Mitt Romney, the Tea Party, and the Rise of Conservative Political Correctness

I first encountered true political correctness in law school.  The year was 1991, George. H. W. Bush was still in office, and our campus literally seethed with hatred for the Reagan/Bush era.  When I raised my voice to speak for conservative values, I would sometimes be treated to a cascade of boos and catcalls — attempts to literally shout me down.  I received vile messages in my mailbox, including calls that I should “go die.”  Other conservatives saw their faces pasted over gay porn and then plastered on campus walls.  While some on the Left attempted to engage conservative ideas, many others simply postured and preened, trying to outdo each other in the stridence of their denunciations.

I grew to loathe political correctness.  It is the enemy of rational argument, it is a slave to passing fads and fashions, and it creates echo chamber communities that eventually isolate and marginalize themselves.

Why bring up PC now?  Because of this story:

Free Republic founder Jim Robinson has a message for supporters of Mitt Romney: go away.

In an email to POLITICO this afternoon, Robinson admitted that the site routinely blocks Romney supporters from posting — and offered no apologies for the practice:

“Free Republic is a pro-life, pro-family, pro-gun, pro-small government, pro-constitution, pro-liberty site. Governor Romney is none of the above. His record is that of an abortionist, gay rights pushing, gun grabbing, global warming advocating, big government, mandate loving, constitution trampling, flip-flopping liberal progressive with no core values. That and the fact that he is the chief architect and advocate for ObamaCare disqualifies him for any consideration whatsoever on Free Republic as a potential nominee for the presidency.”

To be clear, Free Republic — while not the largest site in the conservative universe — is hardly a small-time player.  According to Quantcast it has more than 1.5 million monthly visits, and it’s the site that broke the Rathergate scandal in 2004 that brought down the CBS News anchor and arguably influenced the outcome of the Bush/Kerry presidential election.

And now they won’t even let pro-Mitt conservatives make an argument on their site.  That is political correctness in action — conservative political correctness.  And I fear that its grip is extending beyond Free Republic.  Last month I had my own encounter with conservative PC.  A series of erroneous news reports led a prominent local talk radio host to (wrongly) declare that I was causing a client to surrender to ACLU demands, essentially called me a coward, and then urged local Tea Party leaders to raise money to “fire” me and replace me with a “real” lawyer.  When I tried to call in to correct the record, he wouldn’t even let me engage.

Fortunately, however, the truth was on our side. Recognizing that Tea Party patriots are literally hungry for information, we decided not to engage with uninformed talk radio hosts but instead to take our case directly to the public — to answer questions from all comers.  So we held a public forum, and more than 1,200 Tennesseans attended (you can see a local television news report, including my comments, here).  By night’s end, I had explained our commitment to defending the First Amendment and opposing the ACLU’s religious censorship.  While not everyone was satisfied, I was grateful the crowd listened to what I had to say, asked thoughtful questions, and behaved exactly opposite of the talk radio host: they engaged.

The Tea Party is not politically correct.  But I fear that some of its leaders and most vocal advocates are.  Mark Levin has become so strident in defining true conservatism that I sometimes find it hard to listen.  I was saddened to see one of my favorite conservatives, Rush Limbaugh (heck, I’ve even named my fantasy baseball team “The Limbaughs” since 1992), fall prey to the winds of conservative fashion and flatly declare Mitt Romney “not a conservative,” a statement that stands in stark contrast to his thoughts in 2008:

I think now, based on the way the campaign has shaken out, that there probably is a candidate on our side who does embody all three legs of the conservative stool, and that’s Romney. The three stools or the three legs of the stool are national security/foreign policy, the social conservatives, and the fiscal conservatives. The social conservatives are the cultural people. The fiscal conservatives are the economic crowd: low taxes, smaller government, get out of the way.

Not even the dean of the beltway GOP, George Will, is immune to the prevailing winds of “true conservative” fashion.  In last week’s much-circulated column, he declared Mitt Romney the “pretzel candidate” and concluded with this scathing statement:

Has conservatism come so far, surmounting so many obstacles, to settle, at a moment of economic crisis, for this?

But as Ramesh Ponnuru noted in NRO, Mr. Will hasn’t always had the same view of Mitt.  Here he is in 2007:

The axiom is as old as human striving: The perfect is the enemy of the good. In politics this means that insisting on perfection in a candidate interferes with selecting a satisfactory one. . . .

Romney, however, is criticized by many conservatives for what they consider multiple conversions of convenience — on abortion, stem cell research, gay rights, gun control. But if Romney is now locked into positions that these conservatives like, why do they care so much about whether political calculation or moral epiphany moved him there?

What explains these flip-flops?  Did Mitt Romney move left between 2007 and 2011?  Hardly.  His platform is conservative, his record in business and as governor is conservative (both fiscally and socially), and — in an era of record deficits, stagnant job growth, and debt downgrades — there’s a strong conservative case to be made for a man who has turned deficits into surpluses, job losses into job growth, and debt downgrades into upgrades.  Yes, I know that Romneycare is deeply problematic to many conservatives (though we often forget that when he fashioned his health care plan, he did exactly what we want our Republican governors to do: turn to a conservative think tank for assistance), and I certainly understand there are good arguments for other candidates, but simply declaring Mitt outside the conservative movement is nothing more than PC nonsense.

NRO’s Jay Nordlinger hits the nail on the head:

Barry Goldwater once hollered, “Grow up, conservatives!” I sometimes feel the same way. We who are conservative aren’t meant to be 100-percenters. That’s more a Bolshevik trait: “What, you favor a lower grain quota? Up against the wall!” Politics is not for the pure, and ideologues are a nuisance. The American electorate is bigger than National Review Online (unfortunately).

A belief in ideological purity is much like a belief in any other kind of earthly purity — it’s vanity, a chasing after the wind.  How can human beings — who on this Earth are doomed to “see through a glass darkly” ever expect to know or define the best ideas, the absolute right ideas, in every circumstance?  We live, we learn, and — yes — we sometimes change our minds.  I’m a conservative in large part because of what I don’t know, because traditions arise out of the wisdom of many, and because I don’t look to any man to be the “One.”

