Up to now I have evaluated the candidates in alphabetical order. At this point, however, I will skip over Ron Paul and evaluate Mitt Romney. Although Ron Paul is an interesting character, and I believe he has added some value to the debates, I do not believe he has a serious chance of winning. Instead, I expect his presence has helped to keep the candidates with a significant chance of winning lean conservative.
So I will get to an evaluation of Ron Paul, but this evaluation will have to wait until after Super Tuesday.
The Candidate on the Issues
I have already evaluated three candidates.
So Mitt Romney will be the fourth candidate evaluated by this blogger. Virginia’s primary is February 12. Hopefully, you will find these candidate reviews helpful in deciding your vote.
Much of the data in this section is taken straight from the candidate’s websites. In addition, Wikipedia (from here), OnTheIssues.org (from here), The Club For Growth (from here), and some news articles are cited. In addition, I reviewed candidate’s response to a questionnaire from The American Conservative Union (see here).
Education – With respect to Education Issues, Romney provides a compelling argument to vote for him.
- He stresses a limited Federal role in education, and his program is modest. He favors school choice and offers a tax credit for homeschoolers,
- With some unspecified modifications, he would continue the No Child Left Behind Act.
- He favors English immersion as opposed to bi-lingual education.
Romney’s record as governor also seems good. The charter school movement in Massachusetts owes its beginning to the previous administrations such as Governor William Weld’s, and Romney does not credit himself for its beginnings. However, as governor of Massachusetts, Romney played an important role in protecting the strong charter school movement in his state. He vetoed legislation designed to hinder its growth (see here and here). Moreover, Romney pushed to expand charter schools (here).
The Club For Growth had this to say.
Mitt Romney is on record supporting charter schools, school vouchers, and home schooling. As governor, Romney focused on charter school expansion rather than implementing a voucher program. He pushed to eliminate the state-mandated cap on the number of charter schools and successfully vetoed a moratorium on the opening of new charter schools, passed by the Massachusetts Legislature in 2004.
Law – Romney has been accused of flip-flopping on social issues. For example, this quote:
Q: Why such a dramatic and profound change after pledging never to waiver on a woman’s right to choose?
A: I was always personally opposed to abortion, as I think almost everyone in this nation is. And the question for me was, what is the role of government? And it was quite theoretical and philosophical to consider what the role of government should be in this regard, and I felt that the Supreme Court had spoken and that government shouldn’t be involved and let people make their own decision. That all made a lot of sense to me. Then I became governor and the theoretical became reality. A bill came to my desk which related to the preservation of life. I recognized that I simply could not be part of an effort that would cause the destruction of human lift. And I didn’t hide from that change of heart. I recognize it’s a change. Every piece of legislation which came to my desk in the coming years as the governor, I came down on the side of preserving the sanctity of life.
Source: Meet the Press: 2007 “Meet the Candidates” series Dec 16, 2007 (from here)
Is Romney’s change of heart real? Hard to tell, and the news media has had fun with Romney “evolving” position. For example, here the Washington Post notes an apparent contradiction.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said this week that as president he would allow individual states to keep abortion legal, two weeks after telling a national television audience that he supports a constitutional amendment to ban the procedure nationwide.
One explanation for this contradiction is the complexity of the issue. What should a constitutional amendment say about abortion? How would one enforce a law against abortion? How would you get a jury to convict? Without a good answer, it may be best to leave the issue to the states.
Here is what Romney says about abortion on his website
“I am pro-life. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother. I wish the people of America agreed, and that the laws of our nation could reflect that view. But while the nation remains so divided over abortion, I believe that the states, through the democratic process, should determine their own abortion laws and not have them dictated by judicial mandate.” (Governor Mitt Romney, Boston Globe, Op-Ed, 7/26/05) (from here)
Adding to the confusion is what Romney did when Massachusetts Supreme Court affirmed same-sex marriage. Romney insisted that Justices of the Peace comply. Why?
“As Popeye used to say, ‘I am what I am,'” Romney sighed. “I’m as clear as I can be to people as to what my views are. When I ran for office I indicated I did not favor same-sex marriage or civil unions and I have simply stood by that position. At the same time, I’ve indicated I’m a person who will follow the law. I respect the process of the law and if the legal processes result in a conclusion I disagree with, I will nonetheless follow the law. I swore to do that when I became governor. A lot of what is passed by the legislature is not as I would pass it, but I will implement it and enforce it.” (from here)
In addition, Romney has had a change of heart on campaign finance reform (from here and here). The scary thing is that Washington Post thinks that at one time Romney was right about campaign finance reform.
National Defense – Romney does not have a record on defense issues. As President and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics, Romney does, however, has had successful experience dealing with foreigners — and controversy.Like his two major Republican opponents, Romney has adopted a hawkish defense posture.
