Posts Tagged ‘National Review’

“Bottom line: the Romney campaign made their bed with the early state primary strategy and got short-sheeted,” writes Justin Hart in a race42008.com blog burst titled, strangely, Autopsy of a Great GREAT Campaign

The momentum that Huckabee gained through his stunning Iowa win together with the victory that McCain edged out in New Hampshire seriously maimed the Romney narrative [...]

Hart refers to Romney’s ill-starred von Schlieffen plan, a plan that we criticized early and often. Romney’s von Schleiffen plan was an electoral-map fantasia so over-the-top preposterous that we always assumed that it was a cover for a more rational undertaking, an undertaking that required secrecy to pursue. We were wrong about that, and about a lot else besides.

John Ellis has a different take on the “Team Romney mounted a GREAT campaign” theme, one more consonant with our experience:

[...] The sad thing about the Romney campaign’s demise is that Mitt Romney is an exceptional person; highly intelligent, enormously hard-working, a man of great integrity and grit and executive ability. Given the dearth of talent in both parties — the seemingly endless parade of mediocrity and venality — we’re lucky to have people like Mitt Romney who are willing to get in the game. But he was terribly served by his campaign staff and advisors. I would argue that they win the worst campaign team of 2008. Good riddance to them. They had everything they needed to make a good run and they made a complete hash of it [...]

The problem: to explain just went wrong is surpassingly difficult as it requires the observer to interpret the data of the world differently than is otherwise the case. Byron York attempts such an explanation on personal and narrative grounds in an NRO article titled Why Romney Failed

[...] Romney made a lot of mistakes that didn’t seem like mistakes at the time. Drawing on his enormous success as a business consultant, he put together an impressively well-organized and professional campaign. That was good. But he never fully understood that the voters were looking for some spark in a candidate that connects him to them. Instead, Romney placed his faith in his magnificent organization and his PowerPoint analyses.

He hired a lot of people, spent millions to build organizations in key states, and then spent millions more for television and radio advertisements. The day after the Iowa caucuses, I dropped by WHO radio in Des Moines, and a top station official told me that Romney had been WHO’s second-biggest advertiser in 2007. (First was Monsanto farm chemicals.) In all, Romney pumped $1 million into WHO’s bank account. In South Carolina recently, a local politico marveled at how much money Romney’s in-state consultants made from the campaign. “Those guys made a mint out of him,” the politico told me. “It’s sinful how much they made.”

Yuh-huh. How much of the Romney phenomenon is the story of a super-rich ingenue getting bilked—just mercilessly fleeced—by a corrupt and cash-starved GOP party establishment?

Back to York:

As a result of all that spending, Romney ran a campaign on a deficit, deeply in debt. Of course, it was in debt to Romney himself, who put $35 million of his own money into the campaign as of December 31, and likely a lot more since. All that money freed Romney and his team from making some of the tough decisions that other campaigns had to make every day. You could argue either way whether that was good or bad.

Just before the Iowa caucuses, I was at a corporate headquarters outside Des Moines, asking a few questions of Eric Fehrnstrom, the press secretary who usually traveled with Romney. Fehrnstrom looked at Mike Huckabee’s campaign and saw a ragtag lot. “We’re going up against a loose confederation of fair taxers, and home schoolers, and Bible study members, and so this will be a test to see who can generate the most bodies on caucus day,” Fehrnstrom said.

I interrupted for a moment. “Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those groups?” I asked.

“Not that there’s anything wrong, but that’s just a fact,” Fehrnstrom continued. “That’s just where he has found his support. I have a theory about why Mike Huckabee holds public events in Iowa like getting a haircut or going jogging, or actually leaving Iowa and going to California to appear on the Jay Leno show. It’s because he doesn’t have the infrastructure to plan events for him. And when he does do events in Iowa, he goes to the Pizza Ranch, where you have a built-in crowd, so you don’t have to make calls to turn people out. We’re very proud of the organization we have built in Iowa.”

They had reason to be proud; it was a good organization. But in a bigger sense, they just didn’t understand what was going on. Fehrnstrom, like his boss, placed a lot of faith in Romney, Inc. How could a bunch of seat-of-the-pantsers like the Huckabee campaign possibly beat the Romney machine? Well, they could, in Iowa, and McCain could in New Hampshire and South Carolina, and then in Florida and on Super Tuesday. The race was never about the imposing infrastructure Romney had built. It was about that ineffable something that voters look for in candidates. With Huckabee, some of those voters saw an intriguing and refreshing figure. With McCain, a larger number saw someone who wanted, above all, to defend the United States. And with Romney — well, they didn’t quite know what to think [...]

This is the problem with positive feedback, say, success. Success often passes into a crisis of perception as people and organizations optimize for successful activities at the expense of a more thorough review of changing conditions etc. It is the very definition of the learning or the experience curve. Failure and tragedy are excellent teachers; but what works for us—our triumphs, our successes—affirms us in what we are already doing, and recedes into the half-consciousness of habit and routine.

But here the problem for the Romney campaign was always this: their success itself was never real. For example: Their highly professional organization was the best that money could buy, but that money was not a reliable indicator of the candidate’s success as a fund-raiser or fitness as a candidate. It was only ever an indicator of the candidate’s personal worth.

ROI, people. ROI. There is no more effective metric for the success of a message or a message campaign than the your Return on Investment, and Romney’s was always preposterously low.

