Friday, December 30, 2011

Republican Nominee Preference: Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman

There is virtually no chance this political supporter would back the eventual Republican nominee over the current president, Barack Obama, next November. As much as the president has let this writer down with his failure to policy prescriptions from the Republican wall of obstinacy, his policy prescriptions are far more preferable than the ones which his Republican opponents are now proposing on the campaign trail.

President Obama bailed out the auto industry to keep American jobs here in the United States. His likely opponent, former Governor Mitt Romney, said we should let the auto industry go bankrupt. Obama signed legislation imposing at least some (albeit not enough) regulations on the derivative market on Wall Street while his Republican opponents call for more deregulation, the very problem that led to the stock market debacle in the first place. President Obama would have the millionaires pay more of their, ahem, hard-earned money and pay their fair share to balance the budget for the wars they don’t have to send their children to and pay for the schools they will get their employees from. His Republican opponents would rather cut education funding, and the entitlement programs to balance the budget.

The president signed a health care reform bill into law that allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health care plans while they go to college, and protects Americans with pre-existing conditions from going bankrupt paying exorbitant health care bills by denying health insurance companies a right to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions. The Republicans call for its repeal. The president had kept his promise to withdraw American troops from Iraq, while his opponents, so quick to blame the president for the never-ending increase in our nation debt, say we should an spend $1.8 billion a week preserving the peace between three groups who have shown they won’t make the effort to forge one.

Obama’s failures stem from his inability and/or unwillingness to fight for what he believes. While his chief economic advisor pressed for a $1 trillion economic jobs program, the president settled for the smaller $700 billion plan he thought Congress would pass. He failed to go on the road to back the larger plan. When the Republicans threatened to let the middle class tax cuts expire if the Bush tax cuts weren’t passed in their entirety, the president blinked. He did present to the American people, the case for letting those who can afford to pay more, pay more so that vital government programs needed so that vital government programs and services wouldn’t be cut. The president again blinked when the Republicans said they wouldn’t raise the debt ceiling. And he refused to weigh in on a bipartisan debt commission’s proposals to reform the entitlement programs and close tax loop holes.

President Obama, nevertheless, has earned his a second term. He proved he was up to the task with the successful killings of Anwar al-Alwaki, the American who defected to al Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden, the spiritual founder of that same terrorist organization. The president deserves the credit for exacting justice for the lives lost on September 11, 2001.

The Political Heretic, nevertheless, feels obliged to weigh in on the Republican primary. Whether he likes any of the candidates or not, one of the Republicans will emerge as the president's opponent and challenge the president from the conservative side of the political spectrum. The state of the economy is fragile. Though there are signs that we may be in the state of a slow recovery, things can turn around quickly if the euro collapses and the president may very well pay the ultimate political price from the voters who are looking to blame him for their misfortune.

Those of us who back Mr. Obama, as well as those of us who are as of yet undecided can still offer a recommendation with the hope that the Republicans will pick someone who has the temperament, intellectual heft, and experience to confront the problems that may emerge in the years in which he (or she) is in the White House.

By process of elimination, the Political Heretic thinks Republicans should pull the lever for either Mitt Romney, the former one-term governor of Massachusetts or Jon Huntsman of Utah. Both have the prerequisite credentials one should expect from a president. They both have the executive experience that provides the on-the-job training which the president lacked. Romney and Huntsman had to negotiate with legislatures. They also bring their own unique assets to the White House - Mitt Romney as a successful businessman and Jon Huntsman as a former U.S. ambassador to China.

Choosing between these two has proven exceptionally difficult to the Political Heretic. Huntsman, who governed his fairly conservative state as a conservative with a conservative legislature, is now running as a sensible moderate who supports civil unions, a gradual exit strategy from the war in Afghanistan, and some much-needed banking reforms. He alone, calls for the breakup of the largest banks since “too big to fail” has proven too costly to the American dreams of many average working Americans.

His poll numbers are near the bottom of the pack, behind candidates who deserved far less consideration than he got and he did not make it onto Virginia’s ballot. The Political Heretic can hope that some Republicans will take their cue from conservative pundit David Frum and back the nicer guy with the more inclusive message as a protest vote but he is under no illusion that Huntsman has a shot at winning the Republican primary and he cannot ask party members who may skew toward the conservative side to vote for the candidate who is running as the party’s conservative liberal.

Romney, who governed his fairly liberal state as a right of center moderate with a liberal legislature, is now running as a conservative who strictly adheres to the party line on the economic, cultural and military issues. Romney worked with a liberal legislature in a fairly diverse state. Huntsman worked with a conservative legislature in a smaller, more homogenous state so it is exceptionally difficult to see which of these two, if either, is running on a message he believes in.