Vote for Mitt, or not.  Support my legal strategy in any given case, or not.  But let’s not pretend that all the questions are settled, that our fellow citizens are defective for their disagreement, and that all right-thinking people see things our way.  Down that path lies division, isolation, and marginalization.

  • http://whyromney.com Ryan

    Great piece, well said. Everyone should read this. We need to engage in the arena of ideas. Any fight taking place outside that arena leads to anarchy. I was banned from Free Republic and my brother was banned from RedState, which Politico mentioned in a follow-up article.

  • Larry

    David,

    While there are certainly some on the Right given to the same fear of opposing arguments so prevalent on the Left I hardly think their actions are representative of conservatives in general. Indeed, the list of those whose growing discomfort with candidate Romney is a veritable who’s who of conservative thinkers (that alone should give you pause).

    Rather than accuse them of some sort of parochial conservatism you may instead wish to merely reconsider your own bias. Is it now so complete that even the most obvious liabilities of Mr. Romney are reflexively excused/defended.

    What has changed since 2007? Well, for one … the context. A vigorous and certain effort will be required to radically alter the direction we now travel in … Mitt’s record not only fails to provide any sense of such urgency, courage or philosophical bent but rather suggests a moderates crippling approach to problem solving.

    Beyond that there is simply more evidence of Mitt Romney’s serial flip-flops. Worse they are the sort of flip flops that betray the worse sort of pandering. Electability is also in question. He lost in 2008. That was not a novel experience for Mitt. In fact, Mitt has lost far more elections than he’s won.

    Worse, the single term to which he was elected was so disastrous that it now seems apparent that he chose not to run for re-election because he was certain to lose (the GOP suffered terrible losses in that election).

    Mitt has revealed not only the absence of a cogent and concrete conservative philosophy but a slippery politician’s flair for revising his own history … and his present positions. This leaves me doubting not only his conservative bona fides … but his lauded honor as well.

    I don’t think my concerns are divisive … but I think efforts to suggest that they’re reflective of “ideological purity” are.

    • David Walser

      Larry,

      There’s nothing wrong with your concerns (I share many of them). However, you completely miss the point of David’s article. Many on the right are, in effect, shouting down anyone who disagrees with them on virtually any issue (including Romney). That’s a disturbing trend and one we should work to correct.

      • Larry

        David,
        I think you miss MY point. What Mr. French (whom I admire deeply … I am a long time reader of NRO and also find his efforts with ACLJ admirable and essential) seems to imply is that a full throated response to a candidate offering himself as a conservative champion on such a thin resume (and not a few contradictions) is “shouting down” opposition.

        George Wills is the picture of civil discourse and reasoned discussion … yet he too is lumped in among the “purists” and “politically correct conservatives” … that just doesn’t even pass the smell test. David’s mounting frustration with those who have listened carefully, looked closely and have found Mitt wanting is evident (and unsurprising) … but unconvincing.

        The disturbing trend currently on display is the demand from certain on the right to accept as a forgone conclusion the nomination of Mitt Romney. Even before the first primary! Mitt has campaigned for nearly 7 years and still attracts less than 25% of Republican voters. That suggests a very real and persistent problem with the candidate … not conservatives.

        His failure to connect isn’t found in his personality … its in his politics. Fact is, he hasn’t earned the trust or respect of 75% of GOP voters … furthermore, he’s unlikely to make any headway by offering this sort of critique of the people he wishes to appeal to.

        • Jonesy

          Larry:

          “…suggests a moderates crippling approach to problem solving.”

          Really? Our last great American president (Reagan) was widely considered a moderate when he ran. Bill Clinton was a better problem solver than either Bush or Obama and he was far closer to the center than those three. The concept that proximity to the political center (which Mitt is far from in my estimation) makes one weak when solving problems is not backed up by history.

          “Mitt has lost far more elections than he’s won.” Name your fallacy time? Your statement makes it sound like Mitt is a serial election loser. Mitt’s ran for office three times. He lost twice and won once. So he’s lost 1 more election than he’s won. Two of his elections were in a state where his party represented less than 1/3 of the population. In the other he went against the 9/11 hero and a war hero–both far better known then Romney. Do you know what Adams, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, T. Roosevelt, Reagan and Romney have in common? They all lost presidential elections. Losing elections is not an indicator of character or of future success in elections.

          While I do agree (somewhat) with your take that Wills was incorrectly lumped with the masses, there is no doubt that this article is generally spot on. Many supposedly conservative organizations/blogs have blacklisted Romney supporters. I learned this last week when Redstate.com banned me from their site. I said absolutely nothing offensive. They banned me PURELY for debating the merits of my preferred candidate. This is a very troubling sign.

          • Larry

            Jonesy, I’d be interested in seeing your ealier posts from Redstate.

    • Susan

      You are caught in a bias of untruths and I believe they are so close to lies that it is a sad state of affairs. You have Mitt Romney wrong and actually he is so right for the nation right now, that I get sick thinking that anyone else might be put in…..for there are none as prepared as he is. I so totally disagree with your comments.

      • Terry

        Susan…I agree with you. If everyone would just step back and look at the broad picture, they would realize that Mitt Romney is far and away the best qualified for what this country desperately needs right now: pulling us out of the financial disaster that Obama has gotten us into. None of the others even come close to the practical experience that Romney has.

  • Tim

    Nice, David. I agree with every word of George Will’s pretzel column. But I support Romney, because I also agree with that 2007 George Will column. There is a huge element of political idolatry in the insistence that the Republican nominee with close to 100% pure.

    • Larry

      100% pure … that’s just a silly remark. What we wish for is an authentic conservative animated by a deeply embedded conservative philosophy. In listening to Mitt AND in examining his actual record (and its outcomes) it is painfully obvious that he is struggling to acquire 25% purity … that would qualify, I think, as convenient conservatism.

      • Jonesy

        Larry,

        This cycle is very different than the last for the GOP. We have far more conservative purists than we have in the past. The Tea Party movement has made this possible. However, most Tea Party friendly candidates have no leadership ability–see the large followings of Bachman and Santorum.

        This is now a race between Newt, Rick, Herman and Mitt.

        I simply think Romney is far better than the other options.

