The Conservative Case Against Mitt Romney

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Mitt Romney
Photo: Gage Skidmore

“The Conservative Case Against Mitt Romney” may seem like an odd title. Isn’t making a conservative case against Mitt Romney the equivalent of squaring the circle?

The foremost liability against Romney is his untrustworthiness. As the Bible says in 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” It is out of this singular trait that flow many of the reasons conservatives should not support the former Massachusetts governor. Each of these liabilities can be broken into simple conservative principles: restraint in foreign policy, personal responsibility, privatization of loss, and the preservation of life.

Proposing that Romney may have a Nixonian “secret economic plan,” Bloomberg columnist Josh Barro suggests that Romney doesn’t really believe his own rhetoric because “His ideological positions are entirely flexible and his capacity for pandering enormous.” Therefore, “to increase his chances of getting elected, he will have to implement policies” conducive to achieving that and it’s unlikely “he’ll actually invade somewhere (a war doesn’t seem like the kind of project Romney would enjoy overseeing).”

Romney’s guiding interest is indeed his own self-preservation, but part of that self-preservation includes placating the most hawkish elements of his party. Columnist Pat Buchanan recently wrote, “Usually, not always, the peace party wins.” If Romney wanted to implement policies to cater to the American public — and in the foreign policy debate he was careful not to out-hawk Obama — Bush administration advisors from Eric Edelman to Mitchell Reiss and Dan Senor would not be a part of his foreign policy team.

Romney may be disinclined to launch an Iraq-style war, because he wouldn’t enjoy overseeing it, but there is little evidence that he thinks wars like those in Iraq were a mistake. However, without any guiding principles he is also apt to be manipulated by his advisors, and even if he was not drawn to Iraq-style wars, he willingly surrounded himself with the type of Republicans who supported that policy. Suggesting that Romney can’t possibly believe his own rhetoric and that he’s only posing as a hawk’s hawk turns a propensity to lie into a virtue.

One of the more contentious issues during the Obama term has been the Affordable Care Act (ACA), colloquially known as “ObamaCare.” Jonathan Gruber, a professor at MIT who worked on both the Massachusetts health care law and the ACA admitted to MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell:

“It’s the same basic structure applied nationally. John McDonough, one of the other advisors, who work in both Massachusetts and advised the White House said ‘it’s the Massachusetts [plan] with three more zeroes.’ And that’s basically a good description of what the federal bill did.”

At the first debate against President Obama, Romney mentioned the differences between the plan enacted in Massachusetts versus the plan that became the ACA, but they tended to be cosmetic: “We had Democrats and Republicans come together.” “We didn’t cut from Medicare,” because “we don’t have Medicare, but we didn’t cut Medicare by $716 billion.”

This liability was not enough to derail Romney’s path to the nomination, but a Romney presidency also spells the likely solidification of the ACA. While he previously supported complete repeal, during the general election Romney has said he would “replace ObamaCare with my own plan” and reminded viewers that “Even in Massachusetts . . . our plan there deals with pre-existing conditions.” Romney did not mention whether he sought repeal of the individual mandate in the ACA, the lynchpin Chief Justice John Roberts upheld, but Romney’s Massachusetts plan included the same controversial measure of which the governor said at the time that he was “very pleased.”

Votes for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) were a bridge too far for several veteran Republican lawmakers. Bob Bennett of Utah, Richard Lugar of Indiana, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska all earned and lost primary challenges in part because they each voted for this unpopular legislation. Although not holding office at the time, Romney voice support for TARP saying it was the “right thing to do.”

On other bailouts, Detroit’s auto industry, Romney was on the same side as the bank bailouts, but he was coyer. While advocating public funds for Detroit, the perception that Romney would “let Detroit go bankrupt” grew out of a 2008 New York Times op-ed of the same title. There he wrote:

“Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check. . . . A managed bankruptcy may be the only path to the fundamental restructuring the industry needs. . . . The federal government should provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing and assure car buyers that their warranties are not at risk.

“In a managed bankruptcy, the federal government would propel newly competitive and viable automakers, rather than seal their fate with a bailout check.”

Perhaps expecting the title the Times gave the op-ed would be enough to condemn Romney as heartlessly letting his hometown of Detroit fail, President Obama used this line of attack on Romney, but this was not Romney’s plan. Romney’s plan was to allow managerial restructuring during bankruptcy before receiving funds from the federal government.

In fact, the managed bankruptcy Romney advocated was very much what the Obama administration eventually implemented in 2009. By mid-year, General Motors emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after nearly $50 billion in aid. By 2012, Romney was taking credit for the idea that saved Detroit:

“My own view, by the way, was that the auto companies needed to go through bankruptcy before government help. And frankly, that’s finally what the president did. He finally took them through bankruptcy. That was the right course I argued for from the very beginning.”

Romney won the argument against Obama regarding the Detroit bailout, but by doing so, he admitted that he explicated the same viewpoint on taxpayer funds to private corporations that made Bennett, Lugar, and Murkowski unacceptable and which the Democratic president implemented.