In 2004 the Political Heretic passed over the former one-term governor of Massachusetts for the war hero, Senator John McCain because the latter, more often than not, said what he believed while Romney did not. McCain eventually flip-flopped on immigration reform, but he flip-flopped far less so than Mitt Romney, who conveniently had a “come to Jesus” moment on every single hot-button issue one can think of within a year before he entered the race for the White House.

The former governor who once said he would be a stronger defender of gay rights than the late Senator Edward Kennedy changed his mind when he began his first run for the nomination. Today he says he, himself, would not discriminate against gay people without actually saying whether anyone should have the right to do so. And the man who once said he should let illegal immigrants stay in this country now says now admonishes Speaker Newt Gingrich and Governor Rick Perry (R-Texas) for supporting amnesty programs that in effect would reward them for their bad behavior.

We saw why he flip-flopped on that issue in one of this year’s primary debates when the governor of Texas, falsely accused him of hiring illegal immigrants. Romney calmly noted that he didn’t know of the worker’s legal status and wasn’t privy to that information since he was actually employed by a contractor. However, since he didn’t need any controversy that could negatively impact his campaign for the White House, he cancelled the contract. Mitt Romney disassociated himself from the contractor because it was the politically convenient thing to do and not because it was the right thing to do.

His lies on the individual mandate are a little more nuanced. He supported them before he opposed them before he (somewhat?) supported them. As Massachusetts’ governor, Mitt Romney signed a health care plan that included an individual mandate into law. As a presidential candidate he first emphasized the (minute) differences between his plan and the one which the president signed into law and vowed to repeal “ObamaCare.” Now that he believes he will be the nominee, he says that the individual mandate is a conservative idea that encourages individual responsibility. “ObamaCare” must be repealed, he says, because it imposes a one-size-fits all mandate on every state, depriving states of the opportunity to experiment with their own systems.

In sum, Romney says whatever he things will get him elected. One cannot say for certain what he believes in, if anything.

Virtually every successful politician flip-flops on a given issue from time to time but Mitt Romney has turned it into his favorite American pastime. If politicians from time to time dance around the polls, Romney does the full monty.

The Republican frontrunner was, however, a successful one-term governor of a moderately-sized but diverse state with a Democratically-controlled legislature. He did enact a health care reform bill that is not unlike the one Obama signed into law on the federal level and he did, in fact, close some tax loop holes (though he wouldn’t care to admit it) to help balance the state’s budget. And to the extent that he lies, obfuscates, and otherwise asks us to forget his sensible, moderate past, he at least does so in a nuanced way and a person who understands nuance won’t have as much trouble understanding the complex problems which this country still faces.

A recent New York Times articles suggests, he had proven himself to be a practical man who expressed no interest in the cultural issues of the day. This will serve him well when the focus is on the economy. It will serve him poorly when he fails to react to seismic geopolitical changes that affect our allies and the world economy at large.

One can safely assume that he would have the confidence to propose his vision for America and, one in power, fight for them.

Aside for Huntsman, however, Romney’s opponents are supremely unqualified for higher office. Speaker Newt Gingrich is a smart man with an outsized ego who lacks the temperament to be our next president and his grandiose sense of entitlement and self will lead him to embarrass us on the world stage. Newt Gingrich referred to the Palestinians as an "invented people", a people who once thought about Arabs. That claim, while true, can be applied to any number of peoples. One can make the same claim about the United States, circa 1776. They were, after all, British colonialists who at that time were only beginning to see themselves as a special group of people. But whether he is right about the Palestinians or not, it is besides the point. If they were "invented" at an established time in the past, they now "exist" as a people. Efforts to dismiss their claims to self-determination at this point would prove to be counter-productive if we ever want to achieve peace in the Middle East.

Gingrich has on any numerous occasions made some grandiose statements that will expose us to ridicule. He compared himself to Winston Churchill. He let his campaign director compare his failure to submit the prerequisite votes for the Virginia ballot to the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December, 1941. His grandiose sense of self will get him in trouble with those he is expected to deal with, both hear and abroad. Gingrich, then serving as the Speaker of the House, once complained about his inability to negotiate with the president (at that time President William Jefferson Clinton) during an airplane flight and unwisely attributed a tougher continuing resolution designed to keep the government open to the snub.

Should he win the nomination the former Speaker will run a nasty and dishonest campaign that would make the typical opposition researcher squeamish. The Lincoln-Douglas style debates which the speaker insists upon having would degenerate into an hour of name-calling. Gingrich would raise the unsubstantiated "birther" claim with no remorse. He had, after all, referred to Obama's supposed "Kenyan socialist roots) just as he once compared the efforts by gays and atheists to claim their share of the American dream to fascism. Important debates about the role of government would be distorted. He told the "Occupy Wall Street" protesters to get a job without providing any solutions as to how they could get one in an environment of low job growth.

