Mitt Romney: A Leader for America

There is a good reason that politicos call the run-up to an election "the silly season."  Americans tend to lose their perspective and give in to emotionalism and irrationality when campaigns are in full swing.  Rumor and innuendo trump records and character.  Emotionalism reigns making Americans susceptible to scare tactics and the politics of personal destruction.

America will face some serious and complex problems in the next administration:  social security, Medicare, health care, sustainable energy, the continuing war on terrorists, advancing and supporting democracy in the Middle East, and a host of other foreseen and unforeseen issues.   We need a leader who has a proven record of tackling big problems and solving them.  That man is former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

A conservative who governed the most liberal state in the Union, Gov. Romney demonstrated fiscal discipline, balancing successive budgets and shepherding a realistic comprehensive health care plan through a Democratic legislature after the previous Democrat sponsored one failed.  For those on the far right who call him to liberal or question the sincerity of Gov. Romney's conservatism, they need only look to the fact that he is the first major presidential candidate to sign the "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" promoted by Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform.

The pledge promises that the signatory will oppose "any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses," as well as "any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates."

In comments on the new Democrat-controlled Congress, Romney predicted that raising taxes would be part of the new leadership's agenda.  "Holding the line on taxes is critical to the strength of our economy and the well-being of the American people," he said.  And, his record supports his words.  The conservative Beacon Hill Institute gave Romney high marks for not increasing income or sales taxes during his gubernatorial tenure.

Some seek to attack Romney as a "Johnny-come-lately conservative."  But, that misses the point.  One is not endowed with wisdom, but has to come by it through life experience.  Leadership involves learning from those life experiences, adapting one's outlook and applying the learned lessons going forward.  That is the process of political maturation, and Governor Romney had gone through that very process. 

At the Awakening 2007 conference held in Sea Island, GA, Romney addressed this issue head-on stating,
"Now, I wasn't always a Ronald Reagan conservative. Neither was Ronald Reagan, by the way. And perhaps some in this room have had the opportunity to listen, learn, and benefit from life's experience - and to grow in wisdom, as I have. My life experience convinced me that Ronald Reagan was right. I'm a conservative that gets the job done. And you don't just have to take my word for it, you can just look at my record."
And, getting the job done is what Romney has done throughout his career.  His record of success reaches back to his business days, when he saw Bain & Company through a successful turnaround as its CEO.  He then took stewardship of the troubled 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games.  At the time he took the helm in 1998, the effort had a deficit of $379 million, and fraught with scandal and corruption.  Romney cleaned up the governance and inner workings of the Organizing Committee, and turned the financial problems into a profit. 

As Governor, he addressed the immediate problems of the Big Dig, a failed health care policy and a serious state budget crisis.  As Baby Boomers retire and rely on the pay-as-you-go Social Security and the Medicare systems, we need a responsible chief executive who has enough experience on which to draw to craft solutions that work.  Mitt Romney has that experience.

There has been concern by some that his position on social issues is not conservative enough, based on a statement he made in 1994.  Once again, these fears ignore Romney's actual record as governor.  As governor in 2005, Romney wrote an op-ed for The Boston Globe, in which he stated his views on abortion.  He wrote,
"I am prolife. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother. I wish the people of America agreed, and that the laws of our nation could reflect that view. But while the nation remains so divided over abortion, I believe that the states, through the democratic process, should determine their own abortion laws and not have them dictated by judicial mandate."
Social conservatives can also look to his opposition to gay marriage in Massachusetts and the pressure that he brought to bear on that state Supreme Court led to the court's ruling that the issue should properly be addressed by the state legislature in the form of a proposed constitutional amendment.  Romney's record on these two issues should go far to assuage any doubt about his position on social issues. 

But, as we approach the "silly season," other issues get overblown by a zealous liberal press that has relied on scare tactics and innuendo to attack public figures.  Usually this tactic is reserved for the most competent candidates.  For Governor Romney, the issue that the liberal press continues to press is his religion.  Some on the far left seek to scare the radical secularists into believing that should he be elected, Romney will impose his religion on the American people.  Some seek to scare the Evangelical community into thinking that Mormonism is in some way threatening to Protestantism.  Still others seek to paint Romney with the brush of extremism, or portray him as endorsing the extremists in his religion.  Respectfully, these arguments are poppycock.

One of the things that makes America a beacon of light and hope around the world is the our principle of religious freedom.  Radical secularists insist that our public square should be wiped clean of religion - that it should not even inform the deliberations of our leaders.  That would not only be contrary to the Founding Fathers' design and example, it would be dangerous for America and for the world.  Should these anti-religious advocates prevail, religious persecution would begin in earnest in the United States. America would become a country where adherence to religion - any religion - would disqualify a person from public office, employment, or social institutions.

As for those who seek to harm Romney's candidacy, by sowing discomfort with his membership in the Church of Jesus Christ, Latter Day Saints, they should learn more about this religion with American roots.  Portraying Mormonism as the religion of the 1800's is like evaluating Christianity without the Reformation or Judaism without the Talmud.  As in other religions, the LDS Church has a policy stating that a person must govern by his own conscience, and not at the behest of church dictates.  In fact, America has benefited from the leadership of Mormons in both political parties for decades.  Among the most prominent are Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).  Mormonism shouldn't be the issue - values should be.  Mitt Romney demonstrates his solid values every day, both in his personal life (married to the same woman for 37 years) and in the people's business, fostering clean and responsible government under his tutelage.

This religious paranoia is not new to our political deliberations.  We should remember that President John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, also faced these accusations when he ran for President.  History has proven that argument to be irrelevant.  Moreover, for those who seek to depict Mormons as being out-of-step with normative American values, we must remember that all religions have outsiders and extreme sects.  To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we should not judge a person by the extremists of his faith, but by the content of his character. 

America needs a pragmatic leader with solid values and an excellent character who can address the coming problems in the best interest of the country.  That leader for America is Mitt Romney.

Amy D. Goldstein has over 15 years experience in politics and advocacy, directing policy formulation for organizations in Washington, New York, and internationally.
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