Last, but not least, is life. Since Roe v. Wade became the national abortion policy in 1973, the GOP has been the home of disaffected southerners, Catholic Democrats, and others who vote on the single issue of outlawing abortion. Believing that the key to overturning Roe v. Wade is nominating enough conservative or strict constructionist justices has made the GOP a reliable home for these voters.

Romney’s history on the issue of life, however, is eventful and well-known. In his 2002 gubernatorial race, Romney explicitly stated: “I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose” and vowed to maintain the provision allowing a court order from “a judge or a justice to get that permission” for children younger than eighteen years old to receive an abortion.

Of course, Romney reversed himself in 2004 and it is on this issue that many conservatives may consider voting for Romney. While he did not appoint anyone to the Massachusetts Supreme Court during his term, Romney did appoint many lower-level judges. One such appointment was Matthew J. Nestor to the state district court in 2005, after Romney’s conversion to the pro-life cause.

One might counter that Romney had no option except to appoint pro-choice Democrats to the bench with a legislature that was 87% Democratic. However, this is no mark in favor of Romney’s principles, honesty, or courage. That he will nominate only those to the highest court that are assured of confirmation means that the only way to appoint the strict constructionist justices pro-life conservatives hope will overturn Roe v. Wade can be with a compliant Romney and a filibuster-proof 60-member Republican caucus in the US Senate in which each member is committed to the pro-life cause. This makes any Romney US Supreme Court nominee more David Souter than Antonin Scalia.

In the end, the conservative case against Mitt Romney comes down to untrustworthiness. It is possible Romney may spurn his more hawkish advisors, and not invade a sovereign country. Maybe he will get a Republican-majority Senate and sign a complete repeal of the ACA. Maybe he will not insert himself into bankruptcy proceedings of private corporations. Maybe he will replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer with another Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.

Unfortunately, all of this is predicated on hoping that events and Romney’s sense of self-preservation lead him to adopt more conservative policies and not on a record that suggests he will usually do the opposite.

The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.


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  1. Bob Conner I suppose we'd need to redefine "human rights." Some, including myself, may think knowledge should be a fundamental right for all and the Net is certainly by far the best resource for shared knowledge.However, I think health care, food and shelter are all basic human rights, yet how many don't have free access to that?Although I think it would certainly benefit everyone, I become a bit cynical when a person with Zuckerberg's status makes self-serving claims such as this. Perhaps he could put his money, influence and voice to better uses such as securing the real human rights that would literally influence the very survival of others.Then, we could worry about promoting FB.
  2. Brian Iniguez The way I see it, you have to pay to have Internet. Until that changes, the Internet isn't a human right. You don't have to pay a cost for any other human right, and this isn't any different. That being said, the wealth of information available on the Internet could solve some of our worst problems with increased access. Imagine African tribes using information found on the Internet to learn about advanced irrigation systems and water treatment... the possibilities would be endless.
  3. Chad Peace This is an excellent story, but a semi related and maybe a bit cynical questions are: would it be good for the whole world to be connected? Has internet access made the world a better place at the individual level? Are we talking about access to Facebook, or access to information? Is access to everything a "human right".
  4. Michael Higham I think of the internet as a library. Pursuit of knowledge may be a human right, but is a library a human right?If it's a human right, then do governments have the obligation to provide internet access to all? That'd be cool, but I still think it'd be strange to equate internet access to other human rights.
  5. Shawn M. Griffiths I like that analogy and those are important questions to ask. The government's job is to protect our inalienable rights so if Internet connectivity is a human right then it is not unreasonable to say the government should provide internet access to ensure that right is protected. I wouldn't say it is necessarily a right. I think the private sector can do more to expand access globally.
  6. Alex Gauthier at this point, even if the answer to your first question was 'no,' i dont think there'd be much one could do to stop it.
  7. janesusskind Good questions, all of which I thought about while writing this. I came to the conclusion that Internet access is a good thing, both economically and on an individual basis.And I believe this because of the educational value of the Internet. There is a vast amount of information on the Internet which can educate individuals of their other basic human rights...assuming their access is uncensored. In my opinion, in order to transform societies and bring them out of poverty, education is key. Education of leaders, education of citizens.I don't know what the implications of labeling Internet access a human right are, but I don't think it is something that should be denied from anyone.Zuckerberg is making the claim for "connectivity" and framing it in terms of Internet access to those across the world. Obviously, his intentions are to get those people on Facebook, but the ability to use the Internet in a productive way, in a way that will advance a society's economy and personal freedom has become a human right (in my opinion...)
  8. Joseph Avery I wonder if Twitter has data on the type of requests the government is making. If it is all terrorism concerns I think the public will be more likely to accept it, but once that power has been established it can easily be abused.
  9. Shawn M. Griffiths "Increased government requests, however, may not be an indication of increased government overreach, and rather can be explained by the novelty of the company." I think a lot of people will take this issue at face value and say it is further evidence of increased government intrusion, but we do need to consider the fact that Twitter is constantly growing.The total number of requests have gone up, but what does that look like in terms of percentage of total users now versus then? Has that percentage increased notably or is it about the same?
  10. Guest A lot. "...roughly equivalent to the Library of Congress's entire textual collection, inspected 2,990 times every day."This is how much is collected without a request or warrant. Daily.http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/08/15/the_nsas_data_haul_is_bigger_than_you_can_possibly_imagine
20 comments
Bob Conner
Bob Conner

I suppose we'd need to redefine "human rights." Some, including myself, may think knowledge should be a fundamental right for all and the Net is certainly by far the best resource for shared knowledge.