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[...] “When Romney tried to present himself as the most conservative of conservative candidates — remember when he said, playing on Paul Wellstone’s old line, that he represented “the Republican wing of the Republican party”? — a lot of conservatives in Iowa and South Carolina and beyond didn’t quite know what to think,” writes Byron York in an NRO article titled Why Romney Failed; Where was he coming from? Voters never really knew

When they saw video of him in the fall of 2002 — not that long ago, during a debate in his run for Massachusetts governor — vowing to “preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose” five times in a relatively brief period of time, they didn’t quite know what to think. When they saw video of him almost indignantly saying that “I wasn’t a Ronald Reagan conservative” and “Look, I was an independent during the time of Reagan/Bush; I am not trying to return to Reagan/Bush” — they didn’t quite know what to think. And when they read the letter he wrote saying he would “seek to establish full equality for America’s gay and lesbian citizens” even more than Ted Kennedy, they didn’t quite know what to think.

Romney’s run from his past left a lot of voters asking: Who is this guy? He says he believes certain things deeply now, but he believed other things deeply not that long ago. And each time, it seems, his deeply-held beliefs jibed with what was most advantageous politically.

And now that he has left the Republican race, the question remains. What was Romney thinking? No one outside a very, very tight circle knows. He is an extraordinarily disciplined man, and during the campaign he applied that discipline to making sure that he never said anything too revealing or that might be taken the wrong way. So if you were a reporter, or a supporter, or anyone other than his wife and perhaps his children, and you thought that Romney revealed something special and private to you, you were most likely wrong.

Given that, no one knew what meant the most to Romney. What were the core values that lay deep inside him, things that meant so much that he would give up everything for them? Voters want to know that about a president; they piece together an answer by watching a candidate over time. With Romney it was hard to tell, so they were left to guess. For what it’s worth, my guess is that at the core of Romney’s being is his church and his family; if Romney were asked to surrender all his worldly success for them, he would [...]

Church and family?—where does wanting to be our president come in?

Anyway, we harped on this weary string for months.

Balz: “it is difficult to sum up exactly what [Romney’s] candidacy is based upon and exactly who [Romney] is”

And yet the National Review endorsed this inscrutible non-entity.

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“A few moments ago, I spoke to someone in the Romney camp,” writes Byron York of NRO’s The Corner in a blog burst titled Romney Pulling Out? Campaign Doesn’t Want “To Look Destructive At What Might Be The End.”

Would I be crazy to read that into the email traffic? “You would not be crazy to read that into it,” he said. “There have been a lot of discussions going on about whether there is a path to victory, and not wanting to look destructive at what might be the end. You are reading the right thing into it.”

Update: It’s official, Gov. Romney to withdraw.

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dr. g.d.

[...] “Lots of talk in the media about McCain vs. The Mighty Wombats of Talk Radio,” writes the insipid Richelieu in an insipid Campaign Standard blog burst titled Richelieu: Random Thoughts on the Passing Scene

Ask President Tancredo about that one. The talkers can raise an issue to prominence, they can entertain, but they do not really deliver actual votes. Sorry Rush [...]

That should be “Sorry Romney.

Still, however, Romney wants to capitalize on the new love radiating from talk radio

[...] “It might be preaching to the choir, but the members of this choir are precisely the people Mitt Romney needs to stop John McCain from getting a stranglehold on the Republican nomination on Super Tuesday,” writes the estimable Foon Rhee, deputy national political editor, ina http://www.boston.com blog burst titled Romney puts ad on Limbaugh show

Romney aired an ad today on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show that excoriates McCain’s record on taxes and immigration.

“John McCain, he’s been in Washington a long time,” the announcer says, before the ad cites conservative commentators and the National Review.

Limbaugh, while not explicitly endorsing Romney, has been warning his listeners for weeks that McCain’s nomination would destroy the Republican Party. He repeated those warnings again today. Romney and McCain have been sparring over who is the true conservative [...]

The always a little baffled and befuddled Ed Morrissey laments what he foresees as a growing rift between the media figure of the right-wing shock jock and the Republican Party:

[...] But this showdown isn’t just about the media. It looks like the first really open GOP primary in decades will test a couple of widespread assumptions. First, does conservative talk radio have the influence that many presume to impact an election? Second, if it does not, what will that say about the future of conservative talk radio?

The answer to the first question will, I think, demonstrate that listeners have never been the monolithic, Clone Army style force that its critics presume. While they appreciate and enjoy the programs, listeners think for themselves. Anyone who spends any time at all listening knows the diversity of opinion unleashed through the call-in lines. Having spent time behind the mike as Hugh’s replacement on occasion, I can tell you that the callers are smart, informed, and sometimes have a much different opinion than me or Hugh.

So the answer to the second question follows from there. People will continue to listen to talk radio as they always have — for entertainment, information, and debate. The hosts will influence the opinions of the listeners, but they’re independent and will go their own way.

I expect that the hosts will change some minds before Tuesday. I expect the endorsements of the party’s establishment figures to do the same. In the end, most of the voters will make their decision based on their own logic, as they usually do. However, there will be one part of the showdown that may not survive, and that is the affinity of the conservative hosts for the Republican Party as an entity for conservative values. For that, High Noon has been a long time coming, and a McCain win may have some activists feeling very forsaken [...]

We grieve for those forsaken activists. We truly do.

Morrissey does understand the distinction between the activities of corporate content providers and the task of political parties, right?—the one is not the propaganda arm of the other. And if the one—or elements among the one—elect to promote a faction within the GOP at the expense of a governing coalition, then it deserves whatever it gets. The party is not the movement; the movement is not the party. And talk radio is neither party nor movement; it is information, entertainment, and opinion provided by organizations whose business is business.