        Newt: I love listening to him speak. And he’s probably the most philosophically consistent of those with a shot. However, he also liked Romneycare when it came about and is a long-time supporter of mandates as a concept. A bigger issue: I value executive experience in a big way. Newt doesn’t fit that bill. Plus, nothing is more phony (for all who rip Mitt for appearing plastic) than Newt was when going after Clinton and the Dems in the 1990′s for their lack of morals. With a compelling argument and a straight face he bashed them for their immorality, all while cheating on his wife regularly. For me, Newt is out unless he wins the nomination. Dishonesty to those closest to you is more demonstrative of a lack of core than any number of position reversals. If you think Mitt is vulnerable to flip flops in the general, consider this anchor that will forever remain around Newt’s neck.

        Perry: The weight of the evidence is inadequate to get an indictment, but it’s enough to paint Perry as corrupt. I believe this man is very corrupt and has spent decades giving tax payer $ to businesses for political donations. He has many problems, but this is the worst. Add his inability to speak and his decision to get plastered last week before giving a speech in NH… yea, this guy is just not ready for prime time.

        Cain: I really like him. I could vote for Cain with ease. I’m somewhat troubled by his lack of experience in government. I find his responses to foreign policy to be irresponsible at this point in the cycle. I’m concerned (just a little) by his inability to speak in a compelling way about abortion–but I believe he has the right position. I’m a bit nervous about the most recent scandal–we’ll see how it plays out. I think he would get brutalized in the media and I think his sometimes logically incoherent claims will ensure his demise in the general. I also just don’t believe 999 is passable (though I do like it). However, he’s my second choice.

        At the end of the day this will be a choice between humans. I think Mitt is the best and most ready of the options we have. At his core he’s a great man. He’s been a great husband and father. He’s been a tremendously successful business leader. His highest expertise involves turning failing enterprises around. I think he would be competent in the job and I think he can beat Obama.

        • Larry

          Gee Jonesy … at the very least I can certainly say that you find yourself convincing.

        • Mark

          Well said, Jonesy!
          Mitt didn’t have the luxury of launching a political career in a red state. He was able to achieve a few key accomplishments in a very hostile (to conservative ideas) environment. He’s put together & supervised a team to save an Olympics, one to run a state and others in the business world. Which other candidate can say all that?

          • http://abev.wordpress.com john f.

            Rick Perry’s bombastic introduction of himself in the Las Vegas debate as an “authentic conservative” rather than a “conservative of convenience” was truly stunning. Isn’t Rick Perry the ultimate conservative of convenience?

            Romney is conservative at his core. Those who argue that he has “no core” are basing that conclusion precisely on this ideological purity they are now expecting of candidates for purposes of the primary. So David is spot-on with this observation about “conservative PC” and “ideological purity”.

            What you have in Romney is a candidate with the right qualifications, expertise, intelligence and integrity to make real progress on the difficult economic situation facing the country. His background demonstrates success after success in executive roles — in fact he has far more directly relevant experience than any candidates for the Oval Office have had in a really long time, from either party. His past conduct/success shows that he is a conservative but pragmatic executive, i.e. he isn’t in the habit of forming rash or fundamentalistic opinions. (Despite what many current conservative pundits are saying in this conservative PC vein, this is a very good quality to see in someone who wants to govern effectively.) Rather, he wants to analyze an issue, confer about it, build up his conclusion of how to address a given problem. This is a qualilty for a proven and effective leader, to be sure, but inconveniently does not produce the catchy soundbites that apparently are necessary to convince Tea Party adherents and other ideological purists that they can “trust” him.

            But this issue of “trust” is silly. If you have someone like Romney with a solid ethical/moral grounding and true, native intelligence and proven executive competence both in business and governing, there should be no “trust” issue despite a moderate record on certain issues (which are entirely understandable anyway given context for everyone except the conservative PC).

      • Robert

        Larry, the ideologue. You have no idea how irrational you sound.

        • Larry

          Well, that is convincing rhetoric … I surrender.

  • David Walser

    Well said.

    Today’s conservatives who reject Romney because he came too late to see the truth on abortion (and other issues) would have rejected Reagan for the same reason. Governor Reagan, after all, signed into California law what was, at the time, the nation’s largest relaxation of restrictions on abortion. Not only did Reagan sign the legislation, he supported it. So, if Reagan could liberalize California’s abortion laws and a few years later be accepted by yesteryear’s conservatives, why can’t today’s conservatives forgive Romney for his prior mistaken positions?

    The answer seems to be that today’s conservative activists assume everyone has given as much thought and attention to the issue as they have. Romney in his business career did not give a lot of thought to abortion and other public policy questions. Most of Americans don’t. We, like Romney was back then, are too busy raising our families, working in our jobs, and serving in our local communities to think seriously about issues that do not directly affect our daily lives. People who do spend a lot of time thinking about such things are called activists.

    So, too many of today’s conservative activists believe Romney made the wrong call after having given the matter a lot of thought. I don’t think that was the case. When he first ran for office, he was asked about abortion and he gave the answer he’d heard his parents give — which was the same answer many conservative libertarian-leaning Republicans gave in the 60′s — government shouldn’t be involved. It wasn’t until the Supreme Court read into the Constitution a right to abortion that conservatives became galvanized around the issue. Even then, what bothered most conservatives was the Court’s interference with our democratic institutions. It wasn’t until Romney, as governor, was forced to deal with the issue of life (in the context of stem-cell research) that he realized that he had been wrong.

    I went through a similar conversion to the pro-life position. My parents, life-long conservative Republicans, were pro-choice in the 60′s. (My mother denies this, but it’s true.) It wasn’t until I took a philosophy class in college, about 5 years after the Roe v. Wade case was decided, that I had to seriously consider the question of abortion. We spent most of the semester examining the arguments for and against abortion on demand. By the end of the semester I had been converted to the pro-life position.

    Despite what many activists see as an obvious answer to a simple question, the question of what restrictions to place on abortion is complex. Simply stating “it’s human life” does NOT answer the question. Our society has always allowed the taking of human life under certain circumstances. We have constantly revised, refined, and redefined those circumstances. We don’t require our fellow citizens to make heroic efforts to save a life in all circumstances. Where abortion fits into this mix is not obvious to most people.

