Monday, December 19, 2011

Measuring Mitt Part VII

Up until now almost all of the Measuring Mitt posts (starting here) have been about defending him from various attacks, mostly untrue or skewed. Today this is less defense and more offense—that is, instead of saying why he is not disqualified, saying why he might just be uniquely qualified.

Four years ago, with the economy nearly dropping, and spending out of control under a democrat-majority House and Senate, would have been a good time for a turnaround. Now, in the midst of essentially an economic depression and international “post-American” malaise, a turnaround is a necessity. We are looking for someone who can take on problems, find solutions, and make things happen against the odds. It would be nice if we could elect someone with a track record of doing those very things. It turns out we can.
I cannot guarantee Mitt Romney is the economic and social savior we need, but I am saying his record gives us a better predictor than anyone else’s on the ticket.
Romney came from a successful family, and that helped. But he did not rest on the family laurels; he worked hard. He spent 30 months as an unpaid missionary in France, gaining international experience, and up-close experience with poverty and struggle. During his mission he was involved in a serious accident and was pronounced dead; but in the first of many dramatic turnarounds, he showed there was always hope by waking up very much alive and fully recovering.
He then transferred from Stanford to Brigham Young University, where Ann, his high school sweetheart, was attending. He graduated at the top of his class in 1971, speaking at the College of Humanities commencement. (His writing and communications skills show in his speeches and books.) Four years later, while married with children, he graduated with combined law and MBA degrees from Harvard (cum laude in law, with a scholarship placing him in the top 5% in business). There were no fraternities or other associations for him there; he only had time for study, family, and church—top priorities he has kept as a habit.
Three years later, 1978, he was named vice-president of the management consulting firm Bain & Co. Six years later he founded an offshoot venture capital firm, Bain Capital, which put him in a position to do more than advise, to actually implement his ideas. Staples was one of Bain Capital’s success stories; Romney bought into the idea after nearly rejecting it. He was told by businesses that they spent on average just a few hundred in office supply purchases a year. But Staples founder, Thomas Stemberg, told him, “That’s what they think they spend, not what they actually spend.” So Romney gathered the data (checking actual invoices), found that companies actually spent several times what they believed they spent. A convenient and inexpensive office supply chain was likely to do well. This was a pattern for him, to gather accurate data (and gather it quickly), and then make a decision. Bain Capital made eight times its investment on Staples in three years. Other Bain successes include Domino's Pizza, Sealy, Brookstone, and The Sports Authority.
Besides capitalizing start-ups, it was Bain Capital practice to look for companies that were in trouble, but that could be turned around with better management. Romney turned around companies for a living. This came in handy in 1990. By this point Bain Capital was highly successful, but Bain & Co. was teetering on the verge of bankruptcy because of too much debt. At the request of founder, William Bain, Romney returned as interim CEO for a year. He carefully cut expenses, renegotiated loans, and inspired better morale.
It only took the one year to turn things around. But it was a significant year. Policies Romney put in place continued to be followed, and he is remembered there with great respect. This week Bain & Co. was name Best Employer in America. Incidentally, Romney received only a symbolic $1 for his service as CEO that year.
Then there were the 2002 Winter Olympics. They were mired in deficit spending ($379 million) and unsavory bribery scandals that threatened to take down the Olympic Games completely. Salt Lake City brought in Mitt Romney. With the additional security difficulties the country faced half a year after 9/11, he washed away any hint of scandal and not only overcame the deficit, but made the 2002 games one of the most profitable ever. Romney donated his $1.4 million salary plus an additional $1 million to the games. For a more complete story of this turnaround, you can read his book about it: Turnaround; Crisis, Leadership, and the Olympic Games. Washington, D.C: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2004.
When Romney offers “public service,” he means it. He also turned down his salary as governor of Massachusetts from 2003-2006, and has said he would forego a salary as US President. His governorship is another turnaround story. He replaced a scandal-ridden office with an overwhelming budget deficit. Despite having only 15% of either house in his party, he managed to move the state from a projected $3 billion deficit to nearly a $700 million surplus by the time he left office. He did it the old fashioned way: a combination of spending cuts, targeted fee increases (so users bore the costs), and removal of tax loopholes. And he got Democrat buy-in to make those changes.
Romney has a placard on his desk: “America is never stuck.” To have someone who has accomplished what he has, in his own education and family life, in business, in the Olympics, and in the blue-blue Democrat state of Massachusetts—to have him love America enough to offer to do the turnaround we need might be the opportunity we should take.
America is in deep trouble—far from the founding Constitutional principles of free enterprise and guaranteed rights, upheld by a moral people. But, while the scale is larger, the problems are the ones Romney has had a surprising amount of practice in solving.
I still like several of the candidates. (Certainly Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum deserve a day of discussion, and I hope to get to them before long.) All of our candidates would be an improvement over the man who seems intent on digging our hole deeper. But with Romney, because of his unique experience, combined with his optimism that it can be done, I think he might be just the person we need to get us out of the mess. If you’ve been thinking he was the “lesser evil” that “the establishment” was pushing on us against our will, consider the possibility that he’s in the position he’s in because he’s done a lot of things right for a very long time, and enough people have noticed that he has real support from many people who love America and want her return to what we know she can and should be.
If I choose Romney (and I’m definitely leaning that way, leaning more the more I learn about him), it will be because, as I look over the candidates for the job, I find him the most qualified. And I’m pleased to say more than, “I guess he’ll do.” I think it’s possible he was made and prepared for such a time.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Measuring Mitt Part VI

We’re finally getting around to dealing with the albatross of health care. If there is one single concern people have about Mitt Romney as president it is, how can we trust that he wouldn’t keep socialized medicine at the federal level when he implemented socialized medicine at the state level? It’s a valid and important question. When I looked at his candidacy in 2007, that was my main concern.

