British conservatives find Romney reckless, untrustworthy

The Economist and The Financial Times are conservative pro-business publications that prefer to prefer Republicans whenever possible. Both are now saying that Mitt Romney makes preferring the Republican in 2012 impossible. Both are reluctantly endorsing Barack Obama because — each says in its own upper-crusty, polite British way — that Mitt Romney is reckless and untrustworthy.

The Economist:America could do better than Barack Obama; sadly, Mitt Romney does not fit the bill

The problem is that there are a lot of Romneys and they have committed themselves to a lot of dangerous things.

Take foreign policy. In the debates Mr. Romney stuck closely to the president on almost every issue. But elsewhere he has repeatedly taken a more bellicose line. In some cases, such as Syria and Russia, this newspaper would welcome a more robust position. But Mr. Romney seems too ready to bomb Iran, too uncritically supportive of Israel and cruelly wrong in his belief in “the Palestinians not wanting to see peace.” The bellicosity could start on the first day of his presidency, when he has vowed to list China as a currency manipulator — a pointless provocation to its new leadership that could easily degenerate into a trade war.

Or take reducing the deficit and reforming American government. Here there is more to like about Mr. Romney. … Yet far from being the voice of fiscal prudence, Mr. Romney wants to start with huge tax cuts (which will disproportionately favour the wealthy), while dramatically increasing defense spending. Together those measures would add $7 trillion to the ten-year deficit. He would balance the books through eliminating loopholes (a good idea, but he will not specify which ones) and through savage cuts to programs that help America’s poor (a bad idea, which will increase inequality still further). At least Mr Obama, although he distanced himself from Bowles-Simpson, has made it clear that any long-term solution has to involve both entitlement reform and tax rises. Mr. Romney is still in the cloud-cuckoo-land of thinking you can do it entirely through spending cuts: the Republican even rejected a ratio of ten parts spending cuts to one part tax rises. Backing business is important, but getting the macroeconomics right matters far more.

Mr. Romney’s more sensible supporters explain his fiscal policies away as necessary rubbish, concocted to persuade the fanatics who vote in the Republican primaries: the great flipflopper, they maintain, does not mean a word of it. … However, even if you accept that Romneynomics may be more numerate in practice than it is in theory, it is far harder to imagine that he will reverse course entirely. When politicians get elected they tend to do quite a lot of the things they promised during their campaigns. …

Indeed, the extremism of his party is Mr. Romney’s greatest handicap. … The Republicans have become a party of Torquemadas, forcing representatives to sign pledges never to raise taxes, to dump the chairman of the Federal Reserve and to embrace an ever more Southern-fried approach to social policy. Under President Romney, new conservative Supreme Court justices would try to overturn Roe v Wade, returning abortion policy to the states. The rights of immigrants (who have hardly had a good deal under Mr. Obama) and gays (who have) would also come under threat. This newspaper yearns for the more tolerant conservatism of Ronald Reagan, where “small government” meant keeping the state out of people’s bedrooms as well as out of their businesses. Mr. Romney shows no sign of wanting to revive it.

The Financial Times:Obama is the wiser bet for crisis-hit US

The more serious objection to Mr. Romney is that he has gone through so many contortions to win his party’s nomination that it is hard to see how he would govern in practice. His wishlist includes an aspiration to raise Pentagon spending by a fifth while cutting everyone’s taxes and still somehow balancing the books. Such fiscal alchemy is an exercise in evasion, not a recipe for sustainable economic recovery.

Mr. Romney’s latest positioning as a pragmatic centrist appears to fit far better than his earlier incarnation as a rock-ribbed conservative Republican beholden to the Tea Party. The trouble is that it is impossible to be sure. His protean persona relies more on market research than any innate political philosophy.

As in his response to Hurricane Sandy, Mr. Obama has shown that purposeful government can be part of the solution rather than the problem. Four years on from the financial crisis, with extreme inequality an affront to the American dream, there remains a need for intelligent, reformist governance. Mr. Obama, his presidency defined by the economic crisis, looks the better choice.

 

  • Jurgan

    “This newspaper yearns for the more tolerant conservatism of Ronald Reagan, where “small government” meant keeping the state out of people’s bedrooms as well as out of their businesses.”

    Er, yeah… That’s a bit of revisionism there.  Reagan may not have been Rick Santorum, but he wasn’t Barry Goldwater either.  He was more than happy to pander to the anti-abortion crowd, and really pioneered the strategy of exploiting the Christian Right for votes while governing for the plutocrats who wrote him checks.