    Unless, of course, you’re an activist who’s inherited the pro-life position from parents or the pulpit. Then, it seems, you’re perfectly willing to condemn someone who wasn’t blessed to come to the truth as quickly as you were.

    • Susan

      Well said. Thank you for taking the time to post and enlighten

  • Gloria Palmer

    Good job David Walsher. I wish there were more thinking conservatives like you. My husband and I own a manufacturing business and this country desperately needs someone with Romney’s breadth of knowledge and ability. I worry that the “conservative” pundits and radio hosts are dooming us to four more years of Obama misery.

    • Susan

      I agree….I can hardly listen to talk radio these days. They have lost their senses.

  • Dennis

    Good comment, way to tell it like it is. remember All that’s necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing. Now let’s get the right manfor the job, and his name is MITT.

  • Mark

    I think if Romney wins, he will be supported by conservatives. Question is whether those die-hard Romney supporters are willing to support a Cain, Perry, Bachmann or Newt? If you are, then this is a non-issue. Enjoy the primary season.

  • Terry

    Larry–you offer the typical spin of those who don’t like Romney without also offering any proof of your accusations.

    You state that “Beyond that (his supposed lack of ‘urgency, courage or philosophical bent’) there is simply more evidence of Mitt Romney’s serial flip-flops”. What “more evidence” are you talking about? I’d like to see it. I’ve been following Mitt since the last presidential election, and have found nothing in his actions or character that would cause me to even think of abandoning him. I’ll give you a good example: the supposed Romney care equating to Obama care ploy from the left. Any honest person who familiarizes themselves with Romney care understands that, just as Mitt said when he was putting it together, RomneyCare was meant for MA, not the entire country. I understood that and “got it”. Furthermore, RomneyCare affected less than 10% of the MA population, as it was geared towards those who didn’t have health insurance. For the other 90 plus percent, it was business as usual. One other thing: not long ago a news story circulated that the White House had called on Romney’s advisers to help them put ObamaCare together. As the story goes, they did, and approved of the finished product. What was not widely published was that the “advisers” in question were the advisers Romney had when he was governor of MA, and the help they gave to the White House occurred several years after Romney was no longer governor. Add that to Romney’s insistence that his plan was for his state only, and I have a difficult time understanding how any honest person can blame Romney for ObamaCare.

    You also state that “the single term to which he (Romney) was elected was so disastrous that it now seems apparent that he chose not to run for re-election”. I beg to differ with your charge that his term was disastrous. He took over a state that was running a deficit of approximately half a billion dollars and left it with a surplus, without raising taxes.

    You accuse Romney of having a “slippery politician’s flair for revising his own history”. What history has he revised? I know about the single sentence that was removed from his book, and I know why it was removed: a simple act to make it more current to present history. Other than that, I’m not aware of anything else of merit.

    Making accusations is easy, but if there is no proof backing them up, then the accusations become nothing more than personal opinion–which I respect anyone’s right to have.

    • Larry

      Terry,

      The record is available … in excruciating detail … the point of my post was not to do your homework … it was to respond to David’s accusations. If you are now aware of Romney’s actual record (and outcomes) the dynamics of the election immediately following his term as governor or the multiple positions he has taken on key issues OR his tendency to flip flop then I assume you do not wish to.

      • Jonesy

        A coward’s reply.

        Unlike you, Terry has done his homework. Your response is a pure cop out. You cannot defend your positions as previously stated so you simply throw coal on another fire and walk away. Not surprising.

        I’m aware of the positions Romney has taken on every issue. He’s a pragmatic human with a high IQ. I’m not surprised that he shifted a bit on a few issues. He started as pro-choice in 1994 (his first attempt @ public office) and shifted right until he was fully pro-life in 2006. EVERY action he took as governor was on the side of life. And his actions created a lot of leftist enemies. Go do YOUR homework. When you have an argument that includes more than anti-Mitt platitudes come make your case.

        • Larry

          Jonesy,

          My guess is that you’re deeply satisfied by your remarks … and with the candidacy of Romney. Both choices appear to reflect little serious thought and embarrassingly thin logic. Hmmm … might there be a nexus here?

          If your curious to learn of my more complete remarks on Mitt’s record you can find them on earlier posts attached to David’s earlier offerings.

          Though I’ve a feeling that you might not be interested in that much effort … your remarks are desperately short on actual facts.

          • Larry

            Jonesy , I explore Mitt’s record with David in greater detail on David’s Facebook post dated Oct. 10 at 10:30 am.

          • Terry

            As opposed to the no-facts posts you offer up?

        • Hannah Rebekah

          I believe he is referring to those recent headlines that try to paint Romney as a current flip flopper, therefore, IMO, this is his proof that Romney has not changed. Something to hang his hat on.
          What he hasn’t acknowledged other Republican candidates are trying to paint Romney a certain way for their own gain and love nothing more than a gotcha. Obama and his minions have also stepped up his campaign to do the same thing. They know that is their only way to win against Romney because Obama can’t run on his record.
          Also, IMO….the conservative problem really comes down to Romney being a Mormon and the bigotry that has been taught in the name of Christianity yet most don’t talk about it or they only talk about it within their own groups in hushed tones while a few carry their banner openly (Jeffress).
          It’s ironic, in American history, the Baptists endured severe religious persecution by the other larger and dominant sects of the day, and led the fight to have the separation of Church and State put into the Constitution. Charles Pinckney of South Carolina proposed the language prohibiting religious tests as a qualification for federal office holders, ultimately incorporated into Article Six of the Constitution.
          http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel06.html
          I have seen comments from some conservatives that the religious freedom part only applies to those religions who were here at the time the constitution was written. This is as frightening as those kooks on the left who take things way too far.

  • Liz

    Amen to this. A+

    It’s been odd to see this unfold. Red State, Hot Air…they’re all doing it in the name of “conservatism.” I’m more conservative than anyone I know, and it’s foreign to me.

    • Jonesy

      Redstate banned me last week. The guy that banned me told me that if I continued to be “argumentative” I’d get banned. I continued to express my pro-Mitt arguments and, as promised, got IP banned.

      • Susan

        Fringe Conservative is not much different than fringe socialism when they both stoop to the same tactics.