He has answered the question. And answered it again, and again. Still it comes up in every debate, and practically every conversation about him. Early in that last campaign, I heard him do a radio interview (not sure now where it was, but it may have been on Hugh Hewitt’s show, which led to my reading Hewitt’s book on Romney).
I am not a health care expert; I am just a regular citizen, involved in health care just as a regular consumer. I have some heath issues that have led me to be very distrustful of anyone making my health care decisions except for myself. So I am maybe more against central planning than average. But my discussion here is just my thoughts on how I have worked through this issue.
First let’s start with a review of the situation in Massachusetts. Romney was governor there 2003-2006 (he ran for only one term). When he came into office, the state was in dire straits—due to overspending and bad management, the very things you see in the wake of liberal administrations everywhere. The health care situation in Massachusetts was somewhat similar to other states, a combination resulting from federal mandates and cultural deficiencies. It is a desire of a civilized people to succor those in need; if someone comes into a hospital with an urgent need, they should be cared for, regardless of ability to pay. But when the federal government mandates how caregivers must give that service—without a way to be recompensed—then two things happen: state and local governments must pay the expense, or the costs will have to be spread out on those who are paying patients, raising costs for all. Usually it's a combination of these. 
And with higher costs, there is a tendency for more people to claim they can’t pay. Add to that the tendency for insurance (a third party) to do the paying, which has also contributed to rising costs. State and federal laws interfere with free market insurance sales and take medical services out of the mindset of market decisions, so it’s not surprising states face the difficult task of paying the bill for patients who get services without paying.
States with more illegal aliens and higher poverty tend to notice the problem more than others, so it might be that we have less sympathy for Massachusetts. Nevertheless, in their near bankrupt economy, they needed a way to stop the outflow of money to medical care. One thing they identified was that people who had income to buy insurance were opting not to buy insurance, because they knew the state was required to allow them to get care. So getting people who could buy coverage to get coverage was a goal, with the purpose of decreasing unnecessary state spending. Romney brought in many sources to help come up with solutions; among these was the reliably conservative Heritage Foundation, which approved of the final version as the best that could be gotten under the circumstances.
There are various ways of persuading people to buy insurance (a way of saying, in today’s medical economy, pay for medical services). Romney’s preference was an incentive—a subsidy or discount for those who made the choice the state preferred. But he was working with a very Democrat legislature (85% Democrat, only 15% Republican); they disallowed that option in favor of a penalty for failure to buy—because Democrats generally prefer using the power of the state to coerce. Romney countered with a compromise, a carrot and stick approach—an incentive for choosing to buy insurance, a penalty for failure to buy insurance. The Democrats rejected the compromise. In order to stem the flow of money to health care, Romney gave in to what is now referred to as the mandate. It was neither his idea nor his preference, but he has stood by it in loyalty to those who worked together to develop Massachusetts Care.
Besides the penalty for failure to buy insurance, the state does provide subsidies to help those who had previously been unable to purchase insurance. They work with private insurance companies to help lower income people to be able to afford insurance. Additionally, there are efforts to make insurance portable when a person changes employers—something most people see as a positive direction for insurance. I think there were also efforts to make insurance more easily purchased across state lines, another good thing. There was no state health care insurance, in competition with free market sources; all insurance was purchased from private, existing companies.
Did this program cost the state? Yes—but not as much as it was costing to pay for people who were essentially sending their medical bills to the state. It was a net gain economically for the state—among a number of policies Romney implemented that brought the state from deep in the red to fully in the black.
The Massachusetts health care bill was 70 or so pages, and specifically limited. While it included the mandate (penalty for failure to purchase), and we lovers of freedom find that offensive, the mandate did not violate the Massachusetts constitution. There were a number of changes made to Massachusetts Care implemented by Governor Duval Patrick, Romney’s successor, which raised the costs beyond initial estimates. But, even so, the citizens of Massachusetts (a highly Democrat populace) still approve of the program and want to keep it.
How does Massachusetts Care compare to Obamacare? Obamacare was a monstrous 2700 pages, with tentacles reaching into schools (clinics set up in schools that could dispense birth control without parental knowledge or consent), additional taxes on home sales, and multiple other intrusions that don’t have anything to do with health insurance and don't have support among the population.
Obamacare adds taxes, penalties, and fees, placing a greater burden on businesses during economic times that already discourage economic growth. There is incentive for businesses to stop offering health insurance as a benefit to employees, and just let employees fend for themselves or go into the national socialized system. The federal insurance (and medical insurance, in the form of Medicare and Medicaid, has never been anything but an economic drain) is in competition with private insurance—and Obama has admitted that this is an incremental approach to converting to eventual total socialized medicine, as you see in Europe or Canada. Always that means costs rise, care decreases, innovation is discouraged. And those who have other than standard needs often fail to get care. Also people tend to pay in time and inconvenience in exchange for higher costs. And government gets to make decisions that have previously been made by patients and their doctors.
Doctors are already on the verge of refusing to participate in government-required care, such as for Medicare patients; it isn’t cost-effective for them to offer the service. In a free country, they cannot be forced to give care for no pay, so if the government tries to require that, doctors will leave their practices, retiring early or changing careers.
Obamacare was implemented without any bipartisan consultation. With control of Congress and the Senate, Democrats could push through whatever they wanted without a single Republican having a say—and that was their approach. But they couldn’t even get all Democrats on board, because the program was so unwanted among the American populace. They had to resort to bribing a number of legislators to get their vote, and they had to do it using shady, unethical technical procedures, over a weekend, because an honest straightforward vote was unwinnable.
The federal mandate is at the heart of the bill; there was no attempt to persuade people without coercion. But the US Constitution is limiting; the federal government is only given certain enumerated powers—absolutely not including the power to force citizens to make a purchase simply because they have been born. The 11th Circuit Court ruled the entire bill unconstitutional earlier this year, so there is hope that through legal and legislative means it will be ended before too many of the insidious tentacles take hold. (See Heritage Foundation, Impact of Obamacare.)
Is there a similarity between the two health care programs? A very small and limited similarity, plus another 2630 pages of dissimilarities. Romney has frequently pointed out that Massachusetts Care was a specific state solution to a state problem. It absolutely could not and should not be a federal program. He is consistently and firmly against Obamacare. His approach as president would be to use an executive order on his first day in office to give every state an exemption to opt out. Then he would work with the legislature (preferably a friendly conservative legislature) to repeal Obamacare in total, ASAP. He would then work to find market solutions to health care costs—many of which have been offered by conservative legislators but have been ignored.
Was “Romneycare” a model for Obamacare? No, but it has been used as an excuse. And Obamacare is so widely despised that the very existence of “Romneycare” has made it an effective attack on Romney.
I personally would prefer that Massachusetts Care not be part of Romney’s record. I understand his point of view, the position he was in at the time, and the wide ranging powers granted to states that are not granted to the federal government. But I would prefer looking at Romney without the challenge of having to defend anything even remotely socialist.
While I think I understand enough about the whole of Massachusetts Care that it is not disqualifying to Romney as a conservative presidential candidate, I would like to sit down with him and ask a couple of specific questions. I would like to know he has read Bastiat’s The Law, and/or Benson’s “The Proper Role of Government,” and then I would like to be reassured that he agrees—that, even though states are not prevented from acting in ways they can set up for themselves, that he believes there are things states simply should not do. I think, from other things I’ve heard Romney say, that he understands limited government philosophically, heartfelt. But I would like to hear it in language that is clear and unequivocal.

