Under discussion: No Apology: The Case for American Greatness by Mitt Romney, 323 pages, $26.95.
It’s hard to imagine a worse presidential contender than Mitt Romney. Yet, he nearly won the 2008 Republican presidential nomination and whether conservatives will admit it or not, Romney is the most likely member of the party to win the nomination in 2012.
The flip-flopping, status quo defending, conventional wisdom-spouting pol is certainly viewed as “safe” and “electable” by the Republican establishment and as a “tolerable Republican” by the Democrats. 1964 excepted, this is the course Republicans always take. Despite the grassroots’ anger over Romneycare becoming Obamacare, Republicans should get comfortable with a Romney candidacy.
Editors Rich Lowry and Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review, the so-called mast of so-called conservatism, are still behind him. A Rasmussen poll shows that Romney, three years out, is the strongest Republican opponent to Obama -- a 45-45 statistical dead heat. The same poll says Obama would beat Sarah Palin 48-42. Mike Huckabee’s political star is fading and the party still refuses to acknowledge the existence of Ron Paul who will be 76 during the primary season.
Make no mistake, Mitt Romney is running for president. Nobody writes a book like No Apology unless they’re running for something. And Mitt Romney is always running for something. With entire chapters dedicated to topics such as health care, education, energy, and four chapters wailing about foreign policy, Mitt Romney intends to be president.
But if Romney thinks he will be able to effectively challenge President Obama in 2012, he does have some convincing left to do – and not just the Democrats he spent his pre-2008 political career trying to schmooze.
While he should face little resistance to his atrocious foreign policy, the GOP base is sure to have huge question marks about Romney’s unfolding positions on abortion, gay marriage, and the bank bailouts.
The American Conservative columnist Daniel Larison has quipped that Romney should just not talk about foreign policy because he seems hopelessly confused, conflating differing sects of Islam with each other, exposing inexcusable ignorance of the millennia-old rivalries between Sunni and Shiite. But as George W. Bush proved, simple regional and religious ignorance may be just part of the job qualifications.
The self-stated purpose of No Apology is that American greatness is inherent and there is no reason for America to feel sorry about anything ever, the meme used by statists in both party to indicate that there is no difference a government and its people.
Through this, it is implied that No Apology is the antithesis to the supposed “Apology Tour” of President Obama. In practice, the purpose seems to be that Mitt Romney believes he can take both sides of an argument at the same time and think that that makes him smart. Also, it becomes evident that in addition to offering no “I’m sorry”’s, Mitt Romney offers no justifiable defense, or apology, for past Republican failures he fully intends to repeat.
An example of this shows up in Chapter 2 when Romney gives a great deal of attention to why great nations fall i.e., when they isolate themselves and refuse to accept the changes of modernity:
“While Europe embarked on the early stages of manufacturing, the Ottomans did not; . . . The Ottomans’ growing isolation from the dynamic world of manufacture and trade was reinforced by the conviction that their holy scriptures provided all the knowledge that was necessary; foreign technology was infidel technology. The empire banned the printing press for half a century.” (37)
And about China:
“For the Ottomans, the Qur’an contained everything that life required; for the Chinese, it was their ancient culture . . . But rather than viewing learning and innovation as paths to prosperity, [Mao Zedong] saw them as threats.” (39)
Remarkably, the author of No Apology wrote the following statements in Chapter 3:
“. . . Mao never really took to modernity and technology, and his military continued to reflect that prejudice, maintaining a massive four-million-soldier army as only a weak compensation for the nation’s obsolete or non-existent weapons systems and logistical support. It wasn’t until approximately twenty years ago that China decided to build a modern world-class military. . .”
“Rather than embracing discovery, the Islamic fundamentalists condemn it. For them, the Qur’an contains all information and learning that is needed, and everything that should be known. In this view, modernity itself is evil – contemporary law, business practices, social mores, tolerance, rationalism, and scientific inquiry are heresy. And as the world’s epicenter of innovation and intellectual discovery, America is emblematic of the world’s sinful pursuit of everything forbidden by Allah.” (64-65, 66)
It’s difficult to concisely summarize Romney’s cognitive dissonance. On the one hand he seems to argue that great and powerful nations fall when they refuse to adapt to change and embrace technology and modern innovations. He uses the dissolution of the grandest Islamic empire as evidence of that. But on the other hand, bands of terrorists who do not accept modernity and represent a backward worldview, are inexplicably more dangerous than the Ottomans themselves or Mao’s pre-modern military.
But this is also symptomatic of the fundamental phoniness of Mitt Romney.
He draws some comparisons from history and hopes the reader will accept Romney’s façade of intellectualism at face value. How can Romney honestly think, six inches beneath his mound of hair gel, that 4 percent of GDP is required to battle an enemy that he has already explained has sown the seeds of their own futility by refusing to accept modern innovations?
Even on a subject on which Romney is generally accepted as having unique knowledge, the economy, he again shows himself riding both sides:
“It doesn’t make sense to bail out individual companies or banks or financial institutions that get in trouble. As we’ve seen, creative destruction is part of a growing, productive economy. Bailing out sick enterprises . . . merely prolong the final act.
“But Secretary Paulson’s proposal was not aimed at saving sick Wall Street banks or even at preserving jobs on Wall Street. . . . It did in fact keep our economy from total meltdown. (127-128)
Here Romney uncritically repeats the conventional wisdom used by both corporate parties to justify the largest redistribution of wealth in history. What’s worse is that he essentially repeats Bush’s lie that he had to abandon his free-market principles to save the free market.
This time, it’s Romney who is fine with abandoning the concept of “creative destruction,” the way the market rewards good businesses and eliminates poor ones, for a titanic propping-up of the banks, as if their industry should have been immune from the laws of economics.
Apparently it has never occurred to ol’ Mitt that much of the American economy was already propped up by an illusion of wealth created by the Federal Reserve and that rescuing the banks only prolongs a tragic final act that is yet to come.
But perhaps Romney’s most brazen attempt at obfuscation is the most predictable one: Massachusetts health care.
It isn’t difficult to see why. Just as Romney’s amorphous position on abortion (one dependant on which office he’s seeking), might have been enough to derail his 2008 presidential bid, his signature achievement as governor of Massachusetts is what is temporarily angering conservatives in 2010.
He addresses the situation in Chapter 7, “Healing Health Care”:
“In 2009, the national health-care policy supported by President Barack Obama was often and erroneously reported as being based upon the plan we had enacted in Massachusetts. There were some very big differences – in particular, our plan did not include a public insurance option.” (176)
On this much Romney is right. At the time of the book’s writing, the so-called Massachusetts Model, which mandated that all citizens purchase health insurance, was not the same as the public option plan that was eventually discarded.
However, since No Apology went to press, the new health care law, which mandates health insurance for all Americans, does more closely resemble the Massachusetts Model, casting the proverbial aspersions on Romney’s claim that his model is different and likely putting a smile on Obama’s face when he sees Romney’s blabbering doubletalk on TV.
Republicans salivating at the prospect of an inevitable Obama defeat in 2012 should exercise caution when assuming that any suit or skirt will win. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act might be ancient history by then and Mitt Romney is just unprincipled enough to play John Kerry to Barack Obama’s George W. Bush.
And there would be no apology big enough for that.