  • Jan

    Kudos to David French for so clearly stating this issue and to David Walser for engaging in enlightened dialogue. Conservative bloggers and pundits continue to regurgitate the same hogwash about Romney as though repeating a lie incessantly will make it true.

    New Hampshire is showing that those who know Romney best know he is the best man for the job.

    Politico: “It’s striking how well regarded Romney is among all segments of the New Hampshire Republican electorate: He holds strong net favorables among both conservatives and moderates, readers of the conservative New Hampshire Union Leader and The Boston Globe, those who go to religious services weekly and those who never attend, and tea party supporters and tea party opponents.” http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1011/67241.html#ixzz1cadCV9oj

    The Daily Beast: “There are no presidential flavors of the month in New Hampshire. Other Republicans may be in hot pursuit of anyone but Mitt Romney, but in this state he’s a true frontrunner, with a double-digit lead that has never faltered. These are the voters who know Romney best, from his four years as governor of neighboring Massachusetts and his presidential run in 2008. A CNN/Time poll out Wednesday gives Romney a crushing 40 to 13 percent lead over Herman Cain.” http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/10/26/mitt-romney-2012-why-he-s-the-favorite-in-new-hampshire-gop-primary.html

  • Joel2012

    As illustrated by the comments here, differing viewpoints make for stimulating conversation. It is wonderful to read the opinions of others. Denying freedom of expression is both dangerous and unpatriotic. Reality check; people can and do change their minds all of the time. There is nothing unusual about this. If people are banned from ‘flip-flopping’ they could not in good conscious change their vote in this election, they would be forced to cast their vote the exact same way as before and we would have to endure four more years of misery. I for one hope many voters will ‘flip-flop’ this election year!

    • Robert

      Awesome comment. :)

    • Susan

      I have heard so many candidates who have changed their minds lately and even some talk radio hosts, yet they don’t hear in their words the charge that they like to place on Mitt Romney. It is rather commical. Flip Floppery is everywhere.

  • Bert

    This is a well-reasoned analysis that reflects how leftist conceptions of ideological purity have contaminated conservative political discourse. The Obama years have been frustrating for many conservatives and it’s sad to see a number of them descend into birther histrionics instead of blasting Obama for his incompetent policymaking and nonexistent leadership on pressing national and international problems. If there are conservatives who want undiluted ideological purity in their presidential candidates, then they should move to totalitarian regimes like Assad’s Syria or Kim-Jong Ils North Korea. The fact is that many ostensibly conservative critics of Romney are intellectual lightweights who can’t deal with the fact that he has the intellectual assets, communication skills, and even-tempered personality to appeal beyond the GOP base to attract independents with credible public policy alternatives for defeating Barack Obama. Our goal must not be promoting an idealized version of ideological purity that not even Ronald Reagan could achieve, but presenting substantive and credible public policies that will enable us to end the disaster the Obama presidency has become. Barack Obama and his statist delusions are our enemies and we must not let anything, even the sad controversy over Herman Cain’s purported sexual harassment, stop us from our goal of removing his administration from office.

  • Terry

    Larry– you claim “the point of my post was not to do your homework “, or anyone else’s for that matter, it would appear. Besides which, I’ve done my homework, have been doing it since the last election, and nothing I’ve found matches with the “excruciating detail” you claim exists. As I said before, accusations without documentation are just personal opinions. David gave examples to back up his statements–you didn’t. Are any to be forthcoming?

    I await with bated breath.

    • Larry

      Please provide a detailed account of Mitt Romney’s record as governor … please include all tax and fee increases. Please provide the outcomes of his policies (be sure to include his healthcare plan). Also, please describe the election results (particularly as they apply to the GOP) which followed his first term. Please also address his treatment of same sex marriage (in detail) as well as his demands regarding abortions in Catholic Hospitals. Please discuss the poor job creation record as well as the record number of people leaving his state searching for employment during his term (Mass had the second highest rate of people fleeing in search of employment in the United States). Also, please provide the reaction of Massachusetts business leaders regarding his policies (and the grade he received from the nonpartisan Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation). I look forward to your remarks …

      • Terry

        Larry says: “Please provide a detailed account of Mitt Romney’s record as governor …”

        Now this is rich, Larry. You have not provided ONE fact to back up your negative comments about Mitt, yet you challenge ME to give a detailed account of pretty much all of Mitt’s actions when he was governor of MA. I’m not the one questioning Mitt’s qualifications–YOU ARE. Nice try, though.

        • Larry

          I’m assuming you’re serious … right?

  • Eichendorff

    In my opinion, Larry’s comments on this thread are so hyperbolic and hysterical that they have entered the realm of the irrational. If conservatives don’t calm down and use their heads, they will on their own, without needing much demagoguery from the Democrats, inflict four more years of Obama on us.

    Is that what you want?

    • Larry

      Gee, hyperbolic and hysterical … please Eichindorff … tell me what I’ve said which qualifies as hyperbolic and hysterical (little projection there friend?). Specifically please (along with your rationale). If I’ve been hyperbolic, Wills was positively breathless.

      • Eichendorff

        *In fact, Mitt has lost far more elections than he’s won.*

        Romney has run for public office a grand total of three times. The first election he lost, the second he won, and in the third he withdrew. Technically, that isn’t losing an election, but I quibble a bit. Still, being most charitable to your position, he has lost precisely one more election than he’s won. Your statement is hyperbole.

        *Worse, the single term to which he was elected was so disastrous *

        It wasn’t disastrous. Romney accomplished a great deal, especially in reforming state finances. Sure, he made mistakes like everybody else. Your comment is hyperbolic and irrational.

        You use words like “desperately” and “excruciating” and a lot of similar expressions, all of them hyperbolic.

        The flip-flop charge is absurd, really tired, and overused. Romney has changed his position significantly on one issue: abortion. The fact that you distort and exaggerate everything else out of all proportion is hyperbolic and irrational. Everybody changes their views and positions throughout their lives. It’s called “learning”. If you really want to find someone who has significantly changed multiple positions or lied about them in advance, look no further than Barack Obama.

        • Larry

          Do you prefer sweetened or unsweetened kool aid ; )

          • Eichendorff

            Talk about lame.

          • Layne Pitcher

            Larry, as everyone else here has pointed out, where are the FACTS?