So far almost all we’ve covered on Romney has been to debunk attacks. It will be a pleasure to spend the next post covering his unique qualifications.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Measuring Mitt Part V

As you can probably tell, I’ve been leaning toward Mitt for a while. I have a lot of respect for most of the other candidates, particularly Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum—the ones I haven’t yet covered in this Measuring the Candidates series. (I also like much about Rick Perry, but I did spend a day covering him back in June, here and here. Ron Paul probably deserves a day as well.)

So I was in something like stunned confusion yesterday. I was watching Glenn Beck’s Christmas episode from the day before, and the news segment announced that Mitt Romney had said he was a moderate and a progressive. This week? When people are starting to see that side (and the various other concerns) of Gingrich? Why would he say such a thing? I thought I may need to totally rethink considering my endorsement.
But the first thing I did was do a search online to find the actual quote. I found it, and it does sound bad—but it’s from 2002, not this week.
Think about what you knew about progressivism in 2002. I’m fairly aware of words, and sometimes I notice when meanings change. For example, when I was 18 I was given a journal and started writing in it. I began by describing myself, and I included an assessment of myself as “liberal.” But this wasn’t a political statement. At that point in time, and in my life, the word meant “open-minded” or “generous.” I was going into a “liberal arts” field; the word was positive and unrelated to politics. In addition, while I have always been somewhat conservative in dress and daring, and politically what we now call “conservative,” at that point in my life “conservative”—meaning “stuck on the status quo and unwilling to change and grow”—was not how I would have described myself. Some 20 years later, as I went back and read that first journal, I added a sticky note pointing out that the meaning of the word had changed, and I had never been politically “liberal.”
It bothers me that the opposition so frequently hijacks words that I previously found useful. “Progressive” is one of those. It was around 2001 when my homeschooling children and I went through a history book that enlightened us about the seriously negative turn the country took in the first couple of decades of the 20th century. I had known very little about the inception of the income tax (that was never supposed to go above 7% for even the most wealthy), the Federal Reserve, and government intervention by Woodrow Wilson and others. I didn’t learn much more about Wilson until maybe 2006 or so, at which point I became aware of the Marxist use of the word “progressive.” So it was only shortly before candidate Hillary Clinton used the word  that I became aware of the alternate meaning. It had always meant what you’d expect: making progress, moving forward, positive movement. Suddenly it was code for Marxist socialist policies.
But back in 2002, even though experts who had read Wilson’s actual writings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries may have known the code meaning, most of us used the word “progressive” in its traditional positive sense. I can’t be certain how Mitt Romney defined the word in 2002, but my guess is that, to the liberal but politically uneducated Massachusetts constituency he was speaking to, it wasn’t socialist code. When Hillary used it, she intended the Wilsonian meaning, but used the word knowing her audience was unaware of the Marxist connotations; she was taking advantage of the positive connotations people were familiar with. And that was at least five years after Romney is accused of using the word with the current nefarious meaning.
Similarly, the word “moderate” didn’t really have its negative meaning until McCain’s candidacy four years ago. Although this word began gaining baggage over a longer time, it mostly meant “not extreme.” The Tea Party didn’t exist for another seven years . “Extreme” meant something very different from “wanting low taxes and adherence to the Constitution,” which isn’t extreme in reality but gets labeled that way; back in that day, “extreme” meant anti-government wackos like Timothy McVeigh or KKK members. I’m not acquainted with anyone in the GOP that qualifies as that older definition of “extreme,” so in 2002 we were all “moderates.” So, to a liberal Massachusetts audience in 2002, Mitt was probably saying, “You don’t need to worry about me doing anything completely at odds with your will; I’m just here to fix the state budget problems.”
Of course, I could be wrong. But when you look at everything Romney said during the last campaign—all conservative (using our current definition)—and at his record, which qualifies as conservative (with the proviso that we discuss health care, which we’re about to do), then you can see he is neither a stealth nor overt “progressive” by current definition.
I’m wondering who put forth the 2002 clip as “news,” and I wonder what agenda those outlets that ate it up are admitting to. The actual story was, “Back in 2002 Mitt Romney used the words ‘progressive’ and ‘moderate’ in describing himself, using the definitions they held back then.” The story was not, as purported, “Mitt Romney admits he is ‘progressive’ and ‘moderate’ after spending a career speaking and acting as if he is ‘conservative.’”
My intention had been to cover Massachusetts health care today, which is the biggest concern for most people (including me). But I felt like we had to cover that “definition” thing first, so we can go in with an open mind—what we used to call a “liberal” mind.
So I’m seeing two more posts in this Measuring Mitt series: Massachusetts care, and then a day on Romney's specific skills. I think I can get these out tomorrow and Monday. I’d still like to give the other candidates their due, but Christmas is coming, so no promises about regular posts for a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Measuring Mitt Part IV

Here’s what we’ve covered while measuring Mitt Romney so far:

·        Part I identified the main general arguments against Romney (but didn’t actually cover them yet—the rest of the post briefly covered Huntsman).
·        Part II looked at the problem of believing the media and opponent stories, with examples of their inaccuracies.
·        Part III looked at character issues, where even enemies have to admit Romney is exemplary.
Today and tomorrow I’d like to cover two more topics: the flip-flopping accusation and Romneycare.