Our prediction: our brothers and sisters in talk radio will soon learn why journalists and other media figures cherish the integrity that a sense of independence confers on them.

Meanwhile, Michael Graham of the NRO muses on the Sen. John McCain nomination that hasn’t happened yet, and answers the question that Morissey never posed but should have:

[...] John McCain didn’t win this nomination. Everyone else lost it. Mitt Romney had every chance — and then some — to win this nomination. He campaigned hard, and with lots of money, in every key primary state. And in every key state where his father never served as governor, he lost. He came, he saw (and was seen), and he got 31% of the vote. He wasn’t defeated by McCain. He’s just a mediocre candidate” [...]

This isn’t about talk radio. Nor should it ever have been. This is not even about the conservative movement. Note to Morrissey: Romney is not the conservative movement. The conservative movement is not Romney. Conservatism is for Romney a means to an end and that end is power.

This is, and has always been, about Romney, a surpassingly mediocre candidate.

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“Last summer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani took time out of a GOP debate to defend John McCain: ‘I happen to be a very big admirer of Senator McCain and I can tell you quite honestly that if I weren’t running for President I would be here supporting him,’” writes the estimable Ana Marie Cox in a http://www.time.com article titled The ‘I Hate Romney’ Club

Pundits speculated that the praise was simply a kind word for the man whose campaign had recently exploded, plagued by debt and defections. Privately, McCain advisers wondered if Giuliani was playing nice in order to secure McCain’s endorsement after he dropped out of the race.

But this week it was Giuliani who dropped out of the race and endorsed McCain, praising him as an “American hero.”

The endorsement was a reflection of the authentic respect McCain and Giuliani have for each other. But that’s not all the two candidates share. The endorsement deal was solidifed when both campaigns stayed at the Deerfield Hilton in Florida, following the Republican debate in Boca Raton on January 24. The two campaigns’ staff mingled easily over drinks. Acknowledging that his candidate was not likely to survive a defeat in Florida, a Giuliani aide approached one of the McCain senior staffers. Come Wednesday, he said, “Just tell us what want us to do — we’ve got to stop him.”

“Him,” of course, is Mitt Romney, the candidate who seems to be uniting his Republican rivals almost as much as Hillary Clinton. “The degree to which campaigns’ personal dislike for Mitt Romney has played a part in this campaign cannot be underestimated,” says an adviser to one of those rival campaigns. While sharp words have been exchanged between practically every Republican candidate at one point or another on the campaign trail, the aversion to Romney seems to go beyond mere policy disagreements. It’s also a suspicion of what they see is his hypocrisy and essential phoniness — what one former staffer for Fred Thompson called Romney’s “wholesale reinvention” [...]

We predicted long ago that the other candidates would concert their efforts against Romney.

Back to Cox:

[...] But such jibes mask more substantive complaints that many of the candidates have about Romney. “What Romney has done,” says a Huckabee adviser, “he’s attacked people for positions he once held. That annoys people. And he uses his own money to do it, which rubs it in.” He’s gone after McCain on campaign finance reform (which he once supported), Huckabee on tax increases (Huckabee countered that Romney’s raised “fees” amounted to the same thing), and nearly all the candidates on immigration [...]

Romney’s duplicity and shameless ideological cross-dressing offends the other candidates—this is a persistant theme in the accumulating Romney literature. What is less persistent is the theme of Romney’s duplicity among those who support him. Yet former Sen. Rick Santorum—who now supports the hapless candidate, Romney—also notes Romney’s duplicity.

Here is Santorum himself as interviewed by Mark Hemingway in an NRO article titled Romney-Santorum 2008; The former senator makes his choice

[...] “I think Romney, when he decided to run, he’s a smart business guy, and he sort of got his team together and said, ‘What do I need to do to be the conservative candidate?’ and give me the checklist and see if I can check them off,” Santorum said. “And I think over the course of this campaign, you know, I saw the migration from the checklist to his head and from his head into his heart and I really believe that’s where he is today” [...]

Santorum’s account of Romney’s duplicity is, um, well, unique. Apparently, for Santorum, Romney is authentic precisely because of his cynical duplicity.

Yes, concedes Santorum, Romney began as a social progressive. But Romney could not win the GOP nomination as a social progressive. So, in advance of a national election, Romney developed a checklist of what it means to be a conservative and ran on it. This may seem cynical. And it is. But, insists Santorum, sometime during Romney’s hard campaigning the candidate’s newly adopted principles “migrated” from his “head” to his “heart.”

Over the course of Romney’scampaign? So Romney began his campaign flatly lying. But as he listened to himself campaigning hard for conservative issues, principles, and causes, he convinced himself? Does Santorum really mean to argue that somehow Romney managed to persuade himself even if many of the rest of us remain unconvinced?

Remember: it isn’t a lie if you truly believe it.

Mitt Romney’s George Costanza Standard: “Jerry, Just Remember, It’s Not A Lie If You Believe It.”

As for Santorum himself, Stephen F. Hayes of the weekly standard has this to say in an article titled Enemies to the right of him

[...] Although many others have been as critical of McCain, perhaps no one has been as hypocritical. In 2006, when Santorum was running for reelection, he asked McCain to come to Pennsylvania to campaign on his behalf. When McCain obliged, Santorum put the video on his campaign website, listing it first among “key events” of the year. That’s gratitude, Santorum-style [...]

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“I predict we’re going to hear a growing conversation on the right about whether it’s better for America, conservatism, etc to have a president who feels he has to placate the conservative base versus having a president who claims to be a member of it,” writes Jonah Goldberg in a National Review TheCorner Blogburst titled One of Us Vs. One Who Owes Us

Goldberg issues a safe prediction.

