The case for Mitt Romney begins but doesn’t end with the simple declaration that he is not Barack Obama. Obviously, any challenger seeking to oust an incumbent must highlight the deficiencies of that incumbent, i.e., why the president is unfit to continue serving in that position. The incumbent runs on his record; the challenger runs on the insufficiencies of that record is insufficient and how his policies would differ and ameliorate any lingering problems in society. The irony here, of course, is that Obama is running as a challenger would, making little reference to his record and even less to his agenda for a second term, and neither with any specificity. Generalities (“the strongest military ever”), platitudes (“Are you with me?”… “Can’t go back to the policies that got us into this mess in the first place”… “I’ll fight for you,” etc.) and falsehoods (“I immediately labeled the Benghazi attack terrorism”) abound.
We must first look at what Obama has done, then at what Mitt Romney says he will do, and then the governor’s personal qualifications.
President Obama has been a poor steward of the economy. Whatever mess he inherited, he exacerbated, with poor policies that were poorly timed. Economic growth remains anemic and unemployment at record levels, because the President has failed to incentivize growth, has imposed a new health coverage law that caused rampant uncertainty in the business world (and in the general population, as the bill’s real provisions sink in) and has over-regulated the banking industry to the extent that loans are extremely difficult to procure – itself stifling business growth. Prices continue to increase in every sector of the economy, further smothering the middle class. The unprecedented debt – more than one trillion dollars per year in each year of his presidency (that’s >$1,000,000,000,000), an astonishing number of zeros – bodes ill for the future, especially as he has no willingness to curb his spending appetites. And this from a man who criticized George Bush for running deficits in the four hundred billion dollar range. Simply astonishing.
Obama’s election strategy dovetails nicely with his second term agenda, if that is what it can be called: the fruits of class warfare. His plan boils down to raising taxes on “millionaires and billionaires,” which, in his skewed understanding of both mathematics and economics, means people earning more than $250,000 per year. But that plan even if implemented would only raise – maximum – eighty billion dollars annually, reducing the deficit between 5-8%. It is risible, if it was actually meant seriously and not just as a weapon used by political hacks looking to inflame one segment of society against another. In real terms, there were never that many “millionaires and billionaires” in society four years ago to make a significant impact on either the budget or the deficit, and even that number has declined in the last four years under this president. (Point of information: if “millionaires and billionaires” paid 100% tax rate – all their income was confiscated – the government would still have a half-trillion dollar deficit.)
The incumbent has been successful in isolating different special interest groups and catering to their needs, hoping a coalition of these groups will provide him with enough votes for victory. Thus, women are supposed to be aroused by the mindless threat of having their contraception eliminated, or by the promise of free birth control for all (paid for by the government or a coerced private sector); Hispanics are courted by the scandalous decision by Obama not to enforce current immigration laws; unionists are kept in the fold by the promises of ever-greater government spending and labor laws that will strangle the private sector. The Jews are seduced by Obama’s running on the Democratic line; most Jews need not think more deeply than that. Blacks do not have to see past his skin color and the phony accent he affects when he addresses their audiences.
And, of course, the astounding number of Americans receiving some form of government assistance presents a ready bloc of voters who don’t want to see their take reduced. This is not referring to Medicare, Social Security or pensions, but to the millions of people who don’t work, don’t pay taxes and/or contribute little to society but their perpetual squawking about some grievance or another, usually involving the phrases “fair share,” “social justice,” or “income inequality.” Obama has wooed this bloc assiduously by expanding unemployment benefits to years, not months, increasing the number of food stamp recipients by almost 1/3 – to 47 million Americans, and gleefully feeding them vitriolic rhetoric about the unfairness of their lot in life. Simply astonishing.
Among the more outlandish clichés constantly iterated by the president has been his assertion that he “ended the war in Iraq.” Actually, he ended America’s involvement in the war in Iraq, but the war continues. About 100 Iraqis are killed weekly, the US gains in the war – an end to Saddam Hussein, his rule of terror and his WMD program, the creation of a potential US ally in the heart of Arabia and a bulwark against Iran – have been rapidly eroded. Iraq is falling slowly and inexorably under Iran’s hegemony, a result of Obama’s abject failure to secure a Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq that would have left both some American forces and much influence in place. Obama did not pull US troops out of Iraq as much as Iraq threw them out. Within a few years it will be clear that Obama lost the Iraq War, and did not at all end it. Oh, and he killed bin Laden, as if any other president would not have ordered the same, and perhaps sooner. (Neat rhetorical trick by Romney in the last debate, pre-empting Obama’s traditional bin Laden boast and congratulating him on ordering the assault.) Afghanistan will be lost, once the US pulls out on the assigned date. The Taliban must be salivating at the prospects of another Obama term.
Iran proceeds apace in its efforts to produce nuclear weapons. The “toughest sanctions” ever, that Obama now touts but mostly opposed (they were forced on him by Congress), will stop Iran as much as similar sanctions stopped North Korea. The reset buttons have failed to operate; Obama has antagonized allies (Britain, Israel, Poland, the Czech Republic et al) while being rebuffed by those regimes that he assumed would amend their policies because of his charisma and pleasant smile.