We must strengthen our military by increasing the size of our military by 100,000 troops and dedicating at least four percent of our gross domestic product to defense. We must transform our domestic civilian international efforts to meet a new generation of global challenges and ensure that our intelligence and law enforcement efforts are able to address threats before they reach our shores. (from here)
On Romney’s website, the three top issues pages deal with defense issues (here). Even the fourth issue page, Latin American Allies, deals with the subject of Latin American from a defense perspective. Apparently, because his primary opponent is campaigning as a defense hawk, Romney feels compelled to respond in kind. Curiously, Romney is not campaigning from his strengths, his record on domestic issues established via his successful term as Governor of Massachusetts. The answer may be in how Romney perceives the seriousness of the threat.
“I think many of us still fail to comprehend the extent of the threat posed by radical Islam, by Jihad. Understandably, we focus on Afghanistan and Iraq. Our men and women are dying there. We think in terms of countries, because we faced countries in last century’s conflicts. But the Jihad is much broader than any one nation or nations. Jihad encompasses far more than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For radical Islam, there is an over-arching conflict and goal – replacing all modern Islamic states with a caliphate, destroying America, and conquering the world.” (Governor Mitt Romney, Remarks At The George Herbert Walker Bush Presidential Library, 4/10/07) (from here)
Even when Romney responded to the questionaire from The American Conservative Union, (Why do you want to be President?) the problem of Jihad received top billing.
Washington has proven itself incapable of solving the challenges of a changing world: the specter of terrorism and Jihadism growing, oil prices are soaring, our schools falling behind, health insurance eludes too many, illegal immigration continues to rise, and our basic freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights are under assault. (from here)
During the Republican Presidential Debate on January 30, 2008, McCain accused Romney of Romney advocating a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq (here). Supposedly, Romney had done this in April of 2007. Romney denied this charge. Here is the video of what Romney actually said. Judge for yourself.
Immigration – Romney’s plan for dealing with illegal immigration is not impressive. Consider this part of his plan.
Implement An Enforceable Employer Verification System. Issue a biometrically-enabled and tamperproof card to non-citizens and create a national database for non-citizens so employers can easily verify their legal status in this country.
This part of his plan depends upon having a valid social security number. An employer would only ask for the “tamperproof card” when the employee does not have a tamperproof social security number.
Governor Mitt Romney has reached an agreement with federal authorities that allows the Massachusetts State Police to arrest immigrants who are in the state illegally, his spokesman said.
Currently, state troopers have no power to detain people for violations of their immigration status alone, said the spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom. If troopers stop people who they suspect are illegal immigrants, they can call a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Vermont to check on their status and detain them if federal officials request it, he said. (from here).
One particular “action” by Romney worth noting. Romney spoke against Senator John McCain‘s “amnesty” plan.
Romney has generally taken a hard-line approach to illegal immigration. He spoke out against the comprehensive immigration reform bill that stalled in Senate (NYT) in June 2007, calling it “a form of amnesty.” (ABC) (from here)
Limited Government – Romney promises to cut spending, and he promises to use the president’s veto power if that what it takes.
“And I like vetoes. I vetoed a lot of things and we’ve got to have that happen. You know, people used to say to me in Massachusetts, ‘Governor, you’ve had a lot of vetoes and a lot of them get overridden. Most of them get overridden. That weakens your power.’ I said, ‘Baloney. I want people to know what I stand for. And I’m going to veto items even if that 85% [Democratic] legislature goes out and spends it, I’m going to veto it to make sure people know what is right and what is wrong for the leadership in our state.'” (Governor Mitt Romney, Remarks At The Club For Growth, 3/29/07) (from here)
The The Club For Growth offered this assessment.
Governor Romney’s record on spending must be considered within the liberal political context in which he governed. The Massachusetts Legislature was (and continues to be) dominated by Democrats more interested in raising taxes than cutting government programs. Throughout his tenure, Romney’s proposed cuts were met with opposition while the vast majority of his vetoes were relegated to the graveyard of overrides.
On balance, his record comes out more positive than negative, especially when one considers that average spending increased only 2.22% over his four years, well below the population plus inflation benchmark of nearly 3%. (from here)
If Romney behaved similarly as president he might make more progress towards cutting government. One editorial written in 2006 put it this way.
Setting all that aside, the centerpiece of any national campaign would almost certainly be his balancing of the budget (as Governor of Massachusetts) upon taking office without raising taxes despite a daunting $3 billion deficit. This, incidentally, would make for an interesting match-up if potential 2008 Democratic contender Mark Warner were to win the nomination on the other side, since on the stump the former Virginia governor trumpets his victory over a similarly large deficit — by passing the largest tax increase in the state’s history. (from here)
The Environment – Like other Republicans, Romney’s “environmental plan” is a plan to End Energy Dependence. Romney wants a national energy plan that involves subsidies and research. He mentions everything from ethanol subsidies to liquefied coal to offshore oil drilling to energy conservation. His justification?
