So observes former Reagan White House political director Jeffery Lord in a brilliant piece in today’s American Spectator.
Is Mitt Romney the new Nelson Rockefeller?
The question takes on even more import in the wake of the New Hampshire GOP debate last night as Romney reinforced the doubts of Reaganites.
Does the man with the money, looks, charm, brains, energy — and like Rockefeller in the run-up to the 1964 GOP nomination fight in 1963, leading in the early polls — really understand the meaning of the Reagan Revolution? Is Mitt Romney the man whose legendary flip-flopping could be more kindly said to have the same cause as Rockefeller’s — a devotion to what Reagan disdained as “pragmatism”? Is the Romney campaign — and a potential Romney Administration — to be nothing more than a 21st century Rockefeller replay? Except that this time Nelson Rockefeller finally wins?
Nelson Rockefeller accepted — believed to the core of his being — in the Establishment way of government. And the modern conservative movement was nothing if not a threat to the liberal Establishment way of doing business. So Rockefeller did what came naturally. He fought back. Sometimes well, sometimes badly. He flailed. He fulminated. He even tried coping, adopting a patently see-throughable pattern of speaking right but governing liberal. It was a pattern, he apparently concluded, that would appease his conservative critics while leaving the Liberal Leviathan that was Big Government relatively unscathed.
But Rockefeller was wrong. He had misjudged conservatives completely.
Which is precisely the pattern of misjudgment that Mitt Romney is exhibiting with every increasing moment he spends campaigning for the very Republican presidential nomination that eluded Nelson Rockefeller. A pattern Romney reinforced yet again in last night’s New Hampshire debate.
…unmistakably, the Nelson Rockefeller mind-set oozes not only from Romney’s book but his presentations on the campaign trail. To say, as Romney does in his book, that “Despite my affiliation with the Republican Party I don’t think of myself as highly partisan” is simply one way of summing up the creed of the Rockefeller Republican — pragmatism. Which Reagan, of course, disdained. To write, as Romney also does in a doubtless unguarded moment, that “George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan had pushed the Soviet Union to the wall and won” implies that it was the Establishment Bush and not Reagan’s decidedly anti-Establishment views that won the day — when in fact it was precisely the reverse. A sure-thing Rockefeller Republican view of how the world perhaps should have worked in the 1980s.
From RomneyCare and its health insurance mandates (or, as rival Tim Pawlenty slyly called it, “ObamneyCare”) to his belief in climate change (which inevitably means the government must do X), to last night’s double confirmation that his goal as president would be merely to clip the hedges of big government, Mitt Romney is displaying his bona fides to the GOP liberal Establishment as the consummate Rockefeller Republican. As the Club for Growth has noted, when faced with a choice between those campaigning or governing as a conservative Reaganite or a Rockefeller Republican in this or that Republican primary around the country, with an almost Pavlovian instinct Romney is lightning quick to support the Rockefeller Republican. From Utah’s Senator Robert Bennett to Delaware’s Congressman Mike Castle to New York’s Dede Scozzafava in the 2009 special election for New York’s 23rd Congressional District, first, last and always the Romney instinct and action is to stand-up for the Establishment.
The ultimate question for Republican primary voters, then, is whether the next Republican president should be a Rockefeller Republican or a Reagan Republican. A nominee and a president who accepts the precepts and principles of Rockefeller Republicanism — or one who does not. A nominee who believes, as did Reagan, that government is the problem, not the solution. A nominee who believes not that government is something that should be pruned or, as Romney says, “restrained” here and there, but instead sent throught the shredder entirely with the operating funds returned to the American people. A nominee who believes in eliminating the Department of Education, as Romney once said he believed, not falling in like with it, as he now says.
The question is whether the GOP will choose a candidate who emulates the Rockefeller pattern of lots of rhetoric on freedom and economic growth while accepting the liberal Republican Establishment status quo view that America’s problems are best solved by a nudge here or a nudge there. Meaning in today’s world a Romney style “restraint” here and cutting a tad over there.