Every candidate proposes a theory of representation whether explicitly or otherwise, i.e. an account of not just how the candidate as an elected official will advance the issues of his or her constituencies, but an explanation of why he or she would want to do so consonant with the candidate’s values, biography etc.—e.g. I am one of you, I believe as you believe etc.

Romney’s theory of representation is a unique one in our experience. Romney proposes to represent you by becoming you. See:

WSJ: “Plenty of politicians attune their positions to new constituencies—The larger danger is that Mr. Romney’s conversions are not motivated by expediency or mere pandering but may represent his real governing philosophy”

Back to Goldberg

President Bush won enormous good faith — no pun intended — from evangelicals and other social conservatives by saying, in effect, “I’m one of you.” A case could be made that some of Bush’s problems stem from the fact that the White House was internally confused about whether conservatives were simply another constituency or if they were more like a loyal army. I don’t think the distinctions are clean and neat, since there isn’t a monolithic conservative base and the Bush White House has been itself divided between Nixonians (i.e. the Poppa Bush crowd) and Reaganites. But I think we’ll see the conversation emerge as candidates like Giuliani and McCain make “transactional” overtures to the conservative base, saying something like “Support me and I’ll support what you care about” rather than “support me because I am one of you.”

National Review had a similar conversation over Richard Nixon. That didn’t turn out great.

The National Review also endorsed Willard Milton Romney. That hasn’t turned out so great either. See:

NRO organizes conference call to defend questionable decision to endorse Romney—eyeon08.com reports that they received not one supportive question, and no one spoke in favor of the endorsement

In other news from the frantic flunkies of the GOP establishment, Hugh Hewitt announces a talk-radio counter-strike against Sen John McCain as he attempts to consolidate his gains.

[...] Expect the talkers, led by Rush but seconded by Ingraham, Bennett, Prager, Beck, Hannity, Levin and me to spend the next few days putting down a marker: McCain is a very weak general election candidate, and if he was to win, would not govern as a conservative in any significant way. Our audiences are not, as MSMers like to imply, not only shrinking but mindless. They are growing, but they are incredibly independent of thought. They also take in and respond to good information, and now the information will be focused on John McCain and the choice before them.

MSM will of course be sending a very different set of talking points into the general population, one that obscures McCain’s record and which refuses to remind voters of the immigration fiasco etc. MSM will focus on Rudy and Arnold and leave the impression of a coalescing around McCain. Romney will battle to keep the issues out front, McCain the process.

But the new media is at work. We’ll see how it plays out [...]

So far this hasn’t played out well either. See:

Our question: What possible theory of representation justifies Limbaugh, Ingraham, Bennett, Prager, Beck, Hannity, Levin, and Hewitt himself, denouncing Sen. John McCain and advocating for Willard Milton Romney? Also: what is Hewitt’s object? It is this: To persuade Gov. Mike Huckabee voters to vote for Romney.

[...] If the Huckabee supporters are conservatives, they will recognize the peril to their party’s core beliefs and abandon their favorite who has no chance of winning in favor of Mitt Romney who does [...]

Based on analysis by Patrick Ruffini, we discuss why this will not be a simple proposition here:

Romney’s viciously negative attacks on Gov. Huckabee in Iowa still returning rich dividends for the hapless candidate from Bain Capital

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[...] “But it’s true”—i.e. true that the presumptive GOP nominee is Sen. John McCain, writes the sniveling and asinine Michael Graham in a TheCorner blog burst titled, despairingly, It’s All Over

When the campaign comes here to Massachusetts on February 5th, I’ll proudly cast my vote for any option on the GOP ballot other than You-Know-Who. But it will be a futile gesture. Mr. “1/3rd Of The GOP Primary Vote” is going to be the nominee.

He’s going to win the big, left-leaning states on Tuesday. Huckabee will stay in and deny Romney a one-on-one contest for GOP voters that Captain Amnesty would almost certainly lose. The result: More wins for He Who Must Not Be Named, and fewer wins for Romney—regardless of delegate count.

Florida has launched the one ship that Romney’s money and Rush Limbaugh cannot stop: The U.S.S. Inevitable. It’s gonna happen. Even if there were a realistic pathway to stop him, the media have seized control of the process now and are declaring him inevitable. He is, after all, the favorite son of the New York Times.

So it is over. Finished. In November, we’ll be sending out our most liberal, least trustworthy candidate vs. to take on Hillary Clinton—perhaps not more liberal than Barack Obama, but certainly far less trustworthy.

And the worst part for the Right is that McCain will have won the nomination while ignoring, insulting and, as of this weekend, shamelessly lying about conservatives and conservatism.

You think he supported amnesty six months ago? You think he was squishy on tax cuts and judicial nominees before? Wait until he has the power to anger every conservative in America, and feel good about it.

Every day, he dreams of a world filled with happy Democrats and insulted Republicans. And he is, thanks to Florida, the presidential nominee of the Republican party [...]

Note the bitterness. Note the spite. You think Sen. McCain was bad before, you Florida swamp-bunnies who allowed this to happen? You just wait. But what is worse for Graham is that he feels slighted by both Sen. McCain and Florida: “the worst part for the Right is that McCain will have won the nomination while ignoring, insulting and, as of this weekend, shamelessly lying about conservatives and conservatism.”

Translation: The voters have returned a decision that undermines the premises of the National Review itself. Further, these morons endorsed Willard Milton Romney.

