Mitt the Competent — Mitt the Candidate

I’ve noted in the past that I really, really like competence and the ability to take responsibility, both in the people who surround me and, especially, in the people who are tasked with guiding me. I’ve also noted that Mitt’s Mormonism isn’t a problem for me, and that it shouldn’t be a problem for people who are more religious than I am (something Dennis Prager has tackled too).  I’ve been forgiving of his changed positions on abortion, because I understand those changes, having moved along that trajectory myself over the years.

Mona Charen now points to his spectacular achievements, achievements made all the more impressive by the fact that he makes it look easy:

But then Romney has been masterful in everything he has attempted. It is not insignificant that this cum laude JD/MBA graduate of Harvard guided Bain Capital to become a hugely successful private equity investment firm and rescued Bain & Company from financial collapse. Romney was brought in to save the 2002 Winter Olympics when the games were mired in scandal and $379 million in debt. Romney was able to turn the situation around completely so that the games actually turned a $100 million profit instead. (He also gave back his salary.) That’s not slick, that’s substance.

When Mitt Romney took office as governor of Massachusetts, the state had a $1.2 billion deficit. Four years later it was in surplus. He boasts that fourth and eighth graders in Massachusetts achieved the highest scores in the nation in reading and math, though they were doing so before he became governor as well. But his program of assessment, merit pay for good teachers, English immersion and a focus on math and science may have helped keep them at the top.

It is difficult to find any significant weakness in Romney. He is refreshingly articulate, exceedingly well prepared and self-disciplined, clearly an excellent manager with both private and government experience, happily married with a large, supportive family, and well within the mainstream of conservatism on every major issue. His nomination would not divide the base.

I also think that National Review is correct about the way in which his policies appeal to the broadest principles uniting conservatives (and you know that I care deeply about broad principles that ought to bind conservatives of all stripes):

Romney is an intelligent, articulate, and accomplished former businessman and governor. At a time when voters yearn for competence and have soured on Washington because too often the Bush administration has not demonstrated it, Romney offers proven executive skill. He has demonstrated it in everything he has done in his professional life, and his tightly organized, disciplined campaign is no exception. He himself has shown impressive focus and energy.

It is true that he has less foreign-policy experience than Thompson and (especially) McCain, but he has more executive experience than both. Since almost all of the candidates have the same foreign-policy principles, what matters most is which candidate has the skills to execute that vision.

Like any Republican, he would have an uphill climb next fall. But he would be able to offer a persuasive outsider’s critique of Washington. His conservative accomplishments as governor showed that he can work with, and resist, a Demo­crat­ic legislature. He knows that not every feature of the health-care plan he enacted in Massachusetts should be replicated nationally, but he can also speak with more authority than any of the other Republican candidates about this pressing issue. He would also have credibility on the economy, given his success as a businessman and a manager of the Olympics.

Some conservatives question his sincerity. It is true that he has reversed some of his positions. But we should be careful not to overstate how much he has changed. In 1994, when he tried to unseat Ted Kennedy, he ran against higher taxes and government-run health care, and for school choice, a balanced budget amendment, welfare reform, and “tougher measures to stop illegal immigration.” He was no Rockefeller Republican even then.

We believe that Romney is a natural ally of social conservatives. He speaks often about the toll of fatherlessness in this country. He may not have thought deeply about the political dimensions of social issues until, as governor, he was confronted with the cutting edge of social liberalism. No other Republican governor had to deal with both human cloning and court-imposed same-sex marriage. He was on the right side of both issues, and those battles seem to have made him see the stakes of a broad range of public-policy issues more clearly. He will work to put abortion on a path to extinction. Whatever the process by which he got to where he is on marriage, judges, and life, we’re glad he is now on our side — and we trust him to stay there.