Flip-Flopping and Other Distortions
The flip-flopping argument itself got traction back in the 2004 election. It was used—accurately—on John Kerry, who proudly proclaimed, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." There was a long list of Kerry waffles. He tried to appeal to both sides of various issues, managing to appeal to neither side.
So when the flip-flopping charge was brought against Romney, people thought they knew what that meant—it meant an unprincipled politician who would say anything to any audience and not even bother to keep track of his viewpoints.
Romney and Kerry are from the same state, but they’re very different people. As far as I can tell, every flip-flopping charge, as well as other differences from conservatives, stems from the previous presidential race. No one claims any change from the conservative positions Romney took then. He has been consistently supporting and expressing conservative ideas since his last candidacy, and he was recognized as the conservative among top contenders McCain and Huckabee at that time. So let’s look at some of those specific accusations, made mainly by the McCain campaign in 2007, and what was true.
·        In 2005 Romney supported McCain’s immigration bill as “reasonable” but then opposed it in 2007. In actuality Romney clearly rejected the 2005 bill. Romney remained steadfast in his anti-immigration policy, even when various bills in Congress changed.

·        Governor Romney failed to support Bush’s tax cuts. In reality, at the time he was asked, he was involved in trying to pass a state budget through a liberal legislature that would cut taxes and spending to bring the state back into the black from drowning deficits; at that time, under those pressures, he said he was focusing on the state and staying out of the national political debate. It would be quite a stretch to suggest, however, that staying out meant he was against cutting taxes—the very thing he was accomplishing at the state level against all odds. He remains consistent on this issue, and now that he is involved in the national debate, he is very much in favor of extending those very same Bush tax cuts.

·        Taxes went up under Romney in Massachusetts. Not true. Romney cut state taxes; cities raised taxes, as is their prerogative, whether wise or stupid.

·        Fees went up, and fees are essentially taxes. Not really. Fees cover costs for a special good or service, so they affect only those using the good or service. Fees went up not because Romney raised them, but because he reduced taxpayer subsidies of fees, so that those costs would be borne by the beneficiaries of the goods or services.

·        Illegal aliens were given sanctuary under Romney’s governorship. Not exactly. Certain cities granted sanctuary status on a city level, outside Romney’s influence. A state legislature could act to punish cities for failing to uphold immigration laws, but Massachusetts’s legislature was 85% Democrat, so they had no intention of acting to correct cities on that issue.

·        Romney claimed to be for gay rights and then stood against gay marriage. Not exactly a flip flop. When asked in 1994 whether homosexuals should have the same rights as other citizens—to work, to have access to courts, to be as free from harassment and harm as any citizen—then he said yes, they should have those rights. When, during his tenure as governor, a rogue court decided to “find” a “right” to redefine marriage so that it no longer meant one man and one woman who would engage in the act that could result in procreation and who would commit to a permanent and exclusive bond (an interest of the state as a whole)—then he fought against giving homosexuals that special power over the rest of us. He remains firm on that issue and has testified of the need for a national solution (constitutional amendment and upholding the DOMA law) so that such contracts made in one state will not impose the change in marriage definition on all other states. While it is no longer possible to use the phrase “I support gay rights” to mean supporting their citizenship rights rather than their radical agenda, when he said it in 1994, people knew what he meant. And his stance hasn’t changed. It is essentially the same stance I hold.

·        Romney is against capital punishment. Not true. Massachusetts has no death penalty, but Romney pressed to institute it.

·        Romney was against the NRA and then joined. Hmm. Not exactly. Romney has always been in favor of 2nd Amendment rights, and although he has never been in lock step with every NRA policy, he has signed on as a member. The main discrepancy is probably on waiting periods; he favored them and then opposed them. But that is because of a change in technology, not policy. Romney favors background checks, so that guns aren’t given to criminals and terrorists. It used to be that a background check took a few days—thus the waiting period. Now that technology makes them almost instantaneous, Romney is against the waiting period.

·        Romney lied about his father marching with Martin Luther King, Jr. Actually, George Romney did participate in King marches. And the elder Romney, former Governor of Michigan and one-time presidential candidate, personally led a march of 10,000. MLK, who was a Republican, spoke in favor of George Romney’s presidential run. It is possibly worth noting that it was Republicans who pushed for civil rights legislation in the 1960s; it was “conservative” Democrats (i.e., in favor of conserving their status quo) who opposed civil rights legislation.

·        Romney provided $50 co-pays for abortions in his Massachusetts healthcare bill. No. The abortion co-pay was not part of the bill, but was later court mandated. When Romney speaks of the importance of choosing strict constructionist judges, rather than activist judges, he speaks from experience with them.[1]

The point of today's post is that, now that it's 2011, maybe it's time to stop allowing the McCain campaign (or any other of Romney's enemies and opponents) to define Mitt Romney.

[1] I have paraphrased and added my commentary, but this list comes from a post by Ryan Larsen, January 31, 2008, 7:50 AM, from, no longer available online.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Measuring Mitt Part III

I watched Saturday’s debate, eventually. My assessment was that all of the candidates had done fairly well, while the moderators showed themselves to be attempting to accomplish something other than the rest of us. Then, afterward, pundits decided to tell us what we had heard—and their assessments differed from mine.

