Romney will Lose

Mitt Romney will lose if he doesn’t fire his ineffectual campaign manager. But he may be too loyal to do so. From Daniel Henninger:

It has been reported that Barack Obama doesn’t believe Mitt Romney is up to the responsibilities of the presidential office. This is said to be among the reasons he believes it important to defeat Mr. Romney.

So one must ask: Why does Mitt Romney want to defeat President Obama?

The answer to this question is fading daily from public view. Instead, the subject at the top of most political conversation is the quality of Mr. Romney’s campaign staff, especially since Mr. Romney has fallen behind the president in swing-state polls since the conventions. Commenting on these stories, other political professionals are saying the complaints are predictable and dismissible. That is not true.

Politico published a widely read story earlier in the week about Mr. Romney’s staff and in particular his campaign’s manager, Stuart Stevens. It described how Mr. Romney’s convention acceptance speech passed through two speechwriting teams and was written, days before its delivery, by Mr. Stevens and Mr. Romney himself. According to Gallup, it was the least admired acceptance speech the pollster has ever measured.

A great deal has been made about the speech’s failure to mention Afghanistan. More telling, I thought, was Mr. Romney’s “I have a plan to create 12 million jobs.” The five points totaled 180 words. Anyone who has written under pressure will recognize this as people simply running out of time to think or write, and losing focus.

Mitt Romney has found himself in a unique U.S. election. This is not just a win-some, lose-some election, another quadrennial excitement for political junkies. From left to right, 2012 has been recognized as a “decisive” election. Barack Obama repeatedly describes the election as a defining choice between his vision of the American future and that of his opposition. He is right; 2012 is a more historic election than 2008.

Mr. Romney has been running to be president since 2007. In the course of such a long campaign run, a candidate will be buffeted by all sorts of competing loyalties—to his family (Mitch Daniels and Jeb Bush chose not to run for this reason), to whatever sense of personal possibility and ambition first impelled him to run five years ago, to contributors whose donations made the run possible, to the professional political staff and personal friends producing his campaign, and not least to the 314 million people who live in the nation’s 50 states.

Six weeks from election day and at the end of Mr. Romney’s long presidential quest, it is appropriate to ask: Where does he think his loyalties and responsibilities lie as the Republican Party’s candidate in 2012?

Mr. Romney has a deserved reputation for loyalty to friends and colleagues. But his loyalty does not lie with his family, his campaign manager or even himself. More than any other election in decades, it resides with those 314 million. In Europe, the International Labor Organization predicts a generation of joblessness and underemployment for its young. We are about there.

There was no way to know this when the Romney presidential odyssey began in 2007. He was one of the ambitious men who seek this office. We are far beyond that now. Mr. Romney in 2012 finds himself in the domestic version of a war candidacy. Instead of a campaign presented to the American people at that level, we are bogged down in a discussion of Mr. Romney’s personal loyalty and commitments to his campaign manager.

Personal loyalty and national loyalty are not the same thing. When Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill took their nations toward a crucible—and the next four years will be a political and economic crucible for this country’s political leaders—there was never a question in their minds that national purpose trumped personal or political loyalty. That is the price of great, national leadership. Nor did they assume that the mere fact of war, like the mere fact of a declining economy during the Obama presidency, could ever be sufficient reason to ask a nation to follow them. They stirred an anxious public to a great commitment.

Mr. Romney’s responsibility at this point is to make his candidacy equal to these stakes. Barack Obama is asking voters for a mandate to pursue the vision and policies he outlines in speech after speech. As of now, if Mr. Obama wins, it will be because a confused electorate gave him their default, not their mandate. That would be a poor and undeserved end to this election. Right now, the content and course of the Romney campaign does not feel equal to an historic mandate election.

Mr. Romney deserves the chance he has now. He has earned it for himself. Sometime soon, he should sit down in a quiet place and ask himself if in the weeks remaining, the American people deserve more from him.


The Insolence of Office

From Theodore Dalrymple:

A friend of mine recently gave a lecture at a university and sent his bill for his (modest) expenses. He received by return a form asking him, in order for him to be paid, for his race, religion and sexual ‘orientation’.