As I noted above with reference to abortion, I’m untroubled by Romney’s changed positions over the years because two things have happened:  (1) the world has changed dramatically since 9/11 and (2) he’s grown older.  As to the first, it signals his intelligence that, in the face of drastic changes at home and abroad, he is capable of revisiting positions and recognizing that they are no longer viable, something the 60s liberals are utterly incapable of doing.  This is not flip-flopping, because these appear to me to be principled changes reflecting reality, rather than any desperate attempt to keep to the right side of the polls.  In this regard, no one should forget that, before the Nazis, Churchill was a liberal.  And as to the second, we all know that people often settle into more conservative positions as they age as they grew in wisdom, stability and experience.

I think Giuliani is great and would happily vote for him as against any Democratic candidate.  I’m more lukewarm about Thompson and McCain, but would still happily vote for them as against anyone the Democrats field.  I could not vote for either Huckabee or Paul.

With regard to Huckabee, as I’ve said before, I’m sure he’s a very, very nice, good man, but am troubled by his aggressive Christianity, which indicates that he wants to become the nation’s pastor, rather than a Christian man who is president; his compassion run amok, which sees him pardoning evil people left and right (which is fine for an ordinary Christian, but profoundly dangerous for a political leader); his apparent greediness, which recalls another Arkansas governor’s conduct; his profound ignorance of and lack of curiosity about foreign affairs; the religious bigotry he displays in his attacks toward Romney; and his desire to have government police every aspect of my private life, including my diet.  All of these things frighten me about him, and make him every bit as dangerous in my view as a big-government liberal.  It would be the 1990s all over again, except with more God references.

And as for RuPaul, er, Ron Paul, his fellow travelers tell me too much about the man.  He may be talking out loud as a libertarian, but there’s some subliminal code out there that is drawing to him every racist, neo-Nazi, American supremacist, antisemite in America. With that kind of baggage, who needs him?

And so I’m going to second National Review and endorse Romney.  Failing some scandal or meltdown, I agree with the National Review that he is the most broadly conservative candidate and the most competent candidate.  I’m also going to put my faith in the American conservative movement and assume that, in a race between Romney and any Democratic candidate, people who have doubts about Mormons will be able to put those doubts aside and vote for the candidate whose values and political outlook are most closely aligned with theirs.

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Ron Paul’s money problem

When Ron Paul had his fantastic fund raising day, I decided to take a look at his campaign positions as relayed on his website. In other words, I looked at the best Paul had to offer about himself — the carefully considered distillation of his big ideas — and blogged about my reaction to those ideas. Based purely on his lean, mean, campaign-friendly assertions, I concluded that some of his ideas were consistent with mainstream conservatism, some of them were wrong, some of them were wacky, and all of them put together were unlikely to make a package that would sell to the majority of American voters. I was a bit worried when I posted that I’d come in for an avalanche of unfriendly comments, or even attempts to attack my blog, and was most grateful when that didn’t happen.

What did happen was much more insidious. I started getting visits from people who would begin by leaving one ordinary, sympathetic comment to a post. Then, they’d leave another comment to another post that sounded more bizarre, expressing “fact based” antisemitism or racism against ethnic groups. By the third or fourth comment, the comments would bloom into approving statements for Ron Paul, coupled with out-out-out White Supremacist style material. (The ones I deleted yesterday went from “scientific” analyses of IQ tests to statements about blacks being an inferior race. Horrible stuff.) I systematically deleted every one of these comments, since my blog is not a public, government owned forum, and I don’t need to cling to a freedom of speech doctrine that requires my blog to host that kind of thinking.