  • TheDarkArtist

    Yeah, it’s sad to see newspapers get Reagan so wrong. Reagan was a treasonous piece of shit, to be perfectly frank. Like you said, he set the blueprint for the GOP agenda that’s been in use ever since: talk tough on the economy while being extremely liberal on spending; talk tough on abortion and throw red meat to the people who think their religious rights are being taken away, but not actually doing anything active to give them their way; continue to fight little proxy battles, Cold-War-style, to appease the chickenhawks.

    I’m so glad that this election is over tonight, and I never have to see Mitt Romney’s “just licked piss off of a nettle” face spouting lies and idiocy ever again. Well, until Paul Ryan runs and loses in 2016, I guess.

    [edit] Wow, just realized that voting is tomorrow. That’s what happens when you have a fever. At least I didn’t go out to try to vote already.

  • Launcifer

    True, though heads of state and government tend to look markedly different through foreign eyes, especially before the Internet Age.

    Ah, scratch that, I’ve just heard that the Birchers* supported Reagan’s first assault on the White House in the late sixties. People really should know better

    *Not that most people on my wee islands would even know who John Birch was, mind.

  • Lori

    My favorite thing about this was the reaction of one of the Right wing pundits whose response was something about how of course The Economist would endorse Obama because it’s part of the Liberal establishment press.

    The Economist is part of the Liberal establishment press. Ha, ha, ha, ha.

    It’s these little moments of unintended hilarity that get me through our long national nightmare of an election season.

  • Launcifer

    Whut?

    Gods above, I almost want to see the reaction when the poor little poppet reads pretty much any edition of the The Guardian.

  • Robyrt

    Yeah, the Economist is on the nose here as usual. The extremism in the Republican Party has created an internal climate where the best candidate they can get is Romney, who can sign on to the ridiculous pledges and outlandish primary statements with comfort because he never really believed them in the first place.

  • http://nwrickert.wordpress.com/ Neil Rickert

    British conservatives find Romney reckless, untrustworthy

    This is one of those occasions when the British conservatives are correct.

  • WalterC

    That reminds me of that humorous satirical endorsement of Romney in the Des Moines Register a while back, where they basically said that the reason why Romney would be the best president is that a) he was just kidding about all the awful stuff he was saying during the primaries and b) would probably be just like Obama with different… um…. hair. 

  • Alicia

    The first article especially hits on that. Romney’s “foreign policy” consists of sneering at Obama and then doing what Obama has proposed. It reminds me of Herman Cain during the foreign policy debate during the primaries; when asked if he would support an Israeli strike on Iran, he said that he would support them as long as he thought that it was a good idea. 

  • Parisienne

    This highlights to me the differences between the different political set-ups with which I am acquainted:

    France has a right and a left.
    The UK has a right and a centre pretending to be the left.
    The US has a right pretending to be the left and a bunch of extremists pretending to be the right.

    Have I missed anything?

  • Hawker40

    Launcifer, the John Birch Society (“Birchers”) do not know who John Birch was.  They’ve been told a myth, and take it for history.

  • Carstonio

    I started a post saying the same thing about Reagan and realized you beat me to  it.

  • Carstonio

    I find that somewhat confusing, only because I would automatically label anyone who favors single-payer health care and legalization of same-sex marriage as a leftist. But then, I also regard the Tea Partyers as beyond rightist. They’re so hostile to government being anything besides defense and law enforcement, so fanatical in their belief in a just world, that I doubt that any rational categorization system could include them.

  • Carstonio

     I should explain that my own criterion for left versus right is whether the ideology would reduce economic and social privilege or perpetuate it.

  • WalterC

    I think it depends on what country you’re in. All that Overton window stuff kind of complicates it. 

    A lot of disparate opinions have essentially been bundled together. This makes it very easy to normalize the extreme opinions by juxtaposing them with less extreme ones. If you became a Republican because you support lower taxes and deregulation, they also slip in opposition to same-sex marriage, opposition to abortion (now even in cases of rape and incest), and all that other nonsense. Not only that, these things become normalized. Before, everyone pretty much admitted that abortion should be legal in those narrow cases; liberals and conservatives differed as to what should happen beyond extreme circumstances. 

    Now, we’re getting to the point where a lot of conservatives argue that abortion should always be illegal, no matter what, and that position is rapidly become normalized as it’s being adopted by mainstream politicians (many of whom got into power not because of abortion politics at all but because of their economic policies). The mainstream economic policies are used as a lever to get the stupid/evil social policies into wide circulation.

