (deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter). But even their professions of ignorance turn out to be false. In May, Mr. Soptic appeared in an official Obama for America ad—"I'm Barack Obama, and I approve this message," it concluded. Mr. Soptic told reporters his life story on a conference call, hosted by the Obama campaign and . . . Ms. Cutter."


jaywalker 1 year, 8 months ago

"In fact the takeover method espoused by Bain and many other private equity firms is a lot closer to the Tony Soprano-takes-over-Davey-Scatino’s-sporting-goods-store "Bust Out" model (and we’ll be getting into this more in the magazine in upcoming weeks) than it is to anything like legitimate consulting."

Brilliant bozo. Espouse a plan to take on Romney from someone that doesn't have a clue what they're talking about.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 8 months ago

Here's a take on how Obama ought to run, by someone whose understanding of the economy and politics isn't derived through his being a shill for the plutocracy, as Krauthammer is.

Obama, Not Reid, Should Be Taking on Mitt Romney's Tax Record by Matt Taibbi.

"In the case of Romney, what we’ve mostly heard is that he’s a turnover specialist who sometimes creates jobs and sometimes eliminates them – a kind of ideologically-neutral efficiency consultant who takes a cut when poorly-run companies cut out the fat. The Obama ads about Bain have been emotionally effective, but they’re still frustratingly vague about the actual mechanics of these takeovers. We learn from these ads that a bunch of rich guys took over plants and fired workers, but what we don’t learn is how companies like Bain raise the money for those takeovers, why the plants subsequently become cash-poor, how this industry works generally, and not just at Bain.

In fact the takeover method espoused by Bain and many other private equity firms is a lot closer to the Tony Soprano-takes-over-Davey-Scatino’s-sporting-goods-store "Bust Out" model (and we’ll be getting into this more in the magazine in upcoming weeks) than it is to anything like legitimate consulting."

Read more:"


donttreadonme 1 year, 8 months ago

This column is an example of the problem in todays politics. Style over substance. Why doesn't Romney run on his record as governor of Massachusetts?


jaywalker 1 year, 8 months ago

Neither ideology is a track worth running on.


somedude20 1 year, 8 months ago

Blows my mind that any non rich person would even think about voting for ole Mittens. Guess they will ignor all of the info that has been coming out about Mitt's wealth and how he has broken rules to get it. People get pissy about the drop-in shelter and how the poor mooch, well friends, he is the same as them but he doesn't do it for chump change. If you really think that Mitt has your best intrests at heart, you are fooling yourself...look at his track record. Look at the crap that happened when he was running for Gov of Mass while being a resident of Utah (because the taxes are lower, and his cult of course)

Obama is very far from perfect, but this "anything but Obama" train of thought will sink America!


Richard Heckler 1 year, 8 months ago

Republican economic policy makes buying homes a huge risk as a long term investment

They have established this risk under Reagan/Bush and Bush/Cheney which of course is easily documented.

It is these two administrations that brought the USA frauds that effectively took down home values substantially.

Why isn't the democratic party reminding voters,taxpayers and homeowners of this monster risk? Sweeping matters under the rug will not protect homeowners and new buyers.

Brownback and other Kansas delegates were in the beltway. Did they warn their constituents of the coming financial disaster?

It was fraud and republican politics not the housing market that destroyed an all American long term investment.


yourworstnightmare 1 year, 8 months ago

Bozo got it right.

Romney needs to lie and distort the truth to win. He just might do it.

After all, Obama saved the economy, killed Osama Bin Laden, ended the Iraq war, is ending the Afghan war, passed the ACA which was validated by the Roberts-led SCOTUS, and managed the Arab Spring effectively.

Mitt cannot run on the truth and the facts. Trouble is, many of Mitt's positions in the past have been nearly identical to Obama's.

Most everyone knows what Obama was really saying with the "You didn't build that" comment. This plays only with the hardest right in the GOP. That 20% is already in the bag for Romney.


jafs 1 year, 8 months ago

No he shouldn't.

We need for politicians, and regular citizens, to stop focusing so much on ideology, and look at reality, in order to come up with practical solutions.

Of course, he also shouldn't lie about what Obama has said, and oversimplify the political process in order to blame Obama for everything.

