Establishment Republicans trying to sell former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney to conservatives can only torture logic and Romney’s record so far before the effort begins to turn back on itself — and it also demonstrates why conservatives oppose Romney so vigorously. Such is the case with a recent Washington Post column by former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson.
The major error in Gerson’s analysis is the same one establishment Republicans have made since the rise of the modern conservative movement began — he assumes that just because a candidate appears to live according to conservative principles, that he will govern the same way. The Romney candidacy is the latest proof of the fallacy of this thinking.
Gerson posits that because the Mormon Church is pro-life and culturally conservative, Romney, as a former Mormon bishop (and by all accounts a paragon of business and personal rectitude) can’t really be a cultural liberal. Therefore, to Gerson, Romney can’t really be the pro-choice, economically centrist, culturally liberal, business-oriented Republican he was when he served as Governor of Massachusetts.
The problem for Gerson (and the greater problem for Romney) is that Romney’s personal values never seem to translate into personnel or political action — and this is exactly why conservatives mistrust him.
Any mature observer of politics understands that personnel is policy, and no matter what the President’s personal values might be — if he does not surround himself with conservative advisors and appointees, he can’t govern as a conservative.
Conservatives looking among Romney’s advisors for evidence of his purported conservative values will be disappointed. Romney’s team consists almost entirely of Washington establishment figures from Capitol Hill, K Street and the past Bush administrations.