Victor David Hanson pleads with his colleagues to not retail rumor without foundation and write responsibly

“At the risk of offending some in the Corner, I make the following observation about the recent posts-especially concerning those second-hand reports about what McCain purportedly said in Senate cloak rooms, or what is reported through anonymous sources about interviews he gave, or the legion of his other noted supposed sins,” writes Victor Davis Hanson in an NRO TheCorner post titled A Simple Warning

Note how the writer suddenly cannot a compose a clear or concise sentence.

Translation: This may offend some of you, but I need to comment on the rumors of what Sen. McCain is alleged to have said at this or that point in the past.

Back to Graham:

It is clear that the animus toward McCain shown by Romney supporters is growing far greater than any distaste those who support McCain feel for Romney. I am sympathetic to the McCain effort, but would of course, like most, support Romney should he get the nomination, given his experience, intelligence and positions on the war and the economy. I would worry about his ability to win independents and cross-overs, and note that his present positions are sometimes antithetical to his past ones, but also note that such concerns would be balanced by the recognition that it is hard for conservatives to get elected to anything in Massachusetts, that McCain in turn would have commensurate problems stirring the conservative base, and that McCain too has ‘adjusted’ on things like immigration et alia.

This is so unclear.

Translation: The animus of Romney supporters toward Sen. McCain is out of all proportion to the animus of Sen. McCain supporters for Romney. I support Sen. McCain. But I would support Romney were he to get the GOP nomination. I would still worry about how Romney polarizes people and his present inconsistency with positions he has taken in the past. But I would balance these concerns against how hard it is for conservatives in MA to get elected to anything. Sen. McCain, too, is going to face challenges because of his past positions.

Back to Graham:

[...] But all that said, at some point there should be recognition that some are becoming so polarized-and polarizing-that we are reaching the point that should a McCain win (and there is a good chance he will), and should he grant the necessary concessions to the base (chose someone like Thompson as his VP, take firm pledges on tax cuts, closing the border, etc), go on Limbaugh, Hannity, etc. for some mea culpas, all that still seemingly would not be enough. And if that were true, the result would vastly increase the chances of the Presidents Clinton, under whom there would be a vastly different Supreme Court, some chance of forfeiting what has been achieved in Iraq, and surely greater growth in government and earmarks [...]

[...] Some here have become so polarized that should Sen. McCain win and grant all the necessary concessions to the base, that would still not be enough. The sad result of that would be a President Clinton or Obama [...]

[...] Keeping all that in mind seems far more important than tracing down the anonymous source who claims McCain said something to someone at sometime [...]

Translation: You NRO writers need to be responsible for what you write. Do not just reproduce rumors or issue a single candidate’s spin. Instead: pursue your sources, and cite your sources. Right now, colleagues, you are poisoning your own well; you are fouling your own nest.

We concur.

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dr. g.d.

“BLUFFTON, S.C. (AP) — Mitt Romney on Wednesday swapped talk of resurrecting the auto industry that helped him in Michigan with a pledge to pay attention to textile and other industrial job losses that have punished the South,” writes the estimable Glen Johnson in an Associated Press article titled Romney Pledges to Save Southern Economy

“You’ve seen it here, in furniture. You’ve seen the textile industry, where Washington watched, saw the jobs go and go,” the Republican presidential contender told a group of senior citizens at the Sun City Hilton Head Retirement Center.

“I’m not willing to declare defeat on any industry where we can be competitive. I’m going to fight for every job,” Romney said [...]

Yuh-huh. The protean Willard Milton has transmuted from an un-reconstructed and caricature-cartoon arch-conservative self-described Reaganite to a progressive-populist in the space of a single speech, his speech to the credulous rubes of the Detroit Economics Club, rubes very nearly as credulous and gullible as the dustpan-heads at the National Review who endorsed the hapless candidate, Willard Milton Romney.

Back to Johnson:

Later, during a news conference, the former Massachusetts governor acknowledged he may not always be successful, but he renewed his Rust Belt criticism of rival John McCain for suggesting some automotive jobs will not be replaced.

The Arizona senator has suggested Romney is pandering for votes and ignoring the realities of the global economy.

“Can I guarantee that we’ll be able to protect every industry and every job and be successful keeping every job?” Romney said to reporters. “I don’t think any person can make that guarantee. But I can guarantee that I’ll fight and do my best.”

We discuss the trope of “working hard for the American people” here.

South Carolina votes Saturday, and Romney’s trip south inspired a reassessment of his victory a night earlier in Michigan. That was the state where he was born, Romney’s father served as governor for three terms and where Romney himself pledged to do more than any other candidate to reduce the state’s nation-leading 7.4 percent unemployment rate [...]

For more on these sad themes:

As we wrote elsewhere of this latest Romney incarnation:

[...] After humiliating defeats in Iowa and New Hampshire, Romney in Michigan finally develops a winning formula. It is a formula consistent with Romney’s risibly low ROI as it allows the hapless candidate to offload his astronomical costs on others. It is simply this: political spoil in its most primitive form. It takes this shape: Promise key sectors of the economy unlimited subsidies from the public treasury [...]

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First, let us pass in review:

(1) As Romney-apologists tell the story, Romney wanted to run as a competent technocrat, an outsider with the business experience and native genius necessary to “fix Washington.” Only Romney could never stay on message. So what the campaign emitted was unintelligible noise.

In the opinion of observers Romney had tried early on to position himself as a social conservative, only this ridiculously revisionist line never withstood any encounter with the facts of Romney’s record. Romney responded by tacking ever further to the right.

Romney outflanks himself yet again!–poll indicates Romney’s pull to the right alienates independents, centrists, and moderates

(2) After Iowa returned its decision for Gov. Mike Huckabee, Romney suddenly transformed into the “change” candidate.