He is also the wrong candidate to speak about the housing bubble since he was taking money from Freddie Mac as, he preposterously claims, as a “historian” and not, as most people suspect, as a “consultant” or “lobbyist.”

Governor Perry, himself once touted as the conservative candidate who would best Romney in the primaries, has conducted himself poorly in the debates. One gets the impression that Perry, like his predecessor in the Texas statehouse, is a bumbling ignoramus if not an idiot. The three-term governor who shoots his vermin at the Niggerhead (anyone who associates with a place with this name automatically disqualifies him or herself from higher office) shooting range, missed all of his targets in the debates.. Romney got the better of their duel over who supported illegal immigration more. Perry falsely accused Romney of hiring an illegal immigrant, conducting himself as a magnet that only encouraged further immigration but was unprepared to respond to Romney’s countercharges concerning the in-state tuition rates Perry offered his state’s illegal immigrants.

In another debate, the governor from Texas forgot one of the three departments he would eliminate. One would expect a candidate who proposes to cut government spending by eliminating a department would come up with any one of fifteen cabinet-level departments if he couldn’t name an obscure governmental agency. We should, at the very least, expect a candidate who forgets something from time to time prove that he or she can think on his or her feet quickly whenever the situation would call for it. Decisions about when a special forces team or CIA operatives should take out a terrorist may require a snappy judgment from time to time. Perry should have offered any number of executive Departments Republicans might not like (Health and Human Services or Housing and Urban Development) if he couldn't remember that he wanted to eliminate the Department of Energy.

In one of his campaign trips to New Hampshire, Perry was caught slurring his speech and in general, acting like a frat boy. He proudly noted that debating was not his strong suit. A president who cannot debate will find the process of negotiating with members of Congress, let alone world leaders, especially challenging..

Even his better days, when he wasn’t making any gaffes (like forgetting how many Supreme Court justices there are or forgetting that Canada is not a U.S. state), the governor struggled to put nouns and verbs together into simple sentences.

Michele Bachmann, a conservative congresswoman from Minnesota who ironically sits on the House Intelligence Committee, has proven herself to be a firebrand who does not get her facts straight before she speaks. On some occasions she got American history wrong. (The "shots fired around the world" were shot in Massachusetts, not New Hampshire). On other occasions she got public policy facts wrong. HPV vaccines do not, as Bachmann suggests, cause mental retardation. She misstated the cost of a trip Obama was making to India in another case, based on the unconfirmed report of an Indian newspaper at the time. One would hope that she would base her facts on confirmed reports before committing American troops to a war but her failure to confirm what is true and what is false suggest that it isn't promising.

Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas),have the brains and knowledge that Perry lacks but they are, in their own ways, extremists who have no broader appeal beyond their niche. Congressman Paul campaigns for the return to the America of the 18th and 19th centuries that virtually no one would support if they thought about it - one in which the federal government’s prerogatives were limited and states made virtually all of the decisions. The Political Heretic likes a lot of things Paul’s heroic defense of our civil liberties, - his opposition to the misnamed PATRIOT Act, military tribunals, and rendition are shared by this political writer.

However, his America is an America that largely keeps to itself in a world where the trends point in the other direction, towards globalization. It is a vision in which the federal government would not be in the business of creating jobs, and investing in our nation’s roads and bridges, or, for in our nation’s public schools for that matter, so that we can once again compete with China, and Brazil. It is an America that does not provide senior citizens with social security checks or medicare payments that allow them to retire. And it is an America whereby states would determine which civil rights laws they will enact and which ones they will ignore.
One can agree with his opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and still worry that his complete withdrawal from the world would prove disastrous. China is emerging as a world power house that is aggressively defending what it believes to be its turf in the South China Sea. North Korea's new leadership might decide to bolster his regime's viability by launching a second invasion of South Korea should American troops withdraw from South Korea and Japan.

The former two-term senator from Pennsylvania, for his part, represents a narrow constituency whose vision for America has more in common with the Islamic fundamentalists than they would care to admit to themselves, let alone us. It is a vision in which the woman’s role is confined to the bedroom and kitchen and the gay person has no life to speak of. It is a life in which the Christian’s religious beliefs are pushed on students of all faiths who go to public schools. It is not, however, the vision on which this country was built on, It is not a vision for one who values religious liberty or the right to privacy.

For these reasons, the Political Heretic strongly urges the Republicans to pull the lever (or caucus) with either Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman. Backing any of the candidates would be grossly irresponsible.

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