  • AnonymousSam

    There are days when I want to introduce myself as a communist just do throw contrast on the political left. “Liberal? Poppycock! Those people haven’t even suggested disestablishing private business!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Cule/100001621659800 Michael Cule

    I shall (as I always do when Transatlantic definitions of left and right, liberal and conservative come up) quote Peter Cook’s jibe of (ye gods!) about fifty years ago now.

    “You see, in America you have a two party system. You have the Republican Party, which is the equivalent of our Conservative Party. And you have the Democratic Party. Which is the equivalent of our Conservative Party.”

    And what’s changed nowadays is that in Britain we have three  main parties: the Tories and two others who are trying to be Tory Lite.

  • Launcifer

    @Hawker40: You just prompted me to go and hunt down some information on the chap in question, actually. I don’t even see how they started with that guy and ended up where they did, except through some dog whistle I’m simply not equipped to hear. I can’t quite scotch the thought that they meant the Roundhead MP instead.

    On the left/right thing others have been mentioning, I really think it depends where people place the centre ground – and that seems to vary on a nation-by-nation basis. Hell, it seems to vary on an individual basis.

  • Launcifer

    Personally, I’d go so far as to argue that all three parties are now Tory-Lite and that all three parties are lying about it. Those ladies and gents with the blue ties bear very little relation to the Conservative party I grew up watching.

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

     The UK has a right of centre party, pretending to be left but constantly floating further right (Labour). They float somewhere about the left wing of the democrats.

    A right wing party trying to pretend to be a centre-right party they float somewhere around the right wing of the democrats which is why many Republicans think they’re left wing (Conservative)

    And a party made up of a loose coalition of view points from true left to true right tied together only by their disdain for the other two parties, an agreement that members do not actually have to agree with the party line on anything and a desire for proportional representation. They have a centre-right  manifesto primarily because it makes the least number of members try to scratch their skin off. This wouldn’t be a problem if Cleggy weren’t such a wimp. (I keep hearing this rumour that Angela Merkel offered to send the leader of her junior partner to give him lessons in how to do it because he’s making such a hash of it). Seriously the LibDems are incredily fractious.

    And the SNP – who seem honestly left of centre cannot be ignore since they’ve got their referendum on Scottish Independance.

    The Greens and The Respect Party both have a single MP.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    There used to be a British person on my LJ friends list who thought Obama was very very far left. Yes, British. I’m not sure what universe he’s living in.

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

     Well the Tories are moving to legalise Marriage Equality and while they appear to be trying to privatise the NHS under the table they do not appear to be trying to make it non-single payer(*) so that’s kind of an offbase definition of left.

    *Screaming melodrama from opponents aside that is – seriously the healthcare debate in the UK is just as melodramatic as the US one but in the opposite direction. “OMG! If they do this we’ll end up like the US and everyone will die!” I don’t like the Tory reforms at all but that’s crap.)

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

     UKIP land maybe

  • Carstonio

    I would see that as rightist, not in degree but in ideology. Privatization would push health care away from being a right and toward being a privilege, which would hurt people who lack economic privilege.

  • Lori

    “OMG! If they do this we’ll end up like the US and everyone will die!” 

    I want to put those folks in a room with our folks who insist on thinking that the US has the best healthcare system in the world and that it’s the envy of all who gaze upon it. The ensuing head explosions would at least temporarily reduce the volume of stoopid in the world.

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

     I’ll give you ideology – they believe competition makes everything better which is just dumb when it comes to things where quality is more important than cheapness or profit.

    However if (and it’s a big if) quality of provision is taken into account it shouldn’t really cause issues for the patient because this is privatisation as in the Government pays private companies to provide healthcare rather than the provider being owned by the government. Not actually selling of the NHS itself to a private company. It’s a subtle difference but it means the government remains the single payer and it remains free at the point of access to the user (except where it already isn’t and even those parts are free if you aren’t well off).

  • Carstonio

    I was using privatization to mean contracting with private insurers, and I’ve said before that insurance shouldn’t be about making a profit.

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

     Not private insurers(*) private contractors.  It’s the difference between the government
    1. paying state employees to empty the bins
    2. paying the private company with the best tender to have their employees empty the bins
    or
    3. Insisting that if people want their bins emptying they pay someone to do it or take it to the tip themselves.

    (*)well we do have private health insurance available but that’s seperate from the NHS and no one needs to have it. It’s really rather cheap and works differently from US insurance as a result (except for BUPA which actually sells itself as an alternative to the NHS).