(3) After New Hampshire returned its decision for Sen. John McCain, Romney transforms himself yet again. Romney abandons his social and economic conservative line altogether. Suddenly Romney wants to nationalize an ailing industry, only in the post-industrial, post-progressive era this assumes the form of a Washington-Detroit “partnership” combined with massive subsidies.

This is Romney himself from a Transcript of Romney’s Speech to the Detroit Economic Club

[...] “First of all, we have to be honest about the problems we have and tackle them head on. If I’m President of this country, I will roll up my sleeves in the first 100 days I’m in office, and I will personally bring together industry, labor, Congressional and state leaders and together we will develop a plan to rebuild America’s automotive leadership. It will be a plan that works for Michigan and that works for the American taxpayer.

“And as part of this, we will directly address and rectify the enormous product cost and capital cost disadvantages that currently burden the domestic automakers. From legacy costs, to health care costs, to increased CAFE standard costs, to the cost of embedded taxes, Detroit can only thrive if Washington is an engaged partner, not a disinterested observer. The plan is going to have to include increases in funding for automotive related research as well as new tax benefits including making the Research and Development Tax Credit permanent.

“I am not open to a bail out, but I am open to a work out. Washington should not be a benefactor, but it can and must be a partner [...]

In an article titled Romney on the Ropes, Byron York of the National Review comments:

[...] [Romney's] plan is to make the United States government a virtual partner of Ford, GM, and Chrysler. “If I’m president of this country, I will roll up my sleeves in the first 100 days I’m in office, and I will personally bring together industry, labor, Congressional and state leaders and together we will develop a plan to rebuild America’s automotive leadership,” Romney tells the Economic Club. “It will be a plan that works for Michigan and that works for the American taxpayer.”

The plan would involve easier-to-reach mileage standards, increased funding and extended tax breaks for research and development, worker health care reforms, and more. “Detroit can only thrive if Washington is an engaged partner, not a disinterested observer,” Romney says. “I am not open to a bail out, but I am open to a work out. Washington should not be a benefactor, but it can and must be a partner.”

Romney’s proposals might not be music to the ears of free-market conservatives who believe Detroit made its own problems and needs to fix itself. But it’s what a lot of people in Michigan want to hear [...]

Might not be music to our ears? Here be the problem, and it has little to do with Romney’s tone deafness: Not only does Romney’s plan to nationalize the US automobile industry reflect yet another complete ideological reversal for the hapless candidate—Not only is Romney’s proposal impracticable and nearly impossible on its face, just the worst possible public policy imaginable—Not only will Romney’s proposal issue into in a furious race to the bottom as Romney himself and the other candidates are forced to out-bid each other promising to bail-out, subsidize, or protect from competition other ailing industries and entire economic sectors—but Romney’s plan for MI is also based on a risibly inaccurate and historically flawed assessment of an already globalized and post-industrial US automobile “industry”. Micheline Maynard of NYT’s The Caucus outlines the case against Romney’s proposals in an article titled Romney Address a Car Industry That Has Changed:

[...] Mr. Romney’s speech to the Economic Club of Detroit on Monday seemed more rooted in a time when Detroit companies dominated the automotive scene, rather than now, when Toyota is No. 2 behind General Motors.

For example, Mr. Romney vowed that if elected, “in my first 100 days, I will roll up my sleeves, and I will personally bring together industry, labor, Congressional and state leaders to develop a plan to rebuild America’s automotive leadership.”

But America’s auto industry now is no longer exclusively American. It includes Toyota, Honda, Nissan, as well as the leaders of European and Asian automakers. All have built factories in the United States over the past 25 years, particularly in states across the South. Collectively, foreign companies held 48.9 percent of American sales last year, when Detroit’s market share slipped to 51.1 percent, its lowest ever.

Mr. Romney also referred to a series of areas where the industry ought to engage with Washington, ranging from its pension and health care expenses, known as legacy costs, to mileage standards, known as corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE.

“From legacy costs, to health care costs, to increased CAFE standards, to embedded taxes, Detroit can only thrive if Washington is an engaged partner, not a disinterested observer,” Mr. Romney said.

However, G.M., Ford Motor and Chrysler reached contracts with the United Automobile Workers union last fall that will shift their burden for retiree health care costs, the major portion of legacy costs, to an independent trust that will be administered by the U.A.W. Moreover, the companies and the union pledged to spend money creating a new think tank that will lobby for federal health care reform.

Speaking of fuel economy, Mr. Romey said, “Of course fleet mileage needs to rise, but discontinuous CAFE leaps, uncoordinated with the domestic manufacturers, and absent consideration of competitiveness, kills jobs and imperils an industry,”

Mr. Romney added: “Washington-dictated CAFE is not the right answer.”

But the auto companies just finished taking part in a spirited Congressional debate over CAFE during 2007. And while they fought increases in fuel economy standards early on, the automakers wound up supporting the new law that requires them to achieve 35 miles per gallon by 2020.

Mr. Romney also had a vintage perspective on his father’s former company, American Motors.

“I used to ask my dad, ‘How in the world can you compete as head of America Motors when you’ve got such huge competitors, GM, Ford, Chrysler, the Big Three — how do you possibly think you can succeed?’” Mr. Romney said. “And he’d say in a way that I have not forgotten: ‘Mitt, there’s nothing as vulnerable as entrenched success. There’s nothing as vulnerable as entrenched success.’”

