Friday, July 27, 2012

Romney Wants To Win, And Not Much Else

The second half of Kevin Drum's post discusses Mitt Romney's comment that he doesn't even know when Rafalca's Olympic dressage competition goes on, saying that it's just his wife's thing.  As Kevin points out, nobody is so blase about Olympic events where his wife is involved.  Romney is just being insincere and playing dumb about dressage as part of rich guy image damage control.  

I don't really mind this, in and of itself.  If you're running for president in the modern era, there are plenty of times when you'll need to tell little lies to close off damaging lines of questioning and stay on message.  If you're running for president because of something a lot bigger than yourself -- perhaps because you want to set up a decent health care system or help poor people -- all these lies may actually be justified.  Telling minor lies to save or dramatically improve lives is, I think, justifiable.

But I don't have any sense that Mitt Romney is running for president for any such reason.  He's changed his positions on a variety of huge issues, from abortion to health care, over the course of his career.  The only real constant I can see is that he's hungry for the biggest achievements possible, and he'll say and do whatever he can to get them.

This makes him less dangerous than other Republicans.  Those with no principles can't have bad principles.  The downside is that he'll be an easy captive of whoever holds power over him, and in his case Wall Street and a lot of the Republican institutional infrastructure will be in the dominant position.  That'll influence things like Supreme Court nominations and executive appointments in all kinds of unwholesome ways.  While this isn't good, it's better than having someone like Santorum who has turned prejudices into principles, or someone like Gingrich who has turned self-aggrandizing delusions into principles.  A Romney administration would be an interesting test of the power of democracy to make a purely self-interested ruler benefit the people.

There's a path Romney's political career could've taken where he'd be a Democrat rather than a Republican.  The President Romney who had made his promises to Democrats rather than Republicans, staffed his administration accordingly, and made appointments in line with his commitments would be worth voting for over the Romney we see now.  My guess is that Obama is a couple notches left of where counterfactual Democratic Romney would be, at least because their life experiences and backgrounds are different.  I think I'm relatively soft on Romney, for a Democrat, and I'm not a tremendous Obama booster.  But the choice is between Obama and a self-interested candidate emerging from the Republican side of the system, and there's nothing difficult about that.
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