Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Candidates: Some Brash Reflections on Mitt Romney

The first in what I hope to be a series of articles on those contending for the presidency in the 2008 election cycle.

Well despite the fact that tonight's candidate debate is between the Democrats, I thought I'd start my 'serious' campaign coverage' with a discussion of a man whose the definite elephant in the room when your talking about Mormons and Republican presidential politices, yes I am referring to four term Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson (four terms, doesn't anything ever happen in Wisconsin?). No I'm talking (writing) about Mitt Romney.

Now much of what I have to say about Mitt, in terms of my concerns regarding his candidacy, is ground I have already covered in an extended MySpace conversation with Jenn. I will attempt to repeat my main points here:

First off) Flip-Flopper: Like his fellow Massachusetts resident John Kerry, Mitt Romney has changed his position on a number of major issues concerning voters. However unlike Kerry, whose "I voted for it before I voted against it", brew-ha-ha was rooted in the nuance of legislation, Gov. Romney now advances political positions on the opposite end of the spectrum from those he gave in his 1994 race for the Senate and 2002 race for the big job in Boston. Now as a Mormon Republican running in Massachusetts I'll give him some leeway for soft pedaling the party platform, but Mitt's basically switched sides from what he said he stood for as little as two or three years ago. Here are some examples:

-Mitt said as Governor of Massachusetts he would do nothing to interfere with a women's right to chose and that he was pro-choice, now Mitt talks of appointing the type of justices that would overturn Roe v. Wade, and claims to have been always pro-life. Now there is a way that these statements can be read as semi-consistent, or as demonstration of personal ideological (though political well timed) growth. I however will leave these points to be made by others in the comments section.

-Mitt Romney was for the social equality of Gays and Lesbians, post the Massachusetts state supreme court ruling of '03 that mandated the recognition of same sex marriage, he proclaimed himself in favor of a national constitutional amendment defining of marriage as between a man and a women. In fairness though, Mitt has said that the federal government was within its rights in opposing and (most would say) putting and end to LDS Church sanctioned polygamy in the 19th century, which was of course another form of alternative marital relationship.

-Mitt Romney said that his views and those of the NRA don't often match up (i.e. he supported toughter gun control laws). Now Romney has made dubious claims about being a life time hunter, and purchased a life time NRA membership last August.
Honestly its only fair for Republican voters to hold Romney to the same standards of ideological and policy consistency that they heaped upon John Kerry in 2004. That being said, it's probably not going to happen. I also recognize that Reagan was once an FDR Democrat, so Romney's traveling less far ideologically, but much faster.

2) By even running as a conservative Republican, Romney is going against the national grain. The nation is turning left as he turns right, maybe that will help in the primaries, but for the nationals it seems kind of stupid.

3) Businessman-Romney's abilities as an effective administrator are probably his greatest real asset as a candidate. However, after what will have been eight years of corporate governance, a bottom line approach to government will be a mixed bag at best. While I obviously agree that we need to get this governments spending in check, that doesn't necaserly mean cutting taxes, it might mean raising taxes. Plus a good argument can be made that we should be extending social services not cutting them, possibly paying for this by a military draw-down overseas (which doesn't sound like a Mitt position to me), or a tax increase on (at lest) the wealthiest Americans (which I know isn't a Mitt position). Am I the only one who doesn't think the government should be run as a business, its not a profit making venture.

4) The Mormon Issue- Of course to most in the media this means will enough evangelical Christians be willing to vote for a Mormon, one of there chief theological competitors. For me the Mormon issue is a little broader, this follows because I am a Mormon as well. I've recently been reading a book (a 23 year old one, but still relevant) called America's Saints: The Rise of Mormon Power. In chapter five of this book, on the international church, is an extended discussion of Mormon support (both of individuals, and in some cases at least indirectly of people in Church leadership) for various dictators, military junta's, and unsavoury aspects of American corporate and government policy in Latin America. I'll tell you that chapter was extremely disappointing reading, and the last thing I want is my church tied any further with the excesses and crimes of this government then it already is. If tough now for some abroad to differentiate between the American government, and this most American of Church's, it will be almost impossible with a Mormon sitting in the Oval Office. I have a very real fear that the Church missionary's, members, and facilities could be targeted in efforts to get back at the American president. Now I'm not saying I'd never vote for a Mormon, in fact I'd even like to, but this Mormon is just two establishment for me, he will be read as tying church and state together to an unhealthy degree. Also while were on this subject, and to barrow a term from Joe Vogel and Free Speech 101, Mitt Romney is to thoroughly Osmondized. He represents a slimmed down, overly PR obsessed strain with in the church that I'd rather not represent me, and believe me if the President of the United States is LDS, he'll represent the church more then Thomas S. Monson (the likely church president during a Romney administration) ever could to the world at large.

Well I could actually write more but I think I'll stop now. Comments are welcome and I'm willing to expand on any point made here upon request. Next time I'll try and write about a Democrat.
Enjoy tonights debate.
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