Yet it was A.M.C. that was vulnerable in its final years. It first turned to Renault of France for a rescue, selling a 46 percent stake to the French auto company in 1980, earning it the nickname, “Franco-American Motors.” In 1987, Chrysler purchased A.M.C. from Renault, and the company vanished from the automotive scene [...]

Back to Byron York:

[...] From the beginning of his campaign, Romney has argued that he is the only candidate who can unite the three main elements of the Republican party: economic conservatives, national-security conservatives, and social conservatives. But Romney is really mostly an economic conservative; his foreign-policy credentials aren’t much, and his social conservatism — highlighted by the famed flip-flop over abortion — has earned him as many critics as fans. That hurt him in Iowa and New Hampshire, but on the last day of the campaign in Michigan, it’s economy, economy, economy, and that is where Romney is strongest [...]

Remarks:

(1) Contra York, the National Review itself argues that Romney “is the only candidate who can unite the three main elements of the Republican party: economic conservatives, national-security conservatives, and social conservatives.” See:

So here you have York, a writer for the National Review, arguing that Romney really isn’t a conservative at all—correction: York argues that Romney is really only an “economic conservative,” even though Romney’s policies, as York admits with his “music” comment, are anything but conservative. What does this say about the goof-balls at the National Review!?

(2) Romney’s proposal for the US automobile industry is not economic in content or in character—this is not an economic proposal.

It is a political proposal.

It assumes in advance that the performance or non-performance of a US industry is a political question. It assumes in advance the priority of political agency over private activity. And it arrives at the conclusion that the US taxpayer should subsidize the wrongheaded and shortsighted decisions of US automobile executives, and that Washington should supervise—as a partner—and assume the costs of, an entire economic sector.

So why should Romney’s proposal not apply also to e.g. US agriculture, or the technology sector? This is the logical contradiction of Romney’s proposal: it admits of no conceptual limit or limit in principle. It is not enough to argue that the automotive industry is the “canary in the coal mine” for the US economy and therefore deserves special attention—every sector of the economy, it can be argued, is vitally important—that’s part of what it means to be an economy—every sector is interrelated, interdependent.

The empirical contradiction of Romney’s plan is this: it cannot be done. History has already returned its verdict on heavy industry as an economic driver. The cash value of manufactured goods has declined for the past 25 years. Industrial capacity is more generally distributed in the world. Information processing technology and technique drives up productivity so more can be made with less labor, and this drives down prices—etc., etc.—no longer can heavy industry be the material basis of the US middle class. It is simply impossible at this historical stage.

Romney’s plan is not merely government activism, it is government atavism. It is an attempt to reverse history.

Our conclusion: Romney is not a conservative. Not in any sense of the term. Also: Romney has successfully bought a primary contest by issuing a check he cannot possibly cash.

Michigan belongs to Romney now. He can have it.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

P.S. Credit goes to eyeon08.com for the Byron York article.

Recall the theme of Romney’s caricatured, unreconstructed, ingenue conservatism compared to the emerging conservatism:

Brooks: “Romney represents what’s left of Republicanism 1.0. Huckabee and McCain represent half-formed iterations of Republicanism 2.0″

Now, point and counterpoint.

Point: [...] “Much of this chaos [of the primary contests] is attributable to the fact that this is a very flawed field, or at least one ill-suited for the times we’re in,” writes Jonah Goldberg in a WaPo editorial titled Cloudy fortunes for conservatism

If a camel is a horse designed by committee, then this year’s Republican field looks downright dromedarian. This slate of candidates has everything a conservative designer could want — foreign policy oomph, business acumen, Southern charm, Big Apple chutzpah, religious conviction, outsider zeal, even libertarian ardor — but all so poorly distributed. As National Review put it in its editorial endorsement of Romney (I am undecided, for the record): “Each of the men running for the Republican nomination has strengths, and none has everything — all the traits, all the positions — we are looking for.”

But conservatives should contemplate the possibility that the fault lies less in the stars — or the candidates — than in ourselves. Conservatism, quite simply, is a mess these days. Conservative attitudes are changing. Or, more accurately, the attitudes of people who call themselves conservatives are changing.

The most cited data to prove this point come from the Pew Political Typology survey. By 2005, it had found that so many self-described conservatives were in favor of government activism that they had to come up with a name for them. “Running-dog liberals” apparently seemed too pejorative, so the survey went with “pro-government conservatives,” a term that might have caused Ronald Reagan to spontaneously combust. This group makes up just under 10 percent of registered voters and something like a third of the Republican coalition. Ninety-four percent of pro-government conservatives favored raising the minimum wage, as did 79 percent of self-described social conservatives. Eight out of 10 pro-government conservatives believe that the government should do more to help the poor and slightly more than that distrust big corporations.

There’s more evidence elsewhere. As former Bush speechwriter David Frum documents in his new book, “Comeback,” income taxes are no longer a terribly serious concern among conservative voters. Young Christian conservatives and others are increasingly eager to bring a faith-based activism to government. As the conservative commentator Ramesh Ponnuru recently noted in Time, younger evangelicals are more likely to oppose abortion than their parents were, but they are also more likely to look kindly on government-run anti-poverty programs and environmental protection. Even President Bush (in)famously proclaimed in 2003 that “when somebody hurts, government has got to move.”

This is a far cry from the days when Reagan proclaimed in his first inaugural address that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” and vowed to “curb the size and influence of the federal establishment.”