There’s much more to Lord’s article and you really need to read the whole thing. I’ve argued many times, if not as artfully, that Romney’s no conservative and that his election would only mean a change in the pace of Obama’s fundamental transformation of America, not the reversal necessary for our country is to survive as the free and prosperous nation we’ve grown up in. Romney will simply enact Obama’s change a bit more efficiently. Lord is absolutely right: Any comparison to Reagan, either by Romney himself…or enraptured morons…is nonsensical. The correct comparison is to Nelson Rockefeller. To even entertain the thought of nominating Romney as the Republican candidate illustrates how far Republicans have strayed from what are supposed to be their core principles of limited self-government as espoused by Reagan…and required by the constitution.
The most noteworthy aspect of last night’s debate by the Seven Dwarfs seven participants was that none of the non-Mitt candidates deigned to offer even a single criticism of Romney. You’d think that someone would have (between John King’s annoying grunts, that is) in light of the fact that the Mittster’s positions on a number of important issues are indistinguishable from Obama’s. But they didn’t. Not self-appointed “Tea Party candidate” Michele Bachmann; not the candidate deemed the “acceptable” alternative to Romney, Tim Pawlenty; not anyone. By refusing to even challenge the Mittster and the utter nonsense he peddled last night, they will be as complicit as the GOP Establishment they claim to disdain if he’s able to buy his way to the nomination.
Did they even hear Romney’s absurd explanation as to why Romneycare is different from Obamacare? If they did, their refusal to challenge it indicates their acceptance of said explanation. If the other six really believe, as they all claimed last night, that Obamacare is a threat to the Republic and must be repealed, why couldn’t any of them summon the will to confront the the individual who’s responsible for giving Obama the idea and on whose plan Obamacare is based? All six claim to speak to the Tea Party concerns and have their interests at heart. If that’s the case, why give the guy whose governing philosophy is closer to Obama’s than the Tea Party’s, not only on health care mandates, but a whole range of other issues as well, a free pass? Do they agree with Romney when he avers “I line up pretty well with the Tea Party”? If they do, how so?
From a purely tactical perspective, if they’re running to actually win the nomination, as they claim to be, wouldn’t it be a good idea to, oh…I don’t know…differentiate their positions from the candidate who’s anywhere from 14 to 23 points ahead of them? Or are they all sudden enrollees in the Tim Pawlenty School of Debate Avoidance? Seriously, after watching their performances last night, it occurred to me that they’re far more interested in enabling Romney’s campaign, with an eye on being second in command on Captain Mitt’s sinking ship, than winning the nomination.
The Republican nomination doesn’t have to be this way, of course. There is an alternative. We can nominate a true constitutional conservative who’s been tirelessly and almost single-handedly fighting to reverse Obama’s course; a candidate who, more than anyone else, led the Republican sweep in 2110; a candidate whose conservatism is ingrained, and not simply the temporary result of the latest 21-point plan or Power Point presentation prepared by a team of consultants for hire; a candidate whose conservatism is so authentic it can be traced in an unbroken line back to her days as a political neophyte on the Wasilla City Council as opposed to a candidate whose positions on almost every issue, no matter how trivial, change as often as I change my socks; a candidate who has espoused Tea Party principles for nearly two decades, long before they became politically expedient. Isn’t this the type of candidate we, as conservatives, should support?
If conservatives really believe, as I do, that the 2012 election may well be the last chance to reverse our slide down the slippery slope onto which 25 years of Establishment rule have placed us, shouldn’t we nominate a candidate who’s steadfastly committed to doing just that, and whose long public record of consistent and unshakable constitutional conservatism give us confidence she’ll actually carry it through? Why would any sane person even consider supporting a candidate produced by the very establishment responsible for the mess we’re in. Aren’t we better off with a candidate who’s had everything, including the kitchen sink, thrown at her by the aforementioned establishment and is still standing proud and strong, principles intact? Or do we want to settle for the farce below, as the six non-Mitt candidates apparently do?
Reaganesque? I think not. Rockefelleresque? Absolutely.