Monday, November 05, 2012







They Need Some Reason For Supporting Romney


Can you guess what comes next?

1, 3, 6, 10, 15, 21, 28....

If you came up with 36, you will understand the reasoning of the Des Moines Register, David Brooks, David Frum, and Buzz Bissinger in endorsing Mitt Romney for president.

In its endorsement, the editors of the Des Moines Register maintain

One of the biggest obstacles either candidate faces is partisan gridlock in Congress. It appears unlikely either party will have enough votes to have its own way without bringing over members from across the aisle.

Early in his administration, President Obama reached out to Republicans but was rebuffed. Since then, he has abandoned the effort, and the partisan divide has hardened. That has hampered not only the economy, but the entire country. We remain a nation of red states and blue states.

Having acknowledged that President Obama has sought compromise with the GOP, the paper goes on to argue "Which candidate could forge the compromises in Congress to achieve these goals? When the question is framed in those terms, Mitt Romney emerges the stronger candidate."

The editors, claiming Obama "has abandoned the effort" to reach compromise, evidently forgot that the President had told them three days earlier

It will probably be messy. It won’t be pleasant. But I am absolutely confident that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain that essentially I’ve been offering to the Republicans for a very long time, which is $2.50 worth of cuts for every dollar in spending, and work to reduce the costs of our health care programs.  

Bissinger, an excellent author, terrible radio talk show host, and contributor to The Daily Beast, endorsed Mitt Romney on that site in part because "I am not sure Obama really wants to be president in any practical way. He hates the rolling up of sleeves and schmoozing that is politics.  I respect his principles, the way he does not veer from them, but politics is not principle whether we like it or not.  It is friendliness and compromise."

Yes, the chief executive who watered down, shaped and modified the Affordable Care Act to secure GOP votes (which he nonetheless never received) is a man of "principles" who does not compromise.

Bissinger's perception of President Obama bears a similarity to other, more accomplished columnists who, unlike Bissinger, actually are conservative and Republican.    The New York Times' David Brooks, who cites Obama's "moderate and sensible agenda," believes in a second Obama administration

The first order of business would be the budget deal, averting the so-called fiscal cliff. Obama would first go to Republicans in the Senate and say, “Look, we’re stuck with each other. Let’s cut a deal for the sake of the country.” He would easily find 10 Republican senators willing to go along with a version of a Grand Bargain.

Then Obama would go to the House. He’d ask Eric Cantor, the majority leader, if there were votes for such a deal. The answer would probably be no. Republican House members still have more to fear from a primary challenge from the right than from a general election challenge from the left. Obama is tremendously unpopular in their districts. By running such a negative presidential campaign, Obama has won no mandate for a Grand Bargain. Obama himself is not going to suddenly turn into a master legislative craftsman on the order of Lyndon Johnson.

There’d probably be a barrage of recriminations from all sides. The left and right would be consumed with ire and accusations. Legislators would work out some set of fudges and gimmicks to kick the fiscal can down the road.

But under President Romney

Republicans would begin with the premise that the status quo is unsustainable. The mounting debt is ruinous. The byzantine tax and regulatory regimes are stifling innovation and growth.

Republicans would like to take the reform agenda that Republican governors have pursued in places like Indiana and take it to the national level: structural entitlement reform; fundamental tax reform. These reforms wouldn’t make government unrecognizable (we’d probably end up spending 21 percent of G.D.P. in Washington instead of about 24 percent), but they do represent a substantial shift to the right.

At the same time, Romney would probably be faced with a Democratic Senate. He would also observe the core lesson of this campaign: conservatism loses; moderation wins. Romney’s prospects began to look decent only when he shifted to the center. A President Romney would look at the way Tea Party extremism had cost the G.O.P. Senate seats in Delaware and Nevada — and possibly Missouri and Indiana.

To get re-elected in a country with a rising minority population and a shrinking Republican coalition, Romney’s shape-shifting nature would induce him to govern as a center-right moderate. To get his tax and entitlement reforms through the Democratic Senate, Romney would have to make some serious concessions: increase taxes on the rich as part of an overall reform; abandon the most draconian spending cuts in Paul Ryan’s budget; reduce the size of his lavish tax-cut promises.

Brooks concludes "If Obama wins, we’ll probably get small-bore stasis; if Romney wins, we’re more likely to get bipartisan reform. Romney is more of a flexible flip-flopper than Obama. He has more influence over the most intransigent element in the Washington equation House Republicans."    He counts this as the best reason, the reason to vote for Mitt Romney.  Seriously.

Similarly, David Frum, drummed out of the American Enterprise Institute a couple of years ago for insufficient fealty to the right-wing cause, concedes "I'd like to believe the David Brooks theory of  the Romney presidency: that Romney will pivot away from Tea Party Republicanism as soon as he is elected. I don't see much evidence in support of that theory, alas."   But he later adds

The congressional Republicans have shown themselves a destructive and irrational force in American politics. But we won't reform the congressional GOP by re-electing President Obama. If anything, an Obama re-election will not only aggravate the extremism of the congressional GOP, but also empower them: an Obama re-election raises the odds in favor of big sixth-year sweep for the congressional GOP - and very possibly a seventh-year impeachment. A Romney election will at least discourage the congressional GOP from deliberately pushing the US into recession in 2013. Added bonus: a Romney presidency likely means that the congressional GOP will lose seats in 2014, as they deserve.

Congressional Republicans, who support Romney and whom Romney supports without qualification or reservation, ought to be tossed out in 2014.  They represent the same extremist philosophy espoused by Mitt Romney on his way to their party's nomination.  So let's elect him.

These Romney partisans are sparse in their criticism of the incumbent's policies and seem to believe those of his challenger for most of the past year-and-a-half are destructive.  Frum, for instance, recognizes "Mitt Romney's campaign has been one long appeasement of the most selfish and stupid elements of the Republican coalition, and the instinct for appeasement will not terminate with the counting of the votes next Tuesday."   

Critiquing the "vote for Romney or else" rationale, Paul Krugman explains

So we shouldn’t worry about the ability of a re-elected Obama to get things done. On the other hand, it’s reasonable to worry that Republicans will do their best to make America ungovernable during a second Obama term. After all, they have been doing that ever since Mr. Obama took office.

During the first two years of Mr. Obama’s presidency, when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, Republicans offered scorched-earth opposition to anything and everything he proposed. Among other things, they engaged in an unprecedented number of filibusters, turning the Senate — for the first time — into a chamber in which nothing can pass without 60 votes.

And, when Republicans took control of the House, they became even more extreme. The 2011 debt ceiling standoff was a first in American history: An opposition party declared itself willing to undermine the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, with incalculable economic effects, unless it got its way. And the looming fight over the “fiscal cliff” is more of the same. Once again, the G.O.P. is threatening to inflict large damage on the economy unless Mr. Obama gives it something — an extension of tax cuts for the wealthy — that it lacks the votes to pass through normal constitutional processes.

Would a Democratic Senate offer equally extreme opposition to a President Romney? No, it wouldn’t. So, yes, there is a case that “partisan gridlock” would be less damaging if Mr. Romney won.

As Krugman concedes, a Democratic Senate would not "offer equally extreme opposition to a President Romney."   But we are "close to accepting protection-racket politics," he observes, if Mitt Romney is elected on a platform of "nice country you got here.  Shame if something were to happen to it."



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