“The United States must become energy independent. This does not mean no longer importing or using oil. It means making sure that our nation’s future will always be in our hands. Our decisions and destiny cannot be bound to the whims of oil-producing states.” (Governor Mitt Romney, Rising To A New Generation Of Global Challenges, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2007) (from here)
Romney’s acquiescence on alcohol subsidies, of course, makes his promises with regard to spending cuts a bit harder to take seriously.
Grist.org provides a synopsis of Romney’s environment proposals and his record as Governor of Massachusetts (here). It appears that Romney’s most solid accomplishment was signing a law to reduce mercury pollution (here).
Welfare – Romney has a health insurance plan (see here), and like the other candidates, that is his welfare agenda. Unlike the other candidates, however, Romney has a noteworthy record. He implemented a health insurance program in Massachusetts. So the issue is what does he leave to the states, and what does the Federal Government take upon itself.
Initially, Romney seemed reluctant to have the Federal Government impose what he did as Governor of Massachusetts on other states. However, the proposals he lists on his website suggest his program is evolving. Nonetheless, his proposals do leave the health care in the private sector. These are the key elements (from here):
- Deregulate State Markets. Encourage states to eliminate the cumbersome insurance regulations that drive costs up and providers out of the market.
- Fix The Tax Code. Level the playing field by making all health care expenses tax deductible, eliminating the special treatment afforded employer-provided health plans.
- Stop The Free-Riders. Use some of the money currently spent on providing expensive “free care” for the uninsured at emergency rooms to instead help the truly needy buy private insurance.
Romney plan includes other bullets, but these are relatively nonspecific. Romney explains his proposal in the WSJ article (here).
What did Romney accomplish in Massachusetts? The Club For Growth, hardly of advocate for government-run health care, gives Romney credit for his system.
Governor Romney didn’t have the option of reforming federal law, and was forced to contend with a liberal Legislature that rejected many of his positive reforms. He was also facing a Bush administration threat to cut off $385 million per year in federal Medicaid funds unless the state reduced the number of uninsured people. Given these limitations, Governor Romney deserves credit for proposing (and to a lesser extent, enacting) a plan that encourages individually-owned health insurance and circumvents some of the inequities carved into the federal tax code. (under Entitlements, here)
The Economy – Romney’s economic plan focuses on making America more competitive in the global market. He advocates the usual Republican fixes with one addition (here).
- Lower taxes – Basically making the Bush tax cuts permanent plus lowering corporate taxes and getting rid of the death tax.
- Better Education – See Romney’s education plan (here).
- Worker retraining – Make the existing programs work.
- Tort reform – End frivolous lawsuits.
- Regulatory relief – Get rid of unneeded regulation.
- Build up infrastructure – More roads and such.
- Immigration Reform – Let educated workers into the country. This is the new idea, and I guess it beats letting uneducated workers into the country.
There nothing wrong with Romney’s plan. Can he do it? What is his record. There is some debate over that. The anti-Romneys say he did not do well in Massachusetts.
The former Massachusetts governor issued a statement on Sunday titled “creating jobs” that focuses on 57,600 jobs added to the Massachusetts economy during his single term as governor from 2003 to 2007.
But Northeastern University economist Andrew Sum, who has researched Romney’s record, said the state lagged the U.S. average during that period in job creation, economic growth and wage increases.
“As a strict labor market economist looking at the record, Massachusetts did very poorly during the Romney years, he said. “On every measure you’ve got, the state was a substantial under-performer.” (from here) (see also here)
So what should we think? Since the above report came out, it is a bit hard to find somebody saying something positive about Romney’s economic record, but Romney said this in a response to a comment from John McCain at their January 30, 2008 debate.
ROMNEY: When you say that our state ranked number three in job creation, the study you’re relying upon is a study that included her term in office. And during her term in office, 141,000 jobs were lost.
During my term in office, we added jobs. And from the lowest point we added 60,000 new jobs. So that study, unfortunately, included the wrong data. (from here)
Here are Romney’s references.
The Club For Growth probably offers the most reasonable assessment.
As Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney’s record on economic issues was generally good. He demonstrated a willingness to take on his Legislature and deserves credit for the many pro-growth measures he advocated and the modest reforms he was able to achieve. While his record on taxes, spending and entitlement reform is flawed, it is, on balance, encouraging, especially given the liberal Massachusetts Legislature. His record on trade, school choice, regulations, and tort reform all indicate a strong respect for the power of market solutions. (from here)
Candidate Website – Romney has a well-designed website. He has obviously geared the Issues pages to take on McCain’s emphasis on Defense Issue by trumpeting his own “hawkish” pronouncements. Nonetheless, unless you are “anti-war” (isn’t almost everyone 🙂 ), Romney does not cross the line and attack Islam itself. His defense proposals are reasonable.