Not surprisingly, he was displeased by this. He demanded to know why the information was needed, and requested the race, religion and sexual orientation of the person who sent the form and also of the vice-chancellor of the university. In reply, he was told merely that ‘Human Resources’ needed the information before it could settle his bill. No other explanation of why or for what purpose this information was ‘needed’ was offered; presumably, it was deemed self-evident to the writer of the reply.

My friend persisted in his refusal and in his demand for the same information as that that demanded of him. Eventually he received a further reply informing him that Human Resources no longer required the information, and that he would be paid forthwith. There was no explanation, much less apology, in this reply for the change of what Human Resources would no doubt call ‘policy’; nor was there the faintest hint of shame or embarrassment.

What brought about the change in Human Resources’ attitude? Why was information thought essential one moment for the payment of a small bill deemed completely unnecessary shortly afterwards? Had legislation or society changed in the meantime? Had Human Resources had a crisis of conscience, realising that their questions were intellectually stupid, psychologically aggressive, and morally against the commonest of decency?

Of course not. With the instinctive cunning of dullard bureaucrats, they realised that if they persisted in their questions with this particular man, they might cause a lot of trouble for themselves. He would kick up a fuss and draw public attention to their activities, as welcome to them as kitchen light switched on to nocturnal cockroaches. Best, then, to retreat into the cracks. Most ‘difficult’ customers, that is to say those not automatically intimidated by a form into filling it, are satisfied by such a retreat, and make no public comment.

If any semblance of our freedom is to be preserved, the dictatorial idiocy (and, I fear, wickedness) of our bureaucracy should be constantly exposed to public mockery and reprehension, before it becomes too powerful for us to dare to do so.


Transforming America

From George F. Will:

Four years ago, Barack Obama was America’s Rorschach test, upon whom voters could project their disparate yearnings. To govern, however, is to choose, and now his choices have clarified him. He is a conviction politician determined to complete the progressive project of emancipating government from the Founders’ constraining premises, a project Woodrow Wilson embarked on 100 Novembers ago.

As such, Obama has earned what he now receives, the tribute of a serious intellectual exegesis by a distinguished political philosopher. In “I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism,” Charles Kesler of Claremont McKenna College rightly says Obama is “playing a long, high-stakes game.” Concerning the stakes, Obama practices prudent reticence, not specifying America’s displeasing features that are fundamental. Shortly before the 2008 election, he said only: “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming” America. Tonight, consider Obama’s acceptance speech in the context that Kesler gives it in the American political tradition.

Progress, as progressives understand it, means advancing away from, up from, something. But from what?

From the Constitution’s constricting anachronisms. In 1912, Wilson said, “The history of liberty is the history of the limitation of governmental power.” But as Kesler notes, Wilson never said the future of liberty consisted of such limitation.

Instead, he said, “every means . . . by which society may be perfected through the instrumentality of government” should be used so that “individual rights can be fitly adjusted and harmonized with public duties.” Rights “adjusted and harmonized” by government necessarily are defined and apportioned by it. Wilson, the first transformative progressive, called this the “New Freedom.” The old kind was the Founders’ kind — government existing to “secure” natural rights (see the Declaration) that preexist government. Wilson thought this had become an impediment to progress. The pedigree of Obama’s thought runs straight to Wilson.

And through the second transformative progressive, Franklin Roosevelt, who counseled against the Founders’ sober practicality and fear of government power: “We are beginning to wipe out the line that divides the practical from the ideal” and are making government “an instrument of unimagined power” for social improvement. The only thing we have to fear is fear of a government of unimagined power:

“Government is a relation of give and take.” The “rulers” — FDR’s word — take power from the people, who in turn are given “certain rights.”

This, says Kesler, is “the First Law of Big Government: the more power we give the government, the more rights it will give us.” It also is the ultimate American radicalism, striking at the roots of the American regime, the doctrine of natural rights. Remember this when next — perhaps tonight — Obama discourses on the radicalism of Paul Ryan.