            Your comments so far are beneath contempt. When you can’t argue with reason you resort to insult.

            In every post I have read thus far you challenged Mitt’s supporters to make a logical argument for Mitt Romney’s candidacy. When one is made you immediately spiral into derision and mockery. Could it be that you just don’t have an arguable reason for your dissatisfaction.

            Come back to the discussion when you graduate from elementary school rhetoric.

  • Vineyard

    I’ve said it before. It seems to me some conservatives like to shoot themselves in the foot, every election. Ultimately, I want someone who loves our country, trusts in the system and knows how to work within it (not outside of it) to do the best he or she can for the people.

    And I agree with David, regarding some of the conservative talking heads. I get why Glenn Beck won’t endorse Romney (it’ll look like an “insincere Mormon conspiracy”) but the rest of the radio guys and others doing the DNC’s work? Amazing.

    It’s like Ann Coulter said a little while ago on Hannity. Don’t look at what Governors of blue states say, look at what they do. Mitt does have a solid conservative record. Perfect? Compared to what?

    • Larry

      Please provide specific proof … I mean actual, contextualized proof of his conservative record. If it exists it should be a simple effort to provide … and defend it against scrutiny.

  • Rex

    Larry -

    Frankly, I’m mystified. You seem to be insisting that the GOP nominate someone who is and always has been 100% pure conservative – a standard that would clearly have eliminated Governor Ronald Reagan as a candidate because of his late-arrival on some conservative positions. Would you have voted for Governor Reagan in the GOP Presidential Primary, former Democrat and president of the Screen Actors Guild? If not, who would you name as the most influential conservative among recent Presidents?

    It’s great if you are a purist and have strong conservative values, and that you always have had those same values without variableness or shadow of turning. Most of the rest of us are humans, and imperfect.

    However, if you have read any of the national Presidential elections of the past and polls of the present, the total number of 100% pure conservatives like you simply do not have the numbers in the voting population to elect any GOP candidate who is 100% pure like you – so pure that you are intolerant of others with more moderate positions.

    If you look at election results and polls, it is clear that no GOP candidate can win without that large one-third (or whatever the middle of the populace happens to be at any given moment) who are independent. It’s also clear that Obama cannot win without strong support of that middle third. It’s also clear that 100% pure conservative candidates, who share your intolerance to any variation or shadow of turning from conservatism, will either keep a lot of independent voters away from the polls or drive them over to Obama.

    100% pure conservatives backing a 100% pure conservative GOP candidate cannot win against Obama without broad appeal to the middle. The very moderate positions that you find offensive in Romney are among those that appeal to independent voters. Do the math.

    This does not mean that Romney will grab all of the independent voters. No GOP candidate can. However, as one of the most moderate of the GOP contenders, he is likely to grab more of the independents. What we don’t know is how many intolerant conservatives will stay home. If enough of the intolerant conservatives stay home, Obama wins.

    I’m a purist in that sense. I am 100% committed to Obama’s defeat. I will vote for whichever GOP contender survives the primary, even if I do not agree with him or her on every single point he and advocated in the last 20 years.

    To me, it is extremely short sighted for any 100% conservative to be so pure in his outlook that he would attack and undermine the best conservative/moderate in the race, the one person who has more of the jobs, jobs, jobs knowledge and expertise in difficult environments than the rest of the GOP candidates put together. That candidate is Romney, faults and all.

    Reagan also had warts, but I consider him the greatest president of my lifetime, and I’m a grandfather with 10 grandkids.

  • Jim Tills

    My opinion: I don’t believe Larry is a conservative that loves America. He sounds like a disgruntled Massachusettes Democrat who has it in for Mitt Romney. Asking for multitudinous (sp) documentation (that is unnecessary) to prove points that are worthless when proven because he will just ignore any factual proof brought forth is chilling distraction from the article written by Mr. French.
    Rather, think of the tremendous leadership, integrity, solid conservative values, and Presidential attributes Mitt Romney possesses. Even if a few items in his persona were incorrect previously, they have been corrected as proven by his record of accomplishment over the past seven years. Not one other Republican potential nominee has done more to elect conservatives to political offices across this Nation over the past four years than Mitt Romney; not one other Republican potential nominee has garnered the support of influential conservative political leaders than Mitt Romney; not one other Republican potential nominee has raised more money absolutely required in the battle against the Democrats immediately ahead than Mitt Romney; not one other Republican potential nominee is feared more by the Democrats in this upcoming election than Mitt Romney.
    Larry and other Mitt Romney bashers need to keep their mouths closed and their blogs unwritten if they really want to keep our Nation from being destroyed by another 4 years of Obama. Otherwise, they are part of the problem and clearly not the solution.
    Mr. French, your article was absolutely four-square accurate. I applaud you for your fairness, clear intellect, and ability to tell things the way they really are.

  • Liz

    Interesting read. Jonesy wins, Larry. Romney is more conservative than Perry anyways. Character seems better too.

  • Rick Schow

    I am alarmed by the level of outright bigotry when discussing Mitt and his religious beliefs. I get the whole thing about Mitt’s faith (and mine btw) being different as regards doctrinal beliefs and scriptural interpretations. What I do NOT get is simply that these concerns miss the mark entirely. What is totally relevant is what kind of a man he is, what kind of American he is, what kind of a citizen he is, what kind of a husband and father he is, what kind of neighbor he is, what kind of a leader he is, what manner of President he will make: in short HOW does this man live his life ! ! So many folks are totally hung up. Am I wrong or are you folks straining at a gnat but end up swallowing an entire camel! An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit, neither will a good tree bring forth evil fruit. Whited sepulchres the entire bunch of you!

  • Matt Walker

    Larry,

    You share your thoughts eloquently w/ a tremendous command of the english language. Yet, your condescending tone cheapens, even minimizes your intellect. I know you know who most of those who have posted here support (I too am a Romney supporter), but I wondered if you would care to share w/ us who it is that you support? And, why he/she would do a better job than Romney. I mean this sincerely

    • Larry

      Matt, could you please explain where, specifically, my tone becomes condescending? I’m not suggesting that it does not … I would like to judge the matter for myself though. If I have, in fact, done that … well, I want to correct it. Discussions like these are important and hubris is no help to them.

