Monday, October 31, 2011

Mitt Romney--A Lubricated Weather Vane?

David Plouffe, campaign manager for President Obama, said on Sunday morning that Mitt Romney 'has no core', meaning that he has no core convictions that he won't compromise.  This is becoming a common criticism of Romney, that he is a flip-flopper who will change his position like a "lubricated weather vane", as Jon Huntsman put it a few days ago.  Conservatives seem to think this of Romney, primarily because he has switched from conservative to moderate and now back to conservative again over the years.

Does this mean that he is simply 'pragmatic', willing to follow where the evidence or needs lead?  Actually, this is how President Obama is often described, as a centrist pragmatist rather than a 'liberal/progressive'.  Is Romney just a Republican/conservative version of Obama, someone without strong core convictions who just follows where the facts lead?  Or does it mean that he will say anything to get elected, which is often considered to be a characteristic trait of politicians, with few exceptions (perhaps Ron Paul?).

Here is what we know FOR SURE about Mitt Romney.  He is, first of all, a committed, orthodox Mormon.  Secondly, he is a committed family man, with little likelihood of any moral 'skeleton's in his closet of a personal nature.  Thirdly, he worked in the private equity industry, doing leveraged buyouts of business, and in the process, became rich.  And fourthly, Romney as Governor worked with the political system in Massachusetts to put in place a public/private health care system that covers virtually everyone.  And in order to do that, he didn't take a strongly ideological position, but worked 'across the aisle.'

So here's my take on Romney.  I think that, given his background, Romney is what I would call a 'conservative pragmatist', which is to say that, though he leans strongly in a conservative direction in the three basic areas of economic/foreign/cultural politicies, he is open to compromise in order to get things done.  He's not an ideologue, in other words.  At least I don't think so.

One caveat to the above is that his list of foreign policy advisors is a rollcall of foreign policy experts from the early George W. Bush administration, which is to say, hawkish 'neo-conservatives' (Herman Cain doesn't know what that means) rather than the 'realists' from later on in Bush II.  If he is sincere about that, rather than just trying to assure that wing of the Republican Party to get their support, then that's a big problem.  And I think we have to assume that's the case, since we have nothing else to base a judgment on.

The other thing I would say is that, given that his background in the financial sector of the economy, Romney is even more unlikely than Obama to take the hard steps to reregulate the banking/Wall Street sector to help prevent the kinds of things that brought on our 2008 financial/economic debacle.

So actually, I hope that he is more pragmatic than might otherwise be the case.  Otherwise, it's going to be pretty dismal if he wins.

PS.  I forgot to say that another 'strength' of Mitts is his father, George Romney.  He was a very fine man and governor of Michigan, a stalwart of the civil rights movement when it wasn't necessarily a popular thing to do in the United States or in the Republican Party (or the Mormon Church, for that matter).  So if Mitt has some of his father in him, then he could pull some surprises (of the good kind) on us!  But on the other hand, Mitt could also be more like the sons of Billy Graham and George H.W. Bush: poor imitations of the original.

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