  • WalterC

     I think it has a lot to do with . Someone who is extremely authoritarian and reactionary would see Obama as far-left, because their ideal leader is probably a mishmash of Augusto Pinochet and Jerry Falwell. Someone equally far to the left would see Obama as a right-winger, again not because Obama’s policies are different from person to person but because the ideal that he’s being matched up against.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    In some cases, such as Syria and Russia, this newspaper would welcome a more robust position.

    Today I Learned that, among the many other differences between British & American English, in British English, “robust” is a synonym for “aggressive”.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Government pays private companies to provide healthcare rather than the provider being owned by the government.

    That’s how it works in Canada – the government is the single payer (sole insurer) and negotiates fees with anyone who wants to bill the system for services provided.

  • Launcifer

    My apologies for this random interruption but I can’t unsee it now:-

    Why does that cover picture make me imagine that Romney’s humming Little Green Bag and talking to an invisible bloke in a shellsuit?

  • Vermic

    Mr. Romney’s more sensible supporters explain his fiscal policies away as necessary rubbish, concocted to persuade the fanatics who vote in the Republican primaries: the great flipflopper, they maintain, does not mean a word of it.

    Politics is such a strange beast.  To take for granted that a candidate is lying about everything, but holds reasonable principles underneath which we haven’t seen yet, and which will come to the surface when he takes office — this is the “sensible” interpretation.

    ROMNEY 2012
    “It’s Okay, He’s Probably Just Kidding”

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    There has to come a point past which “playing to your base” ceases to be a viable explanation for appearing less moderate in front of some audiences vs. others.

    In addition, the whole idea that a politician is saying and doing things for pure cosmetic effect and that we all supposedly “know” this and go along with this giant miming charade act is a gross insult to the intelligence of voters and the importance of politics.

    It may be a cliche, but politics IS serious fucking business. US voters are being asked to choose the leaders of their country and they’re being told, in essentials, to treat it like some dog and pony show where, wink wink, we all “know” what one of the two dogs in the show really wants to do even though the other dog already demonstrated quite plainly what it is capable of doing.

    The leaders of the USA for the next two (for Congresscritters and some Senators) or four (the Prez) years should be approaching the choice of office and presenting themselves in a way that reflects the seriousness of their office.

    Romney clearly doesn’t take being President seriously. Nor do the Republicans take being in Congress seriously.

    If they did, they wouldn’t be making mafia-esque protection-racket threats about the efficacy of governing the USA in the interests of the population as a whole.

    But no, we end up seeing “Nice USA, shame if anything were to happen to it” and “We’ll make sure anybody who isn’t white keeps getting a raw deal in the USA”.

    When the sum total of the attempt to persuade the electorate amounts to “here’s everything we’re standing AGAINST, and we will justify your fear and anger in the process” …

    Well, that’s not responsible behavior in a democracy.

    It’s just not.

  • kisekileia

    I’m fairly left-wing even by Canadian standards, and I typically find remarkably little to argue with in The Economist considering its reputation as a right-wing paper. The Economist has a high regard for scholarship and facts, and would really only be slightly right of centre even in Canada. These days, that places them left of the Democrats. 

  • Andrew C.

    One problem with this whole Candidate = Left or Right Dichotomy is that nobody is that simple – take Obama for instance. His social policies taken in a vacuum would make him undeniably Liberal; no other President in US history has even suggested support for legalising gay marriage, and he has taken a standard center-left stance on abortion.

    However, on Foreign policy, he’s practically a Neocon straight out of the previous administration (Many of you may not like this fact, but he signed the NDAA – it’s important we realise that), if a lot more discretionary in his military ventures (Libya was certainly no Iraq).

    Economically, both parties are pretty much the same despite the rabid hype that would suggest otherwise, and Obama doesn’t make an exception to this consensus.

    So trying to call even a single person in Party X (let alone a Party as a whole) is only really good for utter generalisations.

    I think what America really needs is the strengthening of 3rd Party Candidates (up here, we have at least 3 parties with clout on the federal level).

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Well the Tories are moving to legalise Marriage Equality and while they appear to be trying to privatise the NHS under the table they do not appear to be trying to make it non-single payer(*) so that’s kind of an offbase definition of left.

    What? No! Privatising the NHS is the exact opposite of left-wing policy. Marriage equality has exactly nothing to do with it.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    One problem with this whole Candidate = Left or Right Dichotomy is that nobody is that simple – take Obama for instance. His social policies taken in a vacuum would make him undeniably Liberal; no other President in US history has even suggested support for legalising gay marriage, and he has taken a standard center-left stance on abortion.