The story at the end of the debate was that Romney had a terrible night. I heard a number of excellent answers, and no terrible gaffes. Since our current commander in chief is a condescending “um” repeater without a teleprompter, and his VP is indeed more likely to speak a gaffe than a sensible sentence, it seems rather disingenuous to claim this performance was any less stellar than the debates of the past half year, let alone that it was disastrous.
What was the media’s story of disaster? It related—yet again—to Rick Perry’s inaccurate claim that Mitt’s book claimed the individual mandate of Massachusetts Care would be a good pattern for national health care, and that a later edition of the book took out the phrase. Not so. There’s a more thorough discussion of that here. And it was discussed, covered by and others before. So Perry was using the issue disingenuously, and Romney was forcing him to face it.
I would bet (if I were to bet—maybe $.25) that Romney is not a betting man. He intended no bet with Perry. It was an expression of, “If you really believe it, then prove it.” Why the concern? Because $10,000 is a lot of money, and most people in today’s economy couldn’t risk that—so the story is he’s out of touch with mainstream America, sort of like when Obama bemoaned the rising cost of the designer lettuce, arugula.
And the story of the pundits was that Newt had had a brilliant evening. Newt often does well in debates. I actually agreed with Santorum that both Newt and Mitt were expressing their points well, but that in the end Mitt’s point held more weight. (It was on some comment Newt had made about Palestinians having no historical right to their land—a historically accurate statement, but not carefully stated in perilous times for Israeli allies.)
If Newt had done so well, then there would have been no call for the attack Monday on Romney’s wealth—spewing the liberal line that his wealth was ill-gotten, and he was an evil capitalist because he had laid people off.  We can talk about Bain & Co. and Bain Capital another day, but I don’t believe Newt believes that attack; he was just spouting off in frustration. But I would measure it a worse offense for Newt to attack Mitt’s success at capitalism than for Mitt to have proposed a $10,000 bet on something he knew he couldn’t lose.
Character Matters
What I really want to cover today is some of the character issues about Mitt. Both questions about character (related to marital fidelity) and understanding of economic struggle came up in the debate.  I don’t know if a campaign can actually control this kind of thing, but there have been a couple of positive pieces about his character lately. Last week’s Parade Magazine piece was surprisingly positive, mainly about Mitt the family man, one who grew up doing chores and earning money. It showed him to be human—and like people I know.
Then December 10th there was another piece, specifically about his personal economy, called “Two Romneys: Wealthy Man, Thrifty Habits,” that details his innate thriftiness. A quintessential story was of a time in the 90s when his company had just handed out some very lucrative bonuses, and an employee gave him a spin in the $90,000 Porsche 911 Carrera he had bought with that windfall. Romney, as the story goes,
was entranced by the sleek, supercharged vehicle: at the end of a spin around downtown Boston, he turned to the employee, Marc Wolpow, and marveled, “Boy, I really wish I could have one of these things” Mr. Wolpow was dumbfounded. “You could have 12 of them,” he recalled thinking to himself. But Mr. Romney had frequently driven an inexpensive, domestic stalwart that looked out of place in the company parking lot—a Chevrolet Caprice station wagon with red vinyl seats and a banged-up front end.
Ann Romney is a woman of many talents; one is haircutting. She cut hair for the five boys and Mitt until the last boy left home. Then she said, “That’s enough. You can go pay someone to get a haircut.” By then he was governor of Massachusetts. The nearest place was a block from the capitol, so he went there, even though it irked him to have to pay $50. (I pay that; it gives me a similar pang, but I don’t think it’s over-the-top extravagant.)
His father, George Romney, had grown up poor. It says something for the family that he was wise enough to avoid the pitfalls of many who become rich. He insisted that his kids work. Mitt couldn’t go join friends on a Saturday until his chores were done. And he had part-time jobs through high school and college. It is also telling that Mitt made these same kinds of requirements of his own sons—all of whom are married, educated, and gainfully employed. It’s a good track record for any family in today’s world, and particularly for an extremely wealthy family.
He does spend extravagantly on a few things: his houses are large, with swimming, tennis, and other recreation attached. The purpose of a home or vacation home is to provide a place where the family can gather and enjoy being together. If you’ve got money, that’s something worth buying. He has been known, however, to rent a U-Haul to move from one vacation home to another.
He also spends big bucks on the horses Ann rides as part of her therapy for MS. Speaking of her MS, she tells the story of Mitt reacting to that news. When they realized something was very wrong, they went for testing. ALS was a possibility, and terminal. When it wasn’t that, he assured her they could get through anything. He stayed by her side; he told her the only thing that was important was having her with him. And they count it as a daily miracle that she has enjoyed such a long remission. If he becomes president, someday they'll make a movie including this story, and critics will say it's too sweet to come across as real. But it's real for Mitt and Ann.
There’s one other story I came across a while back, attesting to his character. It was a story by a neighbor in Belmont, Massachusetts, a young, liberal non-religious woman. The story was in response to attacks on Mormonism; she said she would not vote for Romney, never had. But if a person’s reason was his religion, that was just wrong-headed bigotry. I’ve written on that before, but what I liked from her story was this anecdote. When they moved to the area, one of her first friends was a Mormon neighbor who invited them to church. They didn’t have a church, or really felt like they were seeking one; but they did respond to the friendly invitation, and to the warmth the felt in the meetings, so they attended occasionally for some time. This was during the time Romney was governor, but he attended church the same as her other Mormon neighbors:
Even though he was Governor at that time, we still saw plenty of him at Sunday services and elsewhere. Whenever I encountered Mitt and his family at church services, I was struck at how accessible he was, how friendly. In fact, when my then-toddler threw her sippy cup across the chapel, it was Mitt who crawled under a pew to retrieve the cup. We even have a rug—it’s in our living room now—from Mitt’s son Tagg. And all the Mormons were generous and friendly like that.

A complaint I often hear about Romney is that he seems too slick, too nice, too unlike real people. But not to me. Other than the extreme wealth part, and being better at what he does than just about anybody, he seems like many people I have known. Mr. Spherical Model would be just the kind to reach under a pew for someone’s sippy cup. In fact, he once rescued a mom whose son threw up on the bench in front of us—took the child while she went to get towels. That’s heroic beyond the threshold of my generosity (I don’t do well around throwing up). My brother-in-law is successful, with a very nice house—designed with the idea of family and friends coming there to spend enjoyable times. He owns a boat and spends much of his free time driving it around the nearby lake towing the kids and their friends behind on tubes. I saw a video of Mitt and family, last time around, showing a scene that looked to me just like our extended family.
 A man I grew up near owned a hotel chain; I didn’t know he was wealthy until he offered his small yacht for our youth group to use on a trip to Lake Powell. I recognize as very real the kind, generous family man who might also happen to be wealthy. That seems much more normal to me than, for example, Gingrich’s somewhat complicated family life. If Romney doesn’t seem real to you, then what does that say about your world? And, truthfully, would it be such a bad thing to have someone who lives this kind of life be in a position of example?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Measuring Mitt Part II

Mitt Romney with some of the family,
from Parade Magazine article, here
Back on June 13th I covered a quote from Mitt Romney that Rush Limbaugh dredged up yesterday, claiming it was disqualifying. It’s about climate change. Rush quoted a paragraph in which Romney acknowledges that many experts believe the climate is warming, and that human actions may contribute; Romney acknowledges this—and Rush ends the quote. But it was only an introduction to Romney’s policy statement. He talked about the economy being a priority. He’s against cap and trade schemes. And while he likes alternative renewable energies, the immediate need is to drill for oil and natural gas here in the US, as the only way to alleviate our dependence on foreign oil. His actions as governor of Massachusetts verified that his beliefs are much closer to Sarah Palin’s than Al Gore’s. But you wouldn’t know that if all you heard was the clip Rush aired—and which was the total provided in most news at the time.