      As to your question, well, that’s a bit complicated. I’m not terribly thrilled with the candidates who’ve thrown their hats into the ring frankly. Perry seems to be somewhat animated by conservative ideas, but not in a fashion which suggests a full-orbed philosophy. I’m listening closely and examining his record. His performance in the debates has been progressing … he’s gone from dreadful to not so bad! As I said, I’m observing.

      Cain offers some compelling ideas but seems not to have invested a lot of time in the hard work of fleshing out the details of his proposals, nor in exploring the myriad other issues about which he simply must know more … in a cogent and consistent manner. It’s almost as if he never imagined his campaign would gain as much traction as it has. To refer people to your website when asked about specifics during a debate is more than amateurish … it suggests little mastery of the subject.

      Nor do I want to know simply that he’ll convene a panel of experts to flesh out policy in the future. He offers this annoyingly glib response along with Romney. First of all, I wish to know the construct you place on a certain issue … what political philosophy, what worldview do you bring to bear on this particular issue. After all, you are the decision maker.

      Worse, the “experts” remain clouded in ambiguity … what experts? Who are they? As I said, glib … it attempts to communicate managerial competence … but signals instead that the candidate had better things to do over the years other than carefully think through issues point by point.

      This, I think, is often overlooked when discussing Reagan. He spent years contemplating … working through the implications of big ideas until they could be applied to specific policy initiatives. It meant a rare consistency in governing. It also meant success.

      The ever avuncular Ron Paul simply cannot be taken seriously. He’s reminding me more and more of Walter Brennan in Rio Bravo. Some of his ideas are appealing … on balance, however, he’s simply not a serious candidate. I also find it annoying for a chap who has served in Congress for more than two decades to portray himself as an outsider. Please.

      Which brings me to Newt. Frequently the smartest guy in the room, he can sometimes be too smart by half. Hubris and a rather inflated sense of entitlement tripped him at the height of his political career during the nineties. I would like to believe (desperately) that he has, through reflection, chastening and a deepening faith, emerged a better man.

      After playing the role of Pliny the Elder during the last several debates his campaign appears to be gaining traction. If Perry fails to ignite and Cain’s accusers gain credibility then Newt is the most likely to benefit from their misfortune. Newt is clearly the most experienced, legislatively, of any candidate currently running. His conservatism is well thought-out and apparently deeply embedded. He could, with work, earn my vote. Between him and Romney … I would choose Newt in a moment.

      I’m disappointed Paul Ryan didn’t run. I wanted very much to learn about him. He’s a serious thinker with big ideas … oh well.

      Bottom line … I have no favorite. I’m observing all the candidates … including Romney. But he continues to play to type … that moves him farther and farther into the “do not trust” column.

      Well, there you have it Matt … clear as mud, right?

      • Terry

        Larry says: “After playing the role of Pliny the Elder during the last several debates his (Newt’s) campaign appears to be gaining traction.”

        O-o-o-kay…having a bit of a time figuring out what Gaius Plinius Secundus (otherwise known as Pliny the Elder) has to do with a GOP debate. Pliny, as I understand it, was a naturalist at heart and spent most of his spare time in the field investigating and writing about natural and geographic phenomena. (And, yes, I Googled the information about Pliny, lest anyone assume that I’m putting on airs.) :o )

      • John Haas

        Undecided? Dr.Laurie Roth has declared her candidacy!

        http://imaginepublicity.com/2011/11/04/press-release-from-team-laurie-roth-2012-official-declaration/

        “Roth is running on the party of ‘REAL’ – Responsive, Excellence, Americanism and Liberty.”

  • Aaron Hardy

    Let’s not forget that conservative “purity” gave us an unexamined and inept Sharron Angle, who in turn gave us six more years with Harry Reid.

    • http://abev.wordpress.com john f.

      Bachman, Perry and Cain are exact equivalents of Sharon Angle, by the way. Also, Perry is the ultimate conservative of convenience, is he not?

      Cain is a joke. I see why people like him as a person but how could anyone think he is a viable candidate for the Oval Office? Some of his responses on policy questions amount to “I’ll figure it out once I’m in office.” Other responses show a true lack of understanding, such as with the double sales tax issue and VAT. Bachman has never shined better than when she cleaned up the floor with Cain in the Las Vegas debate about the VAT issue. 999 is a horrible plan and, as Santorum points out, raises taxes for more than 80% of Americans.

      Why aren’t people looking at Santorum more seriously? He is the one that can be considered “ideologically pure”. He seems likable, he has experience in the federal government as a Senator, his background is clean, etc. My personal opinion is that he would have no chance of winning in the general election . . . precisely because of this “ideological purity” — he is just scary to moderate and independent voters because of his seemingly singular focus on admittedly conservative priorities but which are in essence single issue voter issues.

      Aside from Romney, Huntsman is the other clearly qualified candidate with a very good chance of being an outstanding chief executive.

  • Robin

    Mitt is clearly our man. We need to pull together or we WILL have four more years of Obama. Larry, Mitt is a very good man and the only one who can beat Obama. Obama knows this and is already campaigning against Mitt. Obama would love to see Newt or Perry or Cain in the ring with him. Obama does not want to see Romney running against him. That should tell you right there that Romney is the one we should have running against Obama.
    Come on now. Let’s all pull together or we most certainly will all fall.

    • Larry

      Robin … virtually anyone will beat Obama … beating Obama is not our goal … beating back big government is … Romney is clearly not our best candidate for that task.

  • RC

    Larry, do you not read the current polls. The only GOP candidate today in the polls that can beat Obama is Romney. Come on now………

    • Larry

      Obama is a one term president … all precedents point, overwhelmingly, to that conclusion. This mantra has become the tired argument of Romney boosters. Indeed, of all the candidates running for the nomination Team Obama almost certainly wishes for a Romney win. Why? The single candidate who will be least able to argue against ObamaCare is the man whose team actually helped to Craft it … Mitt Romney. His actual record is dismal. Here’s a question … why didn’t Romney seek a second term as governor? Please, no glib or unstudied answers.