One interesting aspect of the site is “Five Brothers: The Romney Campaign Blog.” Whether you are rooting for Romney or not, you have to give credit to a family that pulls together.
Personal Life – With respect to his personal life, Romney has taken the most hits because of his religion. Romney is a Mormon.
Except for those who are impossibly naive, most people realize that religious beliefs have consequences. So we have to ask a question about Romney. Since he is a Mormon, is Mormonism compatible with the type of government we want to have? There is nothing wrong with doing this. While the Constitution specifies that government cannot require a religious test, it does not prohibit voters from exercising a religious test.
So how do I think conservatives should regard voting for a Mormon politician? In general, modern Mormonism encourages its practitioners towards conservative values. In so far as I know, devout Mormons live clean and decent lives. Moreover, Mormons generally consider themselves Republicans. These articles (here, here, here, here, and here) review Mormon history and some of the issues.
My own position? I do not consider the fact Romney is a Mormon an issue. Romney has no history of advocating weird ideas just because he is a Mormon. In fact, Mormons have dropped the ideas from their faith that posed the greatest political issues. At one time, Mormons advocated racism and polygamy, but they do not do so any longer.
Except for all his flip-flops, I like Mitt Romney.
From the perspective of this conservative, Romney’s American Culture & Values web page says all the right things. Nonetheless, Romney has a credibility problem. If he is a social conservative, how did Romney manage to get himself elected governor of a pro-abortion state that sanctions same-sex marriage? Should I worry about this? Some say no (here, here, here, and here) and some say yes (here and here).
Frankly, I think this one time you have to decide with your gut. Do you believe the man? Has he really become a social conservative? An advocate for free speech? If you do not believe Romney, how important is character to you?
- Education – Ostensibly, the Federal Government has no role with respect to education. Unfortunately, the lack of constitutional authority does not seem to stop elected officials from spending money and issuing mandates. I want this abuse of authority to stop.
- Law – Our president should understand the law and be willing to live within the law. Our president should take the lead in protecting our rights, particularly freedom of religion, the cornerstone of American Law. As a conservative, I also think Supreme Court judges such as Anthony Scalia and Clarence Thomas have the best understanding of the Constitution. I want more such judges appointed.
- National Defense – To deter potential aggressors, it is imperative that we have a strong military and an ethical strategy designed to protect our vital national interests. We cannot cavalierly abandon Iraq.
- Immigration – Our nation is being slowly overrun by poor, uneducated, illegal immigrants. Since most of these people come from Spanish speaking nations to the south of us, our nation is being balkanized into different language and economic groups. What that portends for the future is civil strife.
- Limited Government – You will not see a balance budget or low taxes in this list. What I am looking for is a candidate who sees all spending as discretionary and that we have too much government. We do not need a candidate who makes promises to hand us other people’s money. As I see it, anybody who will rob Peter to pay Paul cannot be trusted not to rob Tom too.
- The Environment – A clean environment is a fundamental right. To protect the environment, we need a strong environmental policy. Such a policy cannot depend on the scientific wisdom of politicians. No human being, not even a politician able to make endless promises, has sufficient brain power to figure out how to build a modern industrial society that does not pollute the environment. What our government can do, however, is punish polluters when they dump pollutants into our environment. Thus I want candidate who understands the difference between stopping polluters and trying to run private industry.
- Welfare – The welfare state is a massive scam; welfare is politicians buying us with our own money. Our cradle-to-grave welfare state is also a steadily growing national disaster. Even though the Federal Government has no constitutional authority throw our money into these idiot programs, each year we put a greater percentage of the Federal budget into welfare programs. Eventually, the money must run out.
- The Economy – Because none of us know enough to run everybody else’s business, government must have a limited role in the economy. What government can and must do is regulate economic activity. Government encourages economic activity by ensuring that buyers and sellers are honest. In addition, government encourages economic activity by establishing a currency for exchange and standard weights and measures. Government cannot and does not create jobs.
- Candidate Website – Any candidate fit to run our nation should be able to set up a decent campaign website. That candidate should also be forthcoming about his record and what he intends to do if he is elected.
- Personal Life – Character makes a difference. If we want our nation to strive for high ideals, then the person we select to lead us must honorable and trustworthy. We should not allow a candidate to buy our vote, but people do. By suggesting that those of us who want to vote for a trustworthy politicians are fooling ourselves, some seemingly revel in the fact too many candidates are unworthy of our trust (see here). That makes for a sad state of affairs and says how much we need to pray for our leaders.