All of the above happened on a micro scale. It’s now playing out on a macro scale at American Thinker. Yesterday, American Thinker published an article Andrew Walden wrote detailing all the White Supremacists and fellow travelers who have hitched their wagon to the Ron Paul star. What’s worrisome isn’t that they find him interesting, but that he seems to find them interesting — or, at least, their money. That is, sometimes bad people are drawn to good ideas and good causes, so I’m not going to conflate their attraction with Paul into any conclusion that Paul is himself a White Supremacist or something like that, or even that he’s targeting that political market. However, dirty money is dirty money, and Walden details the one-way flow of that money in Paul’s coffers:

The Texas-based Lone Star Times October 25 publicly requested a response to questions about whether the Paul campaign would repudiate and reject a $500 donation from white supremacist Stormfront.org founder Don Black and end the Stormfront website fundraising for Paul. The Times article lit up the conservative blogosphere for the next week. Paul supporters packed internet comment boards alternately denouncing or excusing the charges. Most politicians are quick to distance themselves from such disreputable donations when they are discovered. Not Paul.

Daniel Siederaski of the Jewish Telegraph Agency tried to get an interview with Paul, calling him repeatedly but not receiving any return calls. Wrote Siederaski November 9: “Ron Paul will take money from Nazis. But he won’t taketelephone calls from Jews.” [Update] Finally on November 13 the Paul campaign responded. In a short interview JTA quotes Jim Perry, head of Jews for Paul describing his work on the Paul campaign along side a self-described white supremacist which Perry says he has reformed.

Racist ties exposed in the Times article go far beyond a single donation. Just below links to information about the “BOK KKK Ohio State Meeting“, and the “BOK KKK Pennsylvania State Meeting“, Stormfront.org website announced: “Ron Paul for President” and “Countdown to the 5th of November”. The links take readers directly to a Ron Paul fundraising site from which they can click into the official Ron Paul 2008 donation page on the official campaign site. Like many white supremacists, Stormfront has ties to white prison gangs.

Walden also explains that, with respect to this money, Paul and his campaign people make no effort to stops it flow, no effort to repudiate it, and no effort to return it. It’s one thing to have bad people follow you around; it’s quite another thing to encourage them to do so.

The article’s publication triggered a storm of something else we are learning to associate with the Ron Paul campaign: attacks on anyone who speaks against him, whether direct or indirect. I’ve described above the indirect attacks that have been trickling into my blog. American Thinker has now come in for the same attacks, on a much larger scale, including surprising ones from people who are taking extreme positions to defend the questions that must inevitably rise about the money trail Paul’s campaign is creating. (Incidentally, I have it on good authority that, while American Thinker has only written about the most significant responses to the article, the site has been inundated by emails, most of which are unfriendly and demanding in tone.)

I should be clear here that I am not making a blanket accusation that Ron Paul supporters are neo-Nazis or that they advocate vile racialist positions. Nor am I trying to say that Paul’s campaign positions, many of which are innocuous (although sometimes silly) on their face, are the type of things that would set White Supremacist warning bells ringing in the average person. I am saying, however, that it is disturbing when an increasingly visible presidential candidate willing accepts money from organizations that represent the worst America has to offer and that, instead of rejecting the money and speaking out against these people, keeps the money and attacks those who point out that there’s something rotten going on.

UPDATE: Incidentally, I’m taking with more than a grain of salt any pro-Ron Paul comments here that purport to come from Jews who have no problem with Paul’s refusal to disavow the White Supremacists who are currently pumping up his candidacy. At least one Ron Paul front organization called “Jews for Ron Paul,” is almost certainly a fraud. (h/t LGF.) If Ron Paul doesn’t want to get pulled down into this kind of muck and mire, he needs to take a stand against this stuff. His positions, for better or worse, are going to get lost in the mud that’s starting to stick.

UPDATE II:  I figured out a way to look at this:  If something is attracting flies, you need to investigate to discover whether they’re drawn because the object is sweet or rotten.  Unless Paul begins to explain why those flies are drawn to him, and begins to take steps to brush them off, the idea that his campaign is a neo-Nazi fly magnet because it’s rotten is going to take hold.  And because most Americans are repulsed by neo-Nazis, it will inevitably jettison any chance he has of success.  Since I’m not a Paul fan, I don’t care if the doesn’t succeed, but you’d think that his supporters would care.