Wednesday, October 17, 2012

3 Ways Romney Is Worse Than W, and 1 Way They Are Both Lame

Yes, I mean it.  Romney is worse than W.

Last night was a good night for fans of the President.  But there was a question asked in the debate that underscored something I've been thinking about a lot lately: how are you (Mitt Romney) different than George W. Bush?  Romney prattled on about how he was better on trade (I doubt it), while the President talked about immigration and Medicare (referring to Medicare Part D, presumably).  But this is a larger and more important story than those answers give you.

Better than Romney?

Long-time readers will remember that a few months back I made the claim that George H.W. Bush is underrated.  I still think that.

But let's look at some of the ways that even George W. Bush was better than Mitt Romney.

1. W Says What He Means.

W is a fundamentally more confident man than Romney.  This allows him to express what he thinks without equivocation or apology.  That's useful in a politician, because we the voters know what we'll be getting if we choose him.  W believes what he says, he stands by it.  You never have to guess what W would do.  Hell, yes, he'd privatize social security.  He's the Decider, he's got capital, and he's going to spend it.  Yes, some voters got mad about things that W did after they voted for him, but those voters were ignoring what they didn't want to hear.

In Romney's case, he either doesn't care about anything but being president, or he is actively working to hide what he thinks from somebody.  The question is, in this morass of positions that Romney has taken, which ones are real?  Which Romney would be president?  The best guess I have is that Romney would follow the crowd.  I heard some analyst say that Romney with a Democratic Congress might be middle-of-the-road, but Romney with a Republican Congress will do whatever they want him to do.  That's pretty scary.

I like honesty.  So on this measure, I respect W more than Romney.

Sprinting Right As Fast As They Can.
2. Republicans Are More Conservative Now, Mitt Follows the Crowd.

One of the truly remarkable things (to me) that has happened in the last 4-or-so years, is that the Republican Party has moved so far right, so fast, on so many issues - that even W looks better in retrospect.

No, really.

Let's hear it from noted congressional scholars, Norm Ornstein (from AEI - a conservative-leaning think tank) and Thomas Mann (from Brookings - a liberal-leaning think tank) - under the heading of "Let's Just Say It: The Republicans Are the Problem":

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

I couldn't possibly say it better.

These changes were largely the result of the politics of 2010. And they made the Republican primaries for president a contest to see who could move the furthest right the fastest.

Romney moved right on just about every social issue out there during his primary campaign.  From immigration to gay rights to education, Romney sold himself as Severely Conservative.  Romney's choice of Paul Ryan for a running mate is a sign of how far right he has moved.  Paul Ryan's right-wing budget is so bad he provoked a country-wide nun protest tour - and he's Catholic.

W, by contrast, was a self-styled "Compassionate Conservative" who believed in a federal government role in education, health care, and other social issues.  He believed in working with Democrats.  He had an immigration policy that was about inclusion rather than exclusion.  That difference, in how the Republican Party frames itself, is the difference between a Party that demands fealty to right wing positions and one that is more inclusive.  So W wins here, too.  If you think you are spotting a trend here about how I think Romney's weakness of character makes him unable to drive his party?  You are right.

3. Mitt Believes 47% of the Country Is Bad: Irredeemably So. 

I don't think W agrees on that.  I think W believes that tax cuts create jobs.  He's wrong.  But that's what I'm pretty sure he believes.  Romney thinks wide swaths of Americans are no good.  He thinks they cannot be convinced to take personal responsibility.

He said so.  He has no valid point.

W talked about the soft bigotry of low expectations when promoting bipartisan education reform.  He talked about America as the land of the second chance when promoting policies to help ex-cons as they leave prison.  Those are not the actions of a person who believes that people are irredeemable, or that the government has no place in helping people.  W wins again.

But see:  Here is one area (of many) where both men are equally weak.

1. Binders Full of Women.  Mitt broke the internet last night with people rushing to develop memes and jokes on his bizarre story about wanting to hire more women in Massachusetts and his staff bringing him "binders full of women" from which to choose.  But the worst part about this statement is not its inherent silliness, it's the fact that the question was about whether Mitt would support pay equity for women.  Arguably one of the most wild swings in the Republican Party over the last few years has been the one about women.

Yes, I'm talking about the War on Women.  It exists (you can read about it here and here, where I spent time breaking down why many women think this is true).  And the only way Republicans have been willing to moderate on these issues is to change they way they talk about them.  They are legislating, voting, organizing to make a lot of things harder for women.

I'll just use pay equity (which is less of a divisive issue than abortion) to talk about it.