When you hear Romney in full, it turns out he’s really a conservative, pro-Constitution, pro-free-enterprise American. So why do we so seldom hear him in full?
I think there’s a style issue—not good or bad; it just is. Romney acknowledges the opposition; he expresses what they believe, to let all parties know he’s listening to them, that he has fully examined the information, and that he does not dismiss their viewpoint out of hand. Then he goes on to express his policy position, based on the priorities he believes are best for all. So, on a number of issues, when he is doing the preface, the “I see your point of view and understand your concerns” part, he gets quoted by media and other opposition looking for sound bites that work toward their goals, rather than the ones that best express his actual positions.

It might be that I am being too generous, that what he is doing is playing to all sides. But I don’t think so. If you do believe that, try suspending your belief on some of the so-called flip-flops to separate preface from policy statement.
The most cited actual policy change is on abortion, so let’s take that one. Mitt has always said that his personal position is pro-life; it would be best if there never had to be any abortion. But you’ve probably seen quotes of him back when he was running against Ted Kennedy in 1994, or for Massachusetts governor in 2002, saying things that sound pleasing to a “pro-choice” (anti-life) crowd. I am not in favor of saying whatever you have to say, whether you mean it or not. But the circumstances of these quotes were in response to direct questioning about how he would govern in a state with an 85% Democrat congress. Everyone knew he was conservative; they don’t vote for conservatives there—that was a given. But they were in dire need of someone with Mitt’s business skills to bring the state out of a spiral toward bankruptcy. And he knew he could serve the state well. So he was assuring them that his goals as governor were mainly limited to economic issues; he was not planning to conduct a crusade against abortion, which was settled in the law for the time being. What he promised them was that he would not take action as governor to further limit abortions—actions he couldn’t have accomplished with the congress in that state anyway.
Let’s put this in the form of preface and policy, with me paraphrasing for him (so quotes aren’t his actual words; they’re my suppositions of what he meant): “I understand that, as a state of mostly Democrats, you have a belief at odds with my own concerning abortion. But I also understand the law stands, and changing it in this state is neither within my ability nor is it my purpose in running for office. I believe I can serve this state well economically. In order to have that opportunity, I promise not to try to further limit abortion while I am in office.” His policy, then, isn’t purposely to protect abortion; it is to avoid acting at variance with the overwhelming majority of the state on that issue, despite his personal beliefs.
What did he actually do in office? A law came before him intended to make it even easier to get an abortion in the state. He looked at this; it put him in the position of not just leaving the laws as it stood, but in bringing about more abortions than would have happened without the change. That meant he himself would be responsible for abortions happening. He vetoed the bill.
In reality he has a perfect pro-life record. Facing this dilemma did in fact lead to a change in his policy. While he kept his promise to the state, he came to realize that coming out against abortion, and pressing for legislation, either state by state or nationally (including overturning Roe v. Wade), would be necessary to keep legislation such as he faced in Massachusetts from causing more damage.
Is that a flip-flop? I don’t think so. It is technically a subtle change in policy—in the right direction.
Back in the 90s Romney used the phrase that he believed abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.” We all know, because of Bill Clinton, that the phrase is code for “abortion on demand.” But that doesn’t mean it always meant that. The timing of Romney’s saying it was when it still likely meant only when the mother’s life (and usually then also the baby’s life) was at risk, or in cases of rape and incest—which means that the mother never made the choice to act in a way that could bring about pregnancy; her body was used against her will. We can argue the validity of that point of view another day, but I believe the only GOP candidate who doesn’t hold this view is Cain, who believes there should be no exceptions at all for any abortion. Romney’s, not Cain’s, is the typical conservative viewpoint.
Romney has consistently held that view, then, for a couple of decades or longer. The only change was whether, as an elected official, he could promise not to deal with the issue. He found that even in Massachusetts he had to face it, and at every level he has been unfailingly pro-life.
This is the one issue conservatives think they know for certain against Romney. But they’re wrong. So maybe there are more of those things, as Reagan says, “It’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.” My goal is not to be an apologist [i.e., one who argues in defense of something or someone, not to be confused with making excuses for]for Romney; my goal is to find out what’s true, about him and the other candidates. To that end, measuring Romney will probably take at least another post or two.
I still believe most of our candidates agree on most conservative issues. And we’re fortunate that all of them understand that they can only appeal to voters by expressing conservative ideas. So our efforts are to identify the best one for our country—all of whom would be better than their eventual opponent.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

More Measuring—Huntsman, Plus Mitt Part I

Losing my computer this week has been a hindrance. I’ve gathered info, particularly about Mitt Romney, literally for years. The new computer was delivered today, but it may still be a few days before I have access to my digital world as I once knew it.
So, today is an organizing day, for future posts, as well as a little bit on Huntsman as the alternative of the week.
My reason for going through this measuring-the-candidates process has been to wade through the mythos surrounding the slate of candidates by the media. Where I’ve paid attention and gathered information over time, I have some confidence that I’m probably drawing accurate conclusions. But where I haven’t done as much personal research, I’m less certain that I’m getting past the media filters.
These are the media lines about Romney—which I hear repeated back to me from Tea Party friends and other conservatives—that I will tackle in future posts, to see just how much is true and how much is not:
·         He’s a flip-flopper, ready to say whatever his audience wants to hear.
·         He’s a moderate without core principles.
·         He’s not appealing enough to beat Obama.
I’ve said before that the way to cover each of these candidates is at length, rather than with measured debate minutes or other media sound bites. So it may take multiple days to cover those points fairly—and I hope I’m up to it.
As for Jon Huntsman, today is just my beginning, a token effort, really. His wife was asked recently about whether it was time people came him a second look, and she said it’s about time they gave him a first look. That’s probably accurate. I have not taken him seriously. His kick-off speech was unimpressive. When he sat out a debate, I didn’t miss him. Sometimes he points his finger at us as if insisting he’s the only reasonable person in the room. It’s annoying.
On the other hand, there are times when he gives a decent conservative answer to some questions. He was a pretty conservative governor of Utah, a mostly conservative state, and produced good results. He approves of Paul Ryan’s plan for getting the US economy back on track—considered conservative by many. Arguments against the Ryan plan (from those who believe cutting government spending is a good thing) include that it may not go far enough or fast enough, but it was proposed as realistically doable, once we get a willing president and senate.
Huntsman sees himself as conservative, even if less Tea Party aligned than his opponents. And maybe he is. I will need to keep looking, because I have probably been unfairly dismissive.
He comes from a good family. His father, Jon Huntsman, Sr., worked his way up to wealth without inheriting it. He has a life plan of giving away all of his wealth by the time he dies (a daunting assignment), so, while his children may have received some benefits of wealth growing up, what is more significant is their father’s example of hard work combined with generosity. While his father hasn’t been particularly political, he is one of the human beings Glenn Beck admires most.
I am not disturbed that Huntsman said yes to serve the Obama administration as ambassador to China; having him there was probably a good thing. But I am bothered that he would take that assignment while in office as governor. I’ve seen other governors take positions in other administrations, and I have the same qualms. I believe in state sovereignty, so I don’t see it as a step up to leave a governorship to serve as an ambassador. In Utah at least there was a good chance of being replaced by another GOP governor, or it would have appeared to be just an Obama attempt to remove opposition. Experience in China—including the language—is something Huntsman brings. I’m not totally convinced of his understanding of international affairs worldwide, but, again, I haven’t looked beyond the foreign policy debates.
It's unlikely to happen, but if it were a showdown between Romney and Huntsman, at least the argument about whether the nominee could be a Mormon would be moot. All those who have worried over whether Romney is Christian have said next to nothing about Huntsman. Such a final showdown would make me chuckle.
So, while it’s not enough, if you start seeing Huntsman suddenly looked at as yet another non-Romney alternative, you’ll at least recognize his name and which one he is. You can start your own research at his campaign website:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Date that Lives in Infamy