      • RC

        Larry, do you really believe that ObamaCare is the only issue on the table? Absolutely not! ObamaCare maybe, I mean maybe is about 20% of all the issues facing America. You say, “Obama almost certainly wishes for a Romney win.” Get real. Why then is Obama coming out in all his fury and all the powers of hell against Romney – NOW? Because Romney is the biggest threat to him and the democratic party. If Obama really wanted Romney to win – he would be a pussycat!!!

        • Larry

          20%? Really? What data are you privy to which supports that claim? “Obama coming out in all his fury and all the powers of hell against Romney” … I must’ve missed that. Wow. “All his fury” and “ALL the powers of hell” … goodness, that IS big.

          • RC

            You really need to get away from the blogging for awhile and get some fresh air. Perhaps, maybe watching some news casts will enlighten you on the “fury” and the “hell” coming out of the tv sets. Obama and his cohorts are certainly not bashing the other GOP candidates……..

  • RC

    Larry, if you don’t beat Obama, BIG GOVERNMENT is back again. Get the picture. Romney is definitely the best candidate in beating Obama.

  • Daniel Peterson

    A very good piece. Reading on-line comments from some of my fellow conservatives, I’ve lately wondered, sometimes, whether I haven’t stumbled into some sort of far-left parody. It really DOES seem like the kind of constant search for ideological purity that one finds in reading about the Bolsheviks, the Maoists, and the Khmer Rouge, where everybody is always denouncing everybody for “bourgeois deviationism” or some such nonsense and the re-education camps are always full with the victims of the latest purges, who eventually go up against the wall.

  • Larry
    • Layne Pitcher

      Larry, the Boston Globe is well know for it’s liberal bias. I suppose you will be quoting Obama’s campaign staff next?

      • Larry

        Layne, dispute the facts not the source. Romney boosters seem to veer as far from his actual record as Mitt himself does.

        • LayneP

          What you source as fact is as you have seen from posts above, but continue to deny, is spin from republican opponents and more predominantly the Obama campaign staff.

          Don’t fall for it.

  • Casey

    Not to threadjack but I’m reading a number of offhand commends about “leftist” discourse on ideological purity contaminating conservatism… my response is “Umm, really?” This make it very had to take some of you remotely seriously. Read some of the left-wing press: Salon, TNR, The Nation, and tell me they’re somehow terrified of not toeing the party line and of disagreeing with each other. The “PC” tendency can and does exist on the left, of course, but that’s because it’s a human phenomenon, not a political one. Seriously, it’s like some of you are arguing against straw men within conservatism by appealing to the straw man on the other side. Anyway, back to your rage (Larry, I’m looking at you).

    • Larry

      Casey, PC is prevalent on the Left because facts are so damaging to their narrative. Conservatives place enormous importance upon principles and their outcomes … facts tend to strengthen our case, not undermine it. The armies of strawmen required by the left in support of their agenda are replaced with facts on the right. Here’s looking at you kid …

  • The Other Nancy

    David, your article was very good and at the same time troublesome concerning the unwillingness to allow people to speak their mind in publications, etc. Thank you for your courage and your words of wisdom. You are truly a voice of reason!

    I’ve enjoyed all the comments that came after and Jonesy, you definitely win! It has been an interesting discussion on this thread. I think Mitt has a adequately addressed the Romneycare that was meant solely for only a few in his state and it was never meant to be a national program. He is smarter than that. As for the flip flopping, it does have feet but then, going up against Obama will be a walk in the park, since he is the biggest flip flopper of all time. I agree that moving from one position to another can be called, “Learning.” Even Obama “learned” that shutting down Gitmo and trying the terrorists in the U.S. courts was a bad idea.

    I agree with most of the posters that Mitt Romney is the man for these troubling times. He is likely to be a one term President however, because he’ll have to be tough and many will not like the reversals that must come before our country is totally bankrupt. However if he is able to inspire (and I think he does) he may get the country working again and I know he will move heaven and earth to make that happen! I think Mitt is truly up to the job of taking the highest office in the land.

    I agree that Newt Gingrich is equally as bright and I think is a changed man, too. I can forgive his folly and I think others will be able to do that as well. If not, then cast the first stone. However, there are other seemingly worrisome flaws and that is Newt’s ability to be organized, to raise money, and to bring real energy to the campaign ahead. He is quite laid back in his demeanor and some will see it as an almost slovenly manner. The other men and woman running in the race are not ready for prime time though they are good people, no doubt. So for me, it is Mitt all the way!

  • http://nolp.blogspot.com/ davidfarrar

    If Mitt Romney is ever placed on a Republican presidentical ticket, it will be a shoe-in for Barack Obama. A large majority of Tea Party supporters will not vote for anyone who, like Obama, stands in direct violation of the Constitution’s “natural born” Citizenship rule.

    George Romney (1907–1995), Mitt Romney’s father,who ran for the presidency as the Republican Party nominee in 1968, was born in Mexico, but not to U.S. parents, as they claim.

    Mitt Romney’s grandfather had emigrated to Mexico in 1886 with his three wives and children after the U.S. federal government outlawed polygamy. The Romney storyline goes on from here to tell us George’s monogamous parents retained their U.S. citizenship and returned to the United States with him in 1912. It is further explained that the Romneys never received Mexican citizenship, because the country’s nationality laws had been restricted to jus sanguinis statutes due to prevailing politics aimed against American settlers.

    However, I have found overwhelming prima facie evidence, including a copy of Mexican Naturalization papers for Helamen Pratt (Mitt Romney’s maternal great-grandfather), that suggests George’s mother was a Mexican citizen at the
    time of his birth .

    “When a man becomes a citizen of the United States under the Constitution he cannot cease to be a citizen, except by expatriation for the commission of some crime by which his citizenship shall be forfeited.”…Sen. Jacob Howard

    The Romneys may have come back into the jurisdiction, and they may have believed they were still US citizens, but were they? Mitt Romney needs to confront this issue heard on if he considers himself a A2S1C5 nbC.

    Since the doubts concerning Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s “natural born citizen” status are Constitutional in nature, the honorable thing to do, if either one of these two men are, indeed, honorable in this regard, is to ask the Supreme Court (not Congress, not the voters, not the consensus of legal opinion) for a declaratory judgment in resolving these doubts before the next election in 2012.

    ex animo
    davidfarrar


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