Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mitt on Kasich's Ohio reforms

I've been leaning more heavily towards supporting Mitt in '12 as the weeks have gone by. Largely, this is the result of my feeling that the gap between he and his opponents, when it comes to executive ability, is quite large. With each debate, that large gap comes into sharper focus. His command of the issues, both from a sound bite/elevator pitch standpoint, and from a more granular, under-the-hood standpoint, is robust. No one save Gingrich shows both the breadth and depth of knowledge.

But when it comes to ability to enact an agenda, I have more confidence in Mitt than Newt. Mitt's tenure in the private sector was legendary (see here for a well written explanation that is part critique but ultimately reinforces the strength of his bio). His record of enacting his political agenda in a hostile MA environment is underrated. And the effectiveness of his campaign, in terms of stability of personnel, fund raising, consistency of message, and lack of mistakes, has been a strong testament to his leadership.

Newt is a dynamo of policy ideas, but I honestly don't know what to expect from his as an executive. His tenure as the head of the House GOP was erratic. His campaign dissolved earlier this cycle, before being resurrected on the strength of his debating. I could readily support Newt as a candidate, but Mitt seems the safer play for the country (not for our platform, nor, necessarily, for the GOP's electoral chances). But for the day-to-day grind of running the country, and being up to the challenge of the never-ending media gauntlet, I'd cast my lot with Mitt.

All of that, however, is predicated on my notion that Mitt is conservative enough to make a meaningful difference in the direction of our country. And while I recognize he's not Marco Rubio, I've believed that he would meet the "conservative enough" standard for the following reasons:

-He's put himself on the record for the repeal of Obama care.
-He's clearly looking for lower taxes and a more business friendly regulatory environment.
-He wants to stem the tide of government growth, even if his cap on federal spending, and where the cuts will come from, haven't been defined in any real way (at least that I've seen).
-He's articulated a defense of marriage for the wellbeing of children, and a pro-life philosophy.
-His foreign policy pronouncements, both on paper and on the stump, show a well studied understanding of the issues and the players--even if his "American greatness" philosophy is a bit vague in practice. For instance, I'm glad he wants to reverse the tide of "mea culpa diplomacy", but I'm concerned he's overcommitting to an expensive ramping up of our long-distance military commitments.

But what if Mitt's campaigning is basically, how to put this...obfuscation? What if he's triangulating himself as just conservative enough for the right, and just moderate enough for the center, but he doesn't know where HE is? This, of course, has been the critics charge right along. I've always been somewhat dismissive of it. Just as W wasn't dumb because of his twang, Mitt's not a liar because he's a little stiff, well dressed, and sounds a bit practiced. To the contrary, Mitt's rigorously analytical nature (as evidenced with his tenure at Bain), his personal discipline and embrace of a received morality (as evidenced by his biography), and his traditionalist bent (stylistically, I'll admit) always led me to think he was probably more conservative than he lets on.

Every once in a while, though, some evidence comes along that makes you rethink your assumptions. This article, from the Washington Examiner, has given me a lot to ponder:

Campaigning in Ohio today, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney stopped by a Republican Party phone-bank making calls in support of Gov. John Kasich's government union reform referendum, but refused to endorse the actual referendum. CNN's Peter Hamby called the scene an "incredible moment in politics."

Kasich already signed his government union reforms into law in March of this year, not long after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker won his battle against government unions. But Democrats, with the help from the AFL-CIO, placed a referendum on next week's ballot Issue 2, that would repeal the new law. A vote for the referendum would keep the law, a vote against would repeal.

Kasich's new law: 1) bans government unions from bargaining over health insurance, 2) requires that all government union members pay at least 10% of their wages toward their pensions, 3) ends seniority rights as the sole factor in layoffs, 4) replaces seniority pay raises with merit pay raises, 5) bans government unions from striking, and 6) makes government union dues voluntary. But government unions would still be able to bargain about many other topics including pay and working conditions.

While entitlement reform is arguably a bigger issue for the long-term solvency of the nation, the public sector union issue is a crucial component of the battle over the size of government at all levels. If the influence of the "union dues->political contributions->union concessions->higher union dues" cycle can't be broken now, when our national credit rating has just been downgraded, and we are facing the clear prospect of a European path to insolvency; then the war over the size of government has been completely lost. The symbiosis between public sector unions and liberal elected officials provides an ever-present catalyst for more government spending. Scott Walker risked his career, and possibly his personal safety, because he understood the gravity of this political conflict. The House GOP leadership stood firm and carried the fight a long way (perhaps not as far as some would have liked, but still, a long way), because they did as well.

Mitt, apparently, wants to duck this battle, at least for the time being. I can only presume his reasons lie in his political calculation, and the good of his campaign.

I say this now, having only heard one side of the story. I anxiously await the Romney camp's retort to the howls of criticism that are surely coming his way. But I'm no longer as predisposed to brushing off the critics as I might have been yesterday.


ManBeast said...

I think a lot of people feel the same way about Mitt as I do. He'd be a good candidate, and a good president (it would be hard to be worse than Obama). But, I'll switch my support to another candidate very easily. I like Hermain Cain and Newt much better. My dislike of Mitt is like something you can only see in your peripheral vision. You can't tell exactly what it is, but you know it's there.

I'll put my way-out-on-a-limb prediction I've made in person, in writing. Newt will be the GOP nominee. As soon as Santorum and Bachmann drop, he'll pick up most of their support. And while I really like Herman Cain, I think his bubble will burst, and Newt will benefit. My above description is why I don't think Mitt will pick up the support from the dropouts. I'm not the only one who thinks like this apparently either: http://www.forbes.com/sites/richardminiter/2011/10/24/why-herman-cain-has-the-potential-to-win/


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Always sniffing for the truth

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