I’m taking a day to remember December 7, 1941, a date required to be committed to memory. My purpose is simply to honor and remind; my knowledge isn’t specialized enough to add much after 70 years.
Photo from Japanese plane,
early in the attack;
the explosion is the USS Oklahoma;
available on Wikipedia, "Attack on Pearl Harbor"
It was a Sunday morning. My dad, a WWII veteran, was not yet in the military. He had spent 2 ½ years overseas as a missionary, being sent home from neutral Sweden because of the surrounding dangers. During his shipboard trip home, he came very close to a major battle, leading the ship to remain well lit the remainder of the journey to avoid accidental attack. But by December he had gotten a job and was getting on with life. He took that weekend to drive from San Bernardino to Los Angeles, for a conference of young adults sponsored by the church. He had spent a day or two dancing and socializing. Then, that Sunday morning, he was driving to the church for a worship service and had the radio on. The announcement came that Pearl Harbor had been attacked by the Japanese.
The church meeting was subdued and emotional. People from the congregation got up to take turns voicing their trust in God and commitment to Him, no matter what was required. Before the meeting was over, an announcement came that all military were required to return immediately to their bases. The group gave them a tearful farewell.
My dad tried to enlist right away, but it took a year before he was accepted; I don’t know why, possibly because he was very thin for his height. A year later he was accepted into the Army. By then, he said, they were willing to take anybody breathing.
The purpose of the Pearl Harbor attack wasn’t to get America into the World War; it was to keep it out. There was an assumption, because the US had tried to remain isolated, feeling safe because of the two oceans separating it from ongoing conflicts, that the US was weak and unwilling to fight, and that the loss of a major portion of its fleet would leave us cowering. The Japanese admiral, Yamamoto, who worked up the tactical plan, was concerned that the attack would instead wake “a sleeping giant,” which turned out to be true.
Nine US ships were sunk, 21 damaged, 3 beyond repair. Some 2,403 were killed, including 68 civilians. An additional 1,178 were injured. (Japan lost 29 out of 350 attacking aircraft, plus their midget sub.) Until 9/11/2001 there was never as large an attack on the United States. The following day, President Roosevelt gave the speech including the phrase, “a date that will live in infamy.” The US declared war on Japan. Four days later Hitler declared war against the US, and from that point on isolationism was out of the question. Instead, the goal was to completely thwart the tyrannists trying to put the world under their control, and to offer freedom as widely as possible. No other outcome was acceptable, and the United States was the special part of the world given the mission.
Following the war, the US did not subsume the losing parties; we helped them recover and live up to their promises to avoid future aggression. Japan and Germany could not have suffered loss to a greater victor. After the war, US generosity helped rebuild the war ravaged areas.
It takes a lot of individual goodness to produce the national virtue the US portrayed in WWII. It is my hope that we still have enough of that goodness to win the day against today’s would-be world-dominating tyrants. If we live the laws of civilization, freedom, and free enterprise, I trust that God will help us come out on top again—to the benefit of the entire world.
You can read a couple of nice summaries on the attack on Pearl Harbor here and here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Newt Gingrich Part II