As Kesler says, the logic of progressivism is: “Since our rights are dependent on government, why shouldn’t we be?” This is the real meaning of Obama’s most characteristic rhetorical trope, his incessant warning that Americans should be terrified of being “on your own.”

Obama, the fourth transformative progressive, had a chief of staff who said “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” More than a century before that, a man who would become the first such progressive said that a crisis is a terrible thing not to create. Crises, said Wilson, are periods of “unusual opportunity” for gaining “a controlling and guiding influence.” So, he said, leaders should maintain a crisis atmosphere “at all times.”

Campaigning in 1964, Lyndon Johnson, the third consequential progressive, exclaimed through a bull horn: “I just want to tell you this — we’re in favor of a lot of things and we’re against mighty few.” He learned this progressive vernacular from his patron, FDR, who envisioned “an unlimited civilization capable of infinite progress.” Poet Archibald Mac­Leish, FDR’s choice for librarian of Congress, exemplified progressives’ autointoxication: America has “the abundant means” to create “whatever world we have the courage to desire” and the ability to “take this country down” and “build it again as we please,” to “take our cities apart and put them together,” to lead our “rivers where we please to lead them,” etc.

In 2012, Americans want from government not such flights of fancy but sobriety; not ecstatic evocations of dreamlike tomorrows but a tolerably functioning today; not fantasies about a world without scarcities and therefore without choices among our desires and appetites but a mature understanding of the limits to government’s proper scope and actual competence. Tonight’s speech is Obama’s last chance to take a first step toward accommodation with a country increasingly concerned about his unmasked determination to “transform” what the Founders considered “fundamentals.”

I’m afraid Mr. Will is only partially correct on his last point: some Americans want governmental sobriety but many want flights of fancy from government. They are why the Radical-in-Chief has a good chance of being reelected.


Who Really Is the ‘Angry Old White Man’?

From VDH:

What is the catalyst for affluent, mostly white people prominent in the media either charging others with racism or urging that they should be charged with racism — in the manner that a Chris Matthews, Joe Klein, and Lawrence O’Donnell have recently been channeling Joe Biden (“put y’all back in chains”) or Harry Reid (“angry old white men”) in alleging that opposing Obama in 2012 is tantamount to racism. Usually the charge has no factual basis other than there are supposed to be certain coded words like welfare, golf, Chicago, cool, etc. that supposedly imply bigotry.

The accusers are 1-percenters. They mostly live lives (e.g., where they live, how much they make, where their children go to school, where they vacation, etc.) indistinguishable from the conservative grandees that they charge with insensitive elitism — and worse. They assume that their own privilege, marriages, money, insider contacts, quid pro quo New York-D.C. networking, etc. gives them exceptional entrée and advantages over others, and should be used accordingly and without remorse. They have no populist lamentation against capitalism on the grounds that their own compensation is ridiculous in comparison to what others make. None requests a pay cut; or transfers a child to the inner D.C. public-school system. None believes a phone call to a well-placed friend to promote a son’s or daughter’s college or job prospects is part of the odious “old boy network,” at least enough not to do it. So is it that liberal pontification about endemic racism and the need for higher taxes on people like themselves allows them to live in traditional 1-percenter style without cosmic guilt — and without any adjustment to their immediate landscapes? Is there a liberal battery that fuels the good life, but which must be charged periodically by loudly smearing others as racist? The more a blond, pink Elizabeth Warren rants about the 1-percenters and attests that she is a Native American, the less she is anxious about being a millionaire academic?

Somehow with all this “white this, white that” we are to assume that the white male tire-store owner in Tulare or the long-haul truck driver from Akron who lives with those who do not look like himself, and who finds that his 80-hour week does not add up to a day’s wages of Chris Matthews’ rantings, is culpable because, in the grand American tradition, he holds those now in charge responsible for 42 months of 8-plus percent unemployment, $4 gas, and $5 trillion in new debt, after being promised four years ago that things would not be as they are now.

When a media millionaire who resides in an all-white tony suburb sermonizes on racism, or when Barack Obama, also a millionaire who lives for free as president, lectures Americans on the need for higher taxes on “people like myself,” it really means less than nothing.