    Again, it’s a problem because you insist on equating left wing with social progressivism. When you take left and right as economic ideologies, it’s a whole lot less confusing–and you don’t get people calling themselves left wing because they support same-sex marriage despite thinking the poor can go look after themselves.

    The difference between a left and a right wing stance on abortion is about who provides it and who pays for or subsidises it, not whether or when it’s legal.

    Liberal and left are not synonymous.

  • Carstonio

    One problem with treating left and right as economic ideologies is that it allows the right to wrongly frame unfettered markets as an issue of freedom. It ignores the fact that power is also involved in economics, and that a powerful corporation can be just as big a threat to individual freedom as an out-of-control government. The same is true when social norms benefit members of majorities at the expense of minorities.

    My idea of leftism focuses on the individual and balancing hir wants and needs against those of society’s, with the idea that freedom is about pursuing one’s own happiness in ways that don’t interfere with others’ pursuit of their own happiness. (That wording was suggested by another Slacktivite, and my apologies for not remembering the name.) Different from the pseudo-leftism of your hypothetical just-worlders who support same-sex marriage. They might say that individual freedom involves risk, and that’s the pretense that there’s no moral distinction between unavoidable risk and avoidable or artificial risk. They wrongly view economically powerful people gaming the system in their favor as, at best, simply a consequence of economic freedom. I’m not talking about those powerful people themselves but the ones who defend them.

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

     I was replying to Carstino saying that support for single payer and gay marriage together make you leftist by pointing out our right wing party in the UK supports both those things because even though they are trying to privatise the NHS it’ll still be single-payer and they wouldn’t dare try and change that.

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

    This why I prefer the political compass to the normal left right divide. Its double axis makes it absolutely clear where people stand and the total disortion of where the centre lies that people have http://www.politicalcompass.org/uselection2012

    I pretty much always end up roughly where Jill Stein is (and indeed where the UK greens are) when I take the test.

  • Carstonio

    Without knowing more about UK rightists, I would suspect that privatizing the National Health Service is a strategy for eventually getting their nation’s government out of health care entirely. Or making health care more of a privilege and less of a right, because contracting out to for-profit companies would have that effect. What matters, for me, is that the UK rightists want change in a specific direction, not how far they are in that direction. 

    Was Mary Whitehouse considered a rightist on economic and governmental matters? She sounded as if she was channeling Jerry Falwell.
    I’m not saying that any particular nation’s concept of left and right is more correct than any other nation’s. I’m suggesting instead that basing a spectrum solely or primarily on economic issues misses the larger question of balancing the individual with the society. 

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    I just retook the Political Compass and I ended up farther towards the lower left corner than ever before.  Usually I end up around Gandhi or the Dalai Lama.  This time I’m off by myself. 

    I guess I’m angrier at big corporations than usual today.

  • Carstonio

    I took the compass test and here are my ratings:

    Economic Left/Right: -7.62
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -8.87

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

    Professional pearl-clutcher Mary Whitehouse was certainly a social conservative but I have no idea what her politics were.

  • http://danel4d.livejournal.com/ Danel

    It seems that Romney has the support of at least one British Conservative – the Quiet Man himself, ol’ IDS, thinks that the British media’s “demonisation” of Romney is disgraceful.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    One problem with treating left and right as economic ideologies is that it allows the right to wrongly frame unfettered markets as an issue of freedom.

    And when they do that, I send them off to read Isaiah Berlin and come back when they’re ready to acknowledge the existence of positive freedom.

    My idea of leftism focuses on the individual and balancing hir wants and needs against those of society’s, with the idea that freedom is about pursuing one’s own happiness in ways that don’t interfere with others’ pursuit of their own happiness.

    That’s a remarkably individualist framing of a philosophy grounded in collectivism. Where do collective rights, freedoms and actions fit into your philosophy?

  • Carstonio

    I had to think about that one for a minute…I would say it comes down to mutual responsibilities between the individual and society. The individual has a responsibility to society to pay taxes and to act in ways that don’t harm others. The society has a responsibility to the individual to ensure equality of opportunity and equality under the law. This treats government like a membership corporation, such as with single-payer health care. 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The method of stealth privatization in Canada is to allow “two-tier” health care. Since it’s such a Third Rail of Canadian politics even the right-wing folks all claim to not support two-tier health care while trying to figure out ways to implement it.


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