However, I think health care, food and shelter are all basic human rights, yet how many don't have free access to that?

Although I think it would certainly benefit everyone, I become a bit cynical when a person with Zuckerberg's status makes self-serving claims such as this. Perhaps he could put his money, influence and voice to better uses such as securing the real human rights that would literally influence the very survival of others.

Then, we could worry about promoting FB.

Brian Iniguez
Brian Iniguez

The way I see it, you have to pay to have Internet. Until that changes, the Internet isn't a human right. You don't have to pay a cost for any other human right, and this isn't any different. That being said, the wealth of information available on the Internet could solve some of our worst problems with increased access. Imagine African tribes using information found on the Internet to learn about advanced irrigation systems and water treatment... the possibilities would be endless.

Chad Peace
Chad Peace

This is an excellent story, but a semi related and maybe a bit cynical questions are: would it be good for the whole world to be connected? Has internet access made the world a better place at the individual level? Are we talking about access to Facebook, or access to information? Is access to everything a "human right".

Joseph Avery
Joseph Avery

I wonder if Twitter has data on the type of requests the government is making. If it is all terrorism concerns I think the public will be more likely to accept it, but once that power has been established it can easily be abused.

Shawn M. Griffiths
Shawn M. Griffiths

"Increased government requests, however, may not be an indication of increased government overreach, and rather can be explained by the novelty of the company." I think a lot of people will take this issue at face value and say it is further evidence of increased government intrusion, but we do need to consider the fact that Twitter is constantly growing.

The total number of requests have gone up, but what does that look like in terms of percentage of total users now versus then? Has that percentage increased notably or is it about the same?

janesusskind
janesusskind

I guess Independence day quotes are popular year round!

Charlotte Dean
Charlotte Dean

I'm still wrestling with a half-dormant Twitter account...when it blew up I thought to myself "Im never going to have more than 500 people listening and I want to type 420 characters instead! Twitter is just my Facebook feed with less options." Now, of course, I see the appeal of thousands of followers and an outlet to interact directly with public officials and personages. Adding Google Plus to Facebook and Twitter just complicates things for me, especially since Facebook is growing rapidly in foreign countries like Brazil.

Charlotte Dean
Charlotte Dean

wow. The US, ironically, is the one country who most considers it integral to national security to stick its nose where it doesn't belong...

Chad Peace
Chad Peace

I wonder how much info is auto-collected without even a request?

Guest
Guest

In addition to them requiring passwords or citizens face charges.. I guess Edmond Seymore has never heard of civil forfeiture. Educate yourself. You don't even have to be convicted or suspected of a crime.

We live in a police state. Anyone who disagrees, I hope you are the next victim of public "servants". I am tired of being victimized, and seeing these instances posted daily, with cops never facing consequences of their actions.

Naomi Took
Naomi Took

I do believe Romney's only virtue is self-preservation. Unfortunately, conservative actions don't seem like a way to stay in office. Conservatives will be left in the dust again.

Michael Higham
Michael Higham

I think of the internet as a library. Pursuit of knowledge may be a human right, but is a library a human right?

If it's a human right, then do governments have the obligation to provide internet access to all? That'd be cool, but I still think it'd be strange to equate internet access to other human rights.

Alex Gauthier
Alex Gauthier

at this point, even if the answer to your first question was 'no,' i dont think there'd be much one could do to stop it.

janesusskind
janesusskind

Good questions, all of which I thought about while writing this. I came to the conclusion that Internet access is a good thing, both economically and on an individual basis.

And I believe this because of the educational value of the Internet. There is a vast amount of information on the Internet which can educate individuals of their other basic human rights...assuming their access is uncensored. In my opinion, in order to transform societies and bring them out of poverty, education is key. Education of leaders, education of citizens.

I don't know what the implications of labeling Internet access a human right are, but I don't think it is something that should be denied from anyone.

Zuckerberg is making the claim for "connectivity" and framing it in terms of Internet access to those across the world. Obviously, his intentions are to get those people on Facebook, but the ability to use the Internet in a productive way, in a way that will advance a society's economy and personal freedom has become a human right (in my opinion...)

janesusskind
janesusskind

Good question. I think it also has a lot to do with what applications u allow have access to your Twitter account.

Shawn M. Griffiths
Shawn M. Griffiths

I like that analogy and those are important questions to ask. The government's job is to protect our inalienable rights so if Internet connectivity is a human right then it is not unreasonable to say the government should provide internet access to ensure that right is protected. I wouldn't say it is necessarily a right. I think the private sector can do more to expand access globally.