Today the American public seems deeply schizophrenic: It hates the government — Washington, Congress and public institutions are more unpopular than at any time since Watergate — but it wants more of it. Conservative arguments about limited government have little purchase among independents and swing voters. This is a keen problem for a candidate like Romney, because it forces him to vacillate between his credible competence message — “I can make government work” — and his strategic need to fill the “Reaganite” space left vacant by former senator George Allen’s failure to seize it and Thompson’s inability to get anyone to notice that he occupies it. Worse, the conservatives who want activist government want it to have a populist-Christian tinge, and that’s a pitch that neither McCain nor Giuliani nor Thompson nor Romney can sell.

Many of the younger conservative policy mavens and intellectuals have also become steadily less enamored of free markets and limited government. Post columnist Michael Gerson, formerly Bush’s chief speechwriter, has crafted a whole doctrine of “heroic conservatism” intended to beat back the right’s supposed death-embrace with small government and laissez-faire economics. He relentlessly calls for moral crusade to become the animating spirit of the right. But he’s hardly alone. “Crunchy conservatism,” the brainchild of Dallas Morning News columnist Rod Dreher, is also a cri de coeur against mainstream conservatism. And both of these derive from the kind of thinking that led George W. Bush to insist in 2000 that he was a “different kind of Republican” because he was a “compassionate conservative” — a political program that apparently measures compassion by how much money the government spends on education, marriage counseling and the like [...]

Remarks:

1. The emerging conservatism—or at least the new center-right—is an emerging conservatism of the state. Only—as is always the case—the political has developed in advance of the theoretical or intellectual. The concepts, and rationales have yet to be worked out; the arguments await clarification.

The issues, the stakes, the decisions—all of it awaits specification at the point of application in law, policy, or legal review—it even awaits clarification by candidates on the ground attempting to connect with the lived experience of voters. But this is as it should be as the emerging conservatism has yet to have confronted any real test on the ground.

2. To a Reagan coalition actor like Goldberg—and to the institutions of the center-right, e.g. talk radio, think-tanks, foundations—the notion is simply incoherent, borderline unintelligible. Hence: They greet it with hostility. And rightly so. New criticisms always begin in precedent and presumption, which flows from what exists. What exists is the Reagan coalition, although it exists in tatters. The new conservatism has yet to prove that it can provide the basis for a governing coalition.

3. Our conservatism—i.e. our meaning me, Gilad D.—discovers its premises in more ancient sources than Pres. Reagan, Speaker Gingrich, or Pastor Falwell. But we have problems of our own with the new regime. Regard:

(a) How would center-right of Sen. McCain or Gov. Huckabee would be functionally distinct from e.g. the center-right governments of the European peninsula. We need someone to explain this to us.]

(b) How is using the instruments of national power to pursue conservative policy functionally different from using the instruments of national power to pursue left or center-left policy? How would this not result in a race to the bottom where those in elected office use the power of the state to enrich their friends and secure their rule? How is this distinct from our criticism of Democratic Party rule?

(c) Part of what it means to be a conservative—or so we have always held—is to insist on the objective and empirical limits of political agency.

We are limited beings. We can agree on rules (that try to specify outcomes in advance) or standards (that are more open ended), and we can attempt to adjudicate among rival claims in our legislatures and our courts, but we can no more plan an economy than we can plan the weather. Nor can we fairly or equitably decide who gets what or on substantive grounds or e.g. decide on a definition of poverty—there are simply too many factors, too many bases of comparison to ever yield consensus. Hence: conservatives favor individual or free-association agency operating in blind systems like the marketplace or a civil society—the primary unit of which being the family—that is distinct from the state. We favor emergent systems constrained by rules, standards, and precedents, as opposed to the arbitrary wills or whims of human agents.

This suggests the question: How is e.g. Gov. Huckabee’s “right-wing populism” anything other than a declaration of faith in the efficacy of political agency, or an extension of the franchise of what may count as a political question?

Answer: We don’t know yet.

Questions. So many questions.

In other words, we have our own issues with conservatism 2.0. But we are not willing to dismiss it out of hand. Besides, in politics, demography is destiny, and the Republican party is skewing younger and lower in income. So: We await clarification as it emerges from the facts on the ground.Here would be the counterpoint to Goldberg:

[...] “FOR THE FIRST time in decades, the GOP has fielded a strong roster of candidates, at least four of them with a real chance to win the nomination,” writes Lawrence Henry from North Andover, Massachusetts, in a Spectator.org article titled Creative Destruction in the GOP

The party hasn’t shrugged up somebody like Bob Dole. The nominee hasn’t been settled early. No party machine has anointed anyone.

The party has dealt out a thorough mix of issues and people, with issues and people matching up in entirely new ways. And no one has any idea yet who — or what — will predominate.

To make the picture more complicated, emotional perceptions enter in. I once heard someone say, back in the nineties, “I like Bill Clinton because he really cares about me.” And he meant it! Like this man, many voters are very stupid, and many voters cast stupid votes. They all count.

So not only are Republicans choosing a candidate based on what that candidate really believes and really can and will do, they’re choosing a candidate based on what that candidate is perceived to be. For an extra layer of complication, add media bias in portraying those candidates.

On top of all that, we live in a media-hyped age where only the quickest and most effective of perceptual tags seems to get through: Holy Mike Huckabeee, roguish Rudy Giuliani, lazy Fred Thompson, manic John McCain, perfect Mitt Romney. See what I mean?

Mixed up though it is, this campaign is a good thing, not a bad one. It has just gotten interesting. It is going to stay interesting for a long time and, if we’re lucky, we’ll emerge from it with a newly defined and newly invigorated Republican Party. If we’re unlucky, the country will nominate some image monger with nothing real to say [...]

An image monger with nothing real to say?

That would be Romney.

The larger question: Creative destruction, or just destruction? For us the answer hinges on the person and character of Romney.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.





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