When asked a simple question, by a woman, about a simple proposition: Do You Support Pay Equity?  Romney decided to change the subject to talk about how he knows and likes and has hired women.  That's nice.  But you are a politician, Mitt.  You are running to represent women as well as men.  We vote more.  We make up more than half of the work force, in case you hadn't noticed.  And we would like to friggin know whether you think it's okay that we routinely get paid less for equivalent work, and whether you would - if lucky enough to get elected president - sign or veto bills to make it less likely that we will be discriminated against based on our gender.

And this is an area in which W, too, was terrible.  Particularly as a father of daughters.

As the President so eloquently put it, pay equity is not just a women's issue - it's a family issue.  It impacts all American families that include a working woman.  But it's also a women's issue, and we matter in our own right, and we deserve to have politicians answer to us if they want our vote.

So here's the thing: Let's not vote for Romney, okay?


  1. Emily, I could totally hear your voice in this one.

    I like the hashtag #RomneySaysWhat; it's so... descriptive.
    He is 2-0 on giving us these easy take-aways from his debates.
    #1 was 'Big Bird' and
    #2 is 'Binders full of women'.
    It's like he's handing out the jokes. Turns out the guy's biggest enemy is not another politician, but HIMSELF.

  2. I'm kind of surprised it's the binders language that has taken off, but I guess - like Big Bird - it's the most absurd thing said last night (though the whole blaming-gun-violence-on-single-parents thing was pretty darn strange, too).

    The thing I find most interesting today is the way the Romney Camp is trying to undo the mistake Romney made on Libya. There's a really excellent piece in TPM that goes through the semantics:

  3. I promise not to vote for Romney. :>

    But here's the thing -- Obama is also the same or worse than Bush II, in several ways -- 1) Guantanamo (Obama promised to shut it down), 2) the Patriot Act (Obama promised to undo it), 3) intimidation and silencing of whistle-blowers, 4) Drone killings (including targeting the medical people who try to attend to the original targets, or who attend the funerals!), 5) secret kill lists, and 6) the NDAA (Obama promised to never use it against a citizen, and we all know politicians keep their promises, right? And that future presidents are also bound by those promises?).

    Progressives and liberals spent about 8 years in an uproar over Bush's warrantless spying and detainments and tortures, but when Obama goes further and actually kills people, that's ok? He just kills them, doesn't torture them, so that makes it better? Why the HELL aren't liberals calling Obama to task about this?

    Look, I understand that someone could think that despite all this it is better for proportionate reasons to vote for Obama (because God knows Romney won't be an improvement on this), but geez, we need to say SOMETHING about all this.

  4. I agree with you about some of that. Here's why I think Obama generally gets a pass from most Ds:

    1. Not everybody knows about what Obama has done versus what Bush did. It's not like the news covers it much.

    2. I think there's a tendency on the left to think that the amount of mess Obama had to deal with when he came in was so huge, and the things he has managed to get accomplished with the amount of resistance he has faced is so impressive (ending the Iraq war, ending the torture policy, passing a health care bill, stopping the slide into depression, getting bin Ladin, etc), that they think he is doing the best he can. And

    3) there is an extent to which I think a lot of people who DO know about drones (in particular) think that the use of drones is saving more lives than conventional troops would use - that with all of its failings as a policy, that it is probably saving more lives in general, and particularly more American lives.

    But you're absolutely right that we should be talking about it. The saddest part of the debate, btw, was the gun question, in response to which both men simply sprinted in the opposite direction. That was awful in a country with the sheer number of gun-related injuries and deaths that we have.

  5. 1) The news media being derelict in their duty? That's unpossible!

    2) Yes and no. A lot of my complaints against Obama are things that he has affirmatively done, like the drone killings and the NDAA, rather than just continuing what Bush started.

    3) Mr. Beadgirl makes this point when we argue about it. But first of all, the drone killings are stirring up a lot of anger against us, and serving as a recruitment point for terrorists. Several foreign policy analysts have written that the drone killings have made our relations worse with Pakistan, for example. Second, the fact that something is efficient and effective doesn't mean it is right.

    I think, also, that tribalism comes into play -- progressives are less likely to complain about the foreign policy actions of a Democrat while excoriating those of a Republican (whom they don't respect in the first place), just like conservatives go on and on about the immorality of liberals while ignoring or excusing the colossal moral failings of Republicans.

  6. I do think tribalism is a big part of why liberals have been silent about it.

    Pakistan has been a pretty fair weather ally. Bin Laden was in the same town as a large military base and they say they didn't know he was there? I'm not sure that we can base our policy on what countries in that region think of us and still have effective policies. I'm not sure there's anything we could do to appease them. And I think we had to have a way to target terrorists with greater accuracy and less bloodshed. So I guess I tend to agree with Mr. Beadgirl on this one :-)

    But I will say that I think there need to be stronger protocols and I do feel uneasy about what the formula is for acceptable "collateral damage" and "proof." Of course, in the foreign policy realm I feel like I often have those concerns.