Thursday, February 23, 2012

The elusive core of Mitt Romney

This is based on a funny post by Conor Friedersdorf. He quotes Mitt saying:
"I love this state [Michigan]. It seems right here. Trees are the right height. I like seeing the lakes - I love the lakes. ... I still know the American cars pretty well, and drive a Mustang. I love cars. I love American cars. And long may they rule the world, let me tell you."
It's not surprising that so many people wonder what Mitt stands for. I think I have a better sense, but I'm not sure. With the other GOP candidates, it was easier to tell:
  • Gingrich - Big ideas, big ego, big rhetoric.
  • Santorum - The right way to live, filtered through orthodox Catholicism and culture war ideals.
  • Bachmann - Ditto to Santorum minus the Catholicism, but with less connection to any reality outside her own mind.
  • Perry - A puppet for some unidentified sponsor.
  • Paul - Shrink government down to a strict constitutional size.
I can't write a clear statement for Romney (or for Obama for that matter). The closest I've gotten is calling Mitt a "Mr. Fixit." He really wants to fix the tax code some, trim the government a bit, slow the growth of Medicare somehow, etc. There isn't an ideological pattern.

How much of a liability is this? We don't want a president guided by a single, strong idea because the issues he will face vary so widely. But we also don't trust someone who is without any anchor. Romney may win the nomination despite his lack of core convictions simply because the alternatives are so ghastly.

We may have to elect him before we find out what we've gotten. That's always true to some extent because no president has governed in 100% compliance to how he campaigned. But with Romney it's even harder to tell. Will he be the practical Mr. Fixit of the Olympics, the MA governorship, and his current position papers? The conservative "Obama is wrong" ideologue of his campaign? Or a hollow shell that bends to the winds and will sign everything that Congress sends him? I really don't know what he wants to do with the office he's trying so hard to win.

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