The Best Non-Romney Is Actually . . . Mitt Romney
I was going to write a post about the fickleness of conservatives. Fickleness seemed an apt description. In this primary season, conservatives swooned first over Michelle Bachmann. Then Herman Cain. Rick Perry was king of the prom for a dance or two. Then Newt Gingrich wooed conservative hearts . . . until he attacked free enterprise, which wasn’t too smart because conservatives like free enterprise. Rick Santorum, of course, turned heads in Iowa. Now, like the hot-headed boyfriend conservatives know they should avoid – but just can’t, damnit! – Newt’s triumphant debate performance in Charleston convinced conservatives to give him one more chance; he’s changed, ya see . . . at least until he loses control of himself again.
Only, it isn’t fickleness. Not really. I think it’s an aversion to the guy that, deep down, conservatives should know is right for them: Mitt Romney. Yes, you read that right. If the Republican primary were a romantic comedy, Mitt would be the guy we all know the girl should be with, but she just doesn’t see it. He’s Duckie in “Pretty In Pink.” So right for conservatives, if only they would open their eyes.
Conservatives’ coolness toward Mitt is understandable. He’s the guy who, while vying to remove Ted Kennedy from the Senate (a tremendously admirable task), said, “I’m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush“; who, while running for Massachusetts Governor in 2002 favored the then current abortion laws and agreed to keep them in place, which made him effectively pro-choice; and who, after becoming governor of Massachusetts, signed into law An Act Providing Access to Affordable, Quality, Accountable Health Care (so-called “Romneycare”).
Interestingly, Romneycare aside, the arguments against Mitt’s candidacy are largely based on things he said while campaigning. To put the prospect of a potential Mitt nomination in perspective, it’s instructive to examine what Mitt actually did while in positions of authority and control, including signing Romneycare into law, and not on what he said during a campaign.
In 1990, after he left Bain Capital and it subsequently sank into debt, the company asked Mitt to return and to save the company. He did both.
When the 2002 Olympic Games were rocked with financial failure and scandal, Mitt was asked to take over. He did. The Salt Lake City Olympics slated for 2002 were an absolute disaster. In 1999 the Games were approximately $379 million dollars in debt and top officials were embroiled in allegations of bribery. Mitt’s leadership turned that disaster into an opportunity that resulted in a $100 million dollar profit. As a side note, Mitt donated his three years of salary – approximately $825,000, to the Olympics and contributed an additional $1 million of his own wealth. In the words of Rocky Anderson, a Democrat and the mayor of Salt Lake City at the time:
He was absolutely spectacular . . . . He walked into an utter disaster, and slashed spending without cutting corners on what was necessary to put on an absolutely extraordinary Olympics . . . . With his unique management skills we came out in the black – which no one ever dreamed.
(Emphasis added). After turning a sure failure into a remarkable success in Salt Lake City, Mitt was elected Governor of Massachusetts.
Mitt’s achievements in his first two years as governor were, in Terry Eastland’s words, “conservative in both ends and means.” Prior to taking office, Mitt knew his state was in a dire situation. Massachusetts reportedly had a deficit of at least $500 million. In fact, things were worse than reported. When Mitt was sworn in as Massachusetts’ 70th Governor in January 2003, he discovered that his state’s deficit was actually $650 million and the projected shortfall for the following year was $3 billion. Like he did with the Olympics, Mitt led Massachusetts away from the brink of fiscal catastrophe. He balanced his first budget in 2003 and ended his second year in office, 2004, with a $700 million surplus. And he did so without taxing or borrowing – he cut spending. Quite an achievement considering that both houses of his legislature were controlled by Democratic super-majorities.
You can read all about the above-mentioned achievements and more in a 2005 Weekly Standard article that Terry Eastland wrote when Mitt pondered a 2008 presidential run.
Although, as cited above, he ran for governor promising to maintain the status quo state abortion laws, his position evolved from effectively pro-choice to demonstrably pro-life. This evolution occurred while he served as governor and not out of the political expediency of a presidential campaign. As governor, he vetoed a bill that expanded access to the “morning after pill.” It was reported that “Romney returned from his vacation home in New Hampshire to veto the bill because he knew Lt. Governor Kerry Healey would have signed it.” Romney justified his veto, saying,
I’ve determined that [the 'morning after pill'] not only involves contraceptive features, but also involves termination of life after conception has occurred . . . . You could have a pharmaceutical product that prevents [t]he conception of an embryo – the sperm and the egg combining, but does not prevent the continued life of an embryo after conception has occurred.
Mitt believes that life begins at conception and vetoed a bill that ended life post-conception. Accordingly, he is both personally and politically pro-life.
Which brings us to Romneycare . . . I’m not a fan of Romneycare – in fact, I would personally like to see government get out of the health care business (and all business) entirely. But I’m not running for president and this post isn’t about me – it’s about Mitt. I do not defend Romneycare, but I do defend the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. And so does Mitt. The 10th Amendment reads:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
(Emphasis added). Without going into the veritable thrill ride that is a blogged account of American Constitutional jurisprudence, I’ll just say that, under its police power, a state may do things that the federal government may not. Seemingly, this includes a state-run health care system.
In June, the Supreme Court will hopefully affirm that the 10th amendment and the commerce clause prevent such a mandated system on the federal level and invalidate Obamacare. If the Supreme Court upholds the law, however, Mitt has clearly and consistently stated that, if elected, he will repeal Obamacare. He’s made this pledge throughout the campaign. I don’t claim that this makes him unique as it is the position of every GOP candidate. However, Mitt is unique in advocating a plan – waivers for all 50 states – in the event that he is elected either without a GOP Congress or with one that does not include a filibuster-proof Senate.
Mitt’s emphatic support of federalism in general – and with regard to health care in particular – is not new. In a 1994 debate, Mitt educated the late Senator Ted Kennedy on both federalism and the free market.
Each GOP candidate has every reason to honor their promise to repeal Obamacare if needed and if possible. The last GOP candidate to renege on a strongly-made campaign promise – George H.W. “Read My Lips” Bush – suffered dire political consequences.
Our nation sits in the doldrums of a government intervention-created economic crises. Our national debt is approximately $15.3 trillion. Too many Americans are out of work in this barely growing economy. Our current president’s ineffectual, rudderless leadership on the world stage projects a dangerous, tyrant-provoking weakness.
As I previously wrote, Mitt has enjoyed great success as a businessman and investor in the private sector and he has experience as a successful executive in the public sector. He is therefore a successful businessman who understands both the needs of the free market and the constraints of political office. He governed dark-blue Massachusetts as a “conservative in both ends and means.” And he is pro-life. In his foreign policy he advocates the projection of American strength and values to “ensure  the security and prosperity of the United States and our friends and allies.”
There are some who call Mitt a “Massachusetts moderate”; who think him ideologically squishy; who advocate for “anybody but,” and for the “non-Romney.” However, as set out above, Mitt is a conservative with expertise in creating success out of sure failure. He’s done so at Bain Capital, at the 2002 Olympics, and in Massachusetts. The “non-Romney” that conservatives seek has been right there all along. The best non-Romney is actually Mitt Romney.
Every candidate for the Republican nomination would, in my opinion, be a better president than the oval office’s current occupant. But only one candidate has the experience and the record of success that qualifies him not just for the office, but for the particular challenges we face now and in the near future.
That candidate is Mitt Romney.
Winston is a third-year law student at The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. Winston writes a blog on political issues and current events. Visit him at Wake Up Winston!