On Israel matters, Rav Eliezer Melamed wrote this week that Obama has been America’s most hostile president to Israel, ever. It is difficult to argue with that characterization. Acolytes will point to the unprecedented military cooperation between the two countries (arguable, but in any event, Israel and the Palestinian Authority are presently engaged in unprecedented military cooperation as well, but one would hardly construe their relationship as allies or friends). It is hard to forget Obama’s insistence that Israel agree to withdraw to the 1967 borders as a precondition to negotiations – a demand that even the PA had not made – as well as his shabby treatment of Israel’s prime minister on several occasions – rudeness that he would never display to Chavez, Putin and other despots. Jews who will vote for the Democrat no matter what, and are merely looking to assuage their consciences, should bear in mind that there is a limit to how anti-Israel any American president can be. There is a bond between Israelis and Americans that results from shared values and, most recently, shared suffering at the hands of Arab terrorists, and Israel is enormously popular in the United States. No matter – Obama could wear a kaffiyeh and Jews would rationalize it by saying that he funded “Iron Dome.” (Actually, he tried to cut funding for Iron Dome each year – Congress increased the funding.) Obama entered office telling Jews that there needs to be “some daylight” between the United States and Israel; actually, there needs to be some daylight between Jews – and Obama and the Democrat Party.
Mitt Romney has led a stellar, decent life – a pastor in his church – and continues to impress with his civility and graciousness. Remarkably, he is scandal free, despite the Obamanation’s desperate search for something, anything, on him. (Apparently, their crack operatives discovered that Romney once beat up a kid in high school.) Almost as importantly, he has been successful in everything he has attempted in life (except one lost Senate race). His business acumen will immediately raise the level of discourse in Washington, and his expertise is in the very area in which the country is now suffering: a lack of economic growth. Say what you will, but that is his field. Obama seems surprised that some companies fail, or that bankruptcy is sometimes an essential component to a company’s recovery, or that businesses respond to incentives, or look to maximize their profits, or that the private economy is driven by people who invest their hard-earned money, and in exchange for the risk, want to see a return that justifies that risk. Not every investment will work – and Romney is the one who can transform the economy into what it once was.
Romney will also return the United States to its traditional moorings. Obama can’t live down his past, which includes a legacy of grievances against the US. Romney revels in America, its history, its accomplishments, its glories and its extraordinary contributions to nations across the globe. Romney loves America unequivocally; Obama – one can’t say he doesn’t love America but rather that he has unresolved issues with America that spill over into his policies and rhetoric. Obama is the president of special interest groups – Romney appeals to all, or at least to those Americans who still value liberty, free enterprise, thrift, the American dream, and for the world, the American promise. Yes, Romney believes in American exceptionalism, while Obama derides that concept.
It would be good to have again a president who is proud of America, and not only because it elected him president.
Businessmen rarely run for president (Wendell Wilkie was the last, and that didn’t turn out well) but Romney’s service as governor uniquely qualifies him as a person who took his business skills and translated them into public policy. Obama has thrived in – and aggravated – the tense atmosphere in DC, the gridlock that has rendered government inoperable. That contentiousness will only worsen if Obama is re-elected. He came in with an attitude – telling Eric Cantor in the very first meeting with Republicans in 2009 that Obama had no interest in negotiating (“Elections have consequences. I won. You lost”). That divisive haughtiness will cease; Romney is a different personality, and experienced in dealing successfully with an opposition party. That was a similar strength of Ronald Reagan.
Mitt Romney will resume America’s role as the world’s moral influence, as defender and advocate of freedom. Like in the Reagan years, people will again be proud of America’s role in the world rather than embarrassed by it. No more “leading from behind,” a euphemism that allows Obama to claim credit for good results and distance himself from bad results. No more attempted escapes from personal responsibility for anything, a state of affairs that has defined the Obama administration from its inception. The personal warmth between Romney and PM Netanyahu, going back to when they were co-workers at Boston Consulting Group in the 1970s, bodes well for Israel. (I would be more worried about Netanyahu than about Romney.)
The US needs to reform its tax code (certainly, to simplify it, and to lower tax rates). It needs to treat its citizens fairly, and not distinguish based on race, religion, or ethnic origin. It needs to reform its health care system that will soon find millions of people without coverage, as businesses flee from providing such to their employees, and to reform it so that competition brings down prices and that “mandates” are phased out. Let people shop for the coverage that they want and need. The US needs a president that knows how to stimulate business instead of suffocating it; that will produce jobs, new revenue, and greater happiness as people earn their own keep and are not maintained by others, and that will relieve the tax burden that we all feel (at least those among us who pay taxes). America needs to unleash its private sector to become energy independent – and it is more doable today that at any time in the past, with the new resources and the new technology available.
On domestic issues, in foreign policy, in personality and temperament, Mitt Romney is the obvious choice for President. Barack Obama is a failed president; there could be many others who would be better and that alone suffices to vote against him. But this election is not a choice about “the lesser of two evils,” nor are they “all the same.” Mitt Romney is the right man at the right time with the right set of skills. The choice is ours, and it is a fateful one.