"We succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together"

That's hardly equivalent to saying the government is responsible for your success.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 8 months ago

This must be part of the ideology Chuck is talking about. (After all, true class warfare includes the torture and murder of tens of thousands of peasants, priests and nuns, right?)

"Mitt Romney Started Bain Capital With Money From Families Tied To Death Squads"


"In 1983, Bill Bain asked Mitt Romney to launch Bain Capital, a private equity offshoot of the successful consulting firm Bain & Company. After some initial reluctance, Romney agreed. The new job came with a stipulation: Romney couldn't raise money from any current clients, Bain said, because if the private equity venture failed, he didn't want it taking the consulting firm down with it.

When Romney struggled to raise funds from other traditional sources, he and his partners started thinking outside the box. Bain executive Harry Strachan suggested that Romney meet with a group of Central American oligarchs who were looking for new investment vehicles as turmoil engulfed their region.

Romney was worried that the oligarchs might be tied to "illegal drug money, right-wing death squads, or left-wing terrorism," Strachan later told a Boston Globe reporter, as quoted in the 2012 book "The Real Romney." But, pressed for capital, Romney pushed his concerns aside and flew to Miami in mid-1984 to meet with the Salvadorans at a local bank.

It was a lucrative trip. The Central Americans provided roughly $9 million -- 40 percent -- of Bain Capital's initial outside funding, the Los Angeles Times reported recently. And they became valued clients."


SageonPage 1 year, 8 months ago

The glaring incompetency of B. Hussein Obama is on full display and not likely a mistake that will be repeated in 2012. The democrat experiment with affirmative action a la B. Hussein Obama proves that a 'system' or propaganda alone can't produce a leader or a person of character, only an image or an idol, and their attempt to prop up the mistake has gone rancid. Thus the horrific mess America sits in currently, but a solution awaits on November 6, 2012. Mr. Krauthammer is correct in all regards in his advice.


Mike Ford 1 year, 8 months ago

changing the subject because the romneybot is going to implode from all of the different positions the puppet handlers have yanked on him with..... the culture of depending on always roping in the clueless with god, guns, and abortion, and of course code language......people who aren't even smart enough to know what biped on nuanced means......maybe you should go back to watching hee haw or deliverence for authentic dialect coaching....... stop using words above your pay grade......


FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 8 months ago

Romney should "focus" on his 'murder' trial of Joe Soptic's wife. As Flex's minion's have described Willard a "felon" and "murderer", Willard needs to "focus" on these two issues instead of 'figuring out' what to do with complex Liberal bipeds that can not, will not, become "self-sustainable."

The 'culture of dependency', is complex Flex's baby to feed. Let Flex appear to nurture them back to their usual, 'useful' one vote selves.


Getaroom 1 year, 8 months ago

The Krauthammer has vividly explained the path that Willard Romney (The Wanna-be-Pretender- In-Chief) should take, the path to greater riches for the already rich and the continued Corporate takeover of the country. What is new with this Republican ideology, it has always been that way?
Tune into Faux Nuz for more of the same bat dung craziness.
Oh! Charles, how we long for the nostalgic Corporate Restaurant on corner and the Corporate farm. NOT!


Abdu Omar 1 year, 8 months ago

Just try to imagine a Romney Whitehouse. He will try first to repeal the health act, nicknamed Obamacare. What will we have if he does? Nothing!! The republicans have no alternative but they hate this law. Come up with something, but better yet, tweak this law into making it what they want. They have no imagination and couldn't come up with their own plan, so change this one to where it is affordable for ALL, not just the wealthy (your only constituents).

Romney has had no good ideas and will not have a house that opposes him, so he should be able to stop Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid in its tracks so that the poor will wither and die. Then all of America will be rich and prosperous.

This is not the time to elect Romney, but we have to point out to Obama that he had better wake up and get this country moving again. He can do that by trying to work with congress and create ways to start the economy. His biggest fault is that he is black and the prejudice in this country reigns strong.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 8 months ago

Chuckie's real prescription to Romney-- Lie deeply, and lie often, and because facts aren't on your side, focus on the fairy-tales of trickle-down ideology and extol the virtues of plutocracy.


Commenting has been disabled for this item.