Why Romney Alarms Me
I like Mitt Romney. I do. In fact, how can anyone help liking him? A vigorous man in the Goldilocks prime of his life -- not too young to scare the electorate by his lack of experience, not too old to worry about the onset of decrepitude. A man of indisputably high intelligence and great experience, with an enviable resume. A devoted family man with a wonderful wife and five strapping sons. A man of unimpeachable moral character with not a whiff of scandal ever attaching to him (what a relief after that paragon of supersized appetite, Bill Clinton!).
The son of a self-made man who rose from humble origins to become governor of Michigan, his entire life is an open book, which is a guarantee that no scandal is lurking in his past to rear its ugly head at an opportune moment of the opposition's choosing (what a relief after that man of impenetrable mystery, Barack Obama!). A fabulously successful businessman and a noted turn-around specialist, who made his fortune the old-fashioned way -- by earning it. The wizard of Salt Lake City, who took over the floundering, scandal-ridden U.S. Olympics in Utah, cleaned it up, and achieved a signal success -- under his leadership, the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah became one of the most successful Olympic Games ever held in the U.S.
An effective Republican governor of the bluest-of-the-blue state of Massachusetts who imposed fiscal discipline on the Democrat-controlled legislature by skillfully wielding his veto power. A persistent campaigner, who took his lumps in the previous electoral cycle, dusted himself off, and kept on doggedly pursuing his presidential dream, constantly improving his debating and campaigning skills. What's not to like?
Why, then, do I cringe at the thought of Mitt Romney as the next U.S. president? Is it his numerous flip-flops? There is no denying that he has changed his views on practically all important issues and made it a habit of trimming his sails to suit the prevailing winds, slavishly following the contortions of social and political fashion. It almost seems as if he starts his day by studying the latest public opinion surveys and adjusts his position to keep in step with the reigning views du jour. He puts one in mind of the proto-socialist French politician, Alexandre Ledru-Rollin (1807-1874), known for his famous dictum: "There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader." (Sort of like President Obama's formula of "leading from behind.")
There is nothing wrong with or unnatural in growing, evolving, and changing one's views as the changing facts on the ground warrant. Only a fool believes that if facts contradict theory, so much the worse for the facts. After all, Ronald Reagan was once a Democrat, and Arthur Koestler started out as a communist. Romney, in my view, is different. Which is not to way that he is an opportunist who will say and do anything in his mad craving of power.
But Romney wants power, doesn't he? Sure he does -- why else would he willingly submit to the prolonged torture of running for president? But the way I see it, he doesn't want power for the sake of power or for its attendant perks. Why, then? By nature he is not a philosopher or an ideologue. He is above all a doer, a technocrat, a manager who worships at the temple of the goddess of efficiency. He thus has no use for lofty ideas and probably shares Bush the Elder's scornful opinion of "the vision thing." He knows that Obama has botched his job badly and is itching to get to the White House, roll up his sleeves, and start cleaning up the place and fixing things, ideology be damned. And I have little doubt he would do a wonderful job.
So what's my problem?
My problem is that for all Romney's admirable qualities, the president must be a visionary, not just a picker-upper. He sets the course of the country and points it in a certain direction. Running for president, Barack Obama proclaimed his intention of radically transforming America. He has gone a long way toward keeping his promise and done a lot of damage. He has steered the country onto the road to socialist hell, and if his "accomplishments" are not undone, America will find itself in mortal peril.
Assuming that in 2012 Obama goes down to defeat, as seems increasingly likely, it is paramount that the next U.S. president be as much a counter-revolutionary as Obama is a revolutionary. Zeal must be countered with zeal, persistence with persistence. For the U.S. public, ordinarily cautious and wary of dramatic moves, instinctively grasps the gravity of the situation and clamors for boldness. The 2012 election will be that rare instance when the American people will tolerate -- indeed, demand -- decisive, visionary action to arrest the country's seemingly inexorable slide toward the abyss. Tinkering around the edges won't do. What is required now is an all-out counterattack to roll back the socialist onslaught. In short, what the country needs is a transformative president.
Does Mitt Romney meet the specification? I am afraid not. And judging by the fact that his electoral base stays narrow no matter how hard he tries to expand it, a lot of American conservatives share my apprehension, whether consciously or intuitively. Look at the program of action Romney has posted on his campaign site. A slew of corrective or remedial measures -- and not a single truly radical measure, nothing that would really rock the boat. Even on the paramount issue of Obamacare, thoroughly discredited as it is, Romney doesn't dare suggest repealing it; he would simply grant a waiver to all the states, allowing them to wiggle out of its bony grip, without attempting to get rid of it outright. Doesn't he understand that the vampire has to be killed once and for all, with a stake driven through his heart, to make sure he would never rise again? Leaving the legal shell of Obamacare intact for all practical purposes is an invitation to the left to try again after it recovers, regroups, and prepares to storm the ramparts once again. Maybe Romney does understand it, but the deeply ingrained habit of Republican establishmentarians to defer to the liberals as their moral superiors is apparently too strong to overcome.
Like an old janitor called to the frat house to clean up after a wild party, President Romney would dolefully peruse the disgusting scene, heave a deep sigh, and, indignantly muttering under his breath (it will be rude to aggravate the severely hung-over revelers, won't it?), proceed to clean up the gigantic mess left by the Bacchanal. But the country does not need a custodial president who will tweak here and there and apply some Band-Aids, leaving intact the structures put in place by his socialist predecessor. It needs a bold and daring leader who will extirpate the socialist poison tree root and branch.
Unfortunately, there is little reason to believe that Mitt Romney would be that kind of leader. Which means that an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity would be wasted, and the wounded leftist vampire would live to fight another day. That's why the prospect of this decent and otherwise remarkable man becoming the next president of the United States is not comforting at all. Indeed, it is downright alarming.