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.|
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.
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?