My computer crashed last night (literally, crashing to the floor, leading to the demise of the hard drive). I had part two almost written, but it is lost, alas. We can only assume it was brilliant enough to have solved the world’s problems and will be greatly missed.
In its absence, I will attempt to say what I think today would best conclude my Gingrich assessment. Some of the plan for today was to cover how conservatives feel about him.
Newt is a good communicator. He is comfortable in front of a microphone or a crowd. He needs no teleprompter, which is why some people imagine a Gingrinch-Obama debate with some relish. I’ve always liked listening to him explain things. Back in the 90s, when Hillary Clinton was trying to get the word out about nationalized health care, she would speak—loudly, tensely, painfully slowly, as if waiting for the echo to die down in a football stadium, or maybe as if to an auditorium of hearing impaired slow learners. Newt, on the other hand, would just talk. Fast, conversationally, as if involved in an intelligent conversation with an equally intelligent friend. He still sounds that way. (And I’m wondering if there is something in a liberal’s genetic or cultural makeup that makes them prefer being talked down to by less capable speakers, particularly the so-called great Orator, Obama.)
But there is a drawback to Newt's conversational style: sometimes he’s just talking through ideas aloud, the kind of thing we do at home or in the neighborhood, just seeing what an idea sounds like, to bounce it around while we look at it outside of ourselves. But he is doing it publicly, on the national stage. He’s not very careful, and sometimes not very consistent.
Announcing, during a debate, a plan to give a path to citizenship to any illegal who has succeeded in evading detection long enough is an example. Twenty years, he said. Exactly? What about those who have only hidden out here for 19 years? What if they haven’t managed to stay out of trouble the whole 20 years, but had an indiscretion somewhere along the line? What about the paying taxes part? If they’ve been paying taxes, then they’ve had a stolen social security number; does that count against them or for them? In other words, the sentiment that we’re not going to send the equivalent of heat seeking missiles to root out long-time illegals isn’t a well-thought-out policy. It’s just a consideration—and not even a relevant one until the border is secure.
His mixed messages on climate control—and government’s role in it—is another example. His “Drill here, Drill now, Pay less” slogan was brilliantly concise and timely. But then he went and did that ad on the couch with Nancy Pelosi. He brushes that off as one of the stupidest things he's done. But one doesn’t get up in the morning and say, “I don’t know why, but I just feel I should do a climate change ad with Nancy Pelosi today,” and then afterward smack your forehead and say, “What was I thinking?” He was thinking he would accomplish something; he didn’t. But to date he hasn’t explained what he was trying to accomplish—probably something meant as being broad-minded, reaching across the aisle, or possibly simply promoting himself.  Certainly not something related to the enumerated powers of government.
He started out, as most Republicans did in the pre-Reagan era, as Democrat-lite, not totally against government intervention, but less of it than what the Democrats were offering. Some of that attitude was a result of the oppression of constitutional ideas for some decades. As Reagan brought the message of lower taxes and smaller government home, and returned us to an unabashed patriotism, I think Newt moved along with that transition. But I don’t think it’s from an inborn understanding of constitutionally enumerated powers, of which he is very aware as a historian. He has a problem many smart people do, a sense that if everybody just listened to him and did things his way, they’d be better off. Liberals, who often make the assumption they are the smartest in the room, along with certain Republicans who often recognize (and overestimate) their own brilliance tend to have this mistaken notion. Humility would help—along with an understanding that no centralized power has better decision-making ability than the disparate minds of millions of individuals.
Newt has spent some four decades in Washington, as an insider. Good or bad depends on your perspective. This could mean he has experience. Or it could mean that he’s riddled with the disease we’re trying to cure.
Historically it has been extremely rare for someone to go from Congressman to President, even though as Congressman he was Speaker. Name recognition is the one thing he has over the other candidates. He is well known, but no one beyond his own congressional district has ever voted him into office. (This is a drawback for Michelle Bachman as well.) And since his fall from grace a decade and a half ago he has been elected to nothing. We know the opposition hated him then, and we can presume they hate him still. Any less-than-conservative views he may offer will not win liberal votes; they will only alienate conservative votes.
I heard somewhere today that there’s a lot of Newt bashing going on right now. I didn’t time this piece to join that; I’m going through the whole crowd, measuring pros and cons. If Newt has indeed mended his spiritual weaknesses, and if he can reign in his tendency to try to solve problems using government intervention, then I would be enthusiastic in preferring him to Obama. But those are big ifs. When he got in the race, my first reaction was, “Not seriously?” I don’t want to be pressed into defending everything he has done and said. But I’ve been glad to have him in the debates. He believes in the future of our great country. And he can articulate a conservative message. He has a lot to offer. But if I had my choice, I’d prefer him in an advisory role, rather than as President Gingrich.

Monday, December 5, 2011

More Measuring: Newt Gingrich Part I

Friday’s post was barely in time to make the relevant points before Herman Cain’s suspension of his campaign seemed to make them irrelevant. But the main points are still true: if we want civilization, we require a civilized leader—a religious believer who lives the basics of the Ten Commandments (including faithfulness in marriage). And it would be helpful to have someone who can communicate the message of constitutional freedom and free enterprise, despite the efforts of media to distort. 

Before we get into concerns about today’s candidate, let me say—yet again—that any of the GOP candidates would be a huge improvement over what we have now. All of them are far more likely to take the conservative actions that will lead toward better economic times. And most know enough about foreign policy to make good headway back from the weakening Obama has caused. 

So, while I have concerns about every candidate—and some are serious concerns—I expect to vote for the GOP candidate, whoever it is. The measuring I’m doing here is to differentiate among them, to find the best candidate, if possible. There isn’t anyone as distasteful as McCain was last time, and even then it was clear he would have been preferable to the mess of corruption, cronyism, racism, class envy, economic mayhem, and international weakness that we got. 

Newt Gingrich, photo from
Newt Gingrich Part I
Let’s take a historical look at Newt Gingrich’s very long career. He started back in the late 70s, in the House of Representatives. He had a belief, an obsession, really, that Republicans could regain control of the House. He pushed toward that dream all the way through the 80s, and finally saw it come to fruition in 1994, nearly two decades after beginning that journey—and 40 years since the GOP had last held the House majority. At that point he had worked his way up to leadership, as Speaker of the House, the position held by Nancy Pelosi from 2006-2010. He and his fellow House conservatives put forth the “Contract with America,” a set of conservative reforms they promised to bring up for a vote within the first 100 days of office.  

Newt helped author the Contract and make it a priority, once he had power to set the House voting agenda. But almost everything died in the Senate, so nearly all of the reforms remain on any conservative’s to-do list for Congress (Wikipedia article here). 

The House is where spending bills originate. In late 1995 there was a standoff. Republicans put forth a budget that decreased the rate of growth—which Pres. Clinton vetoed. Democrats, with willing cohorts in the media, portrayed slower growth as draconian cuts that would starve children and the elderly. Pres. Clinton shut down government for a number of days, and blamed Republicans for the impasse. Newt Gingrich gave in. Maybe the pressure was too great to win; but I was disappointed. If I was capable of understanding the situation, then there must have been a way to get the word out. Even Tiananmen Square got the word out.  

The media used Gingrich as a target—as if all the woes of the poor and less fortunate were caused by this one man. There was an infamous magazine cover where he was portrayed as “The Gingrich Who Stole Christmas.” He took a lot of negative and pressed forward. However much reaching across the aisle he may have offered, there is sincere hatred toward him from the liberal side. And, no matter how much hype there is for him as the non-Romney candidate of the week/month, there is a strong probability that, if he were the GOP candidate, the media would dredge up every old hatred.  

Then there is the fact that he did not, in fact, succeed in bringing about the much needed changes voters had hoped for in the sweep of 1994. 

It is almost without question that he would attract only the most disappointed Obama voters. But my real concern is how conservatives feel about him. We’ll go into that tomorrow.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Troubles with Cain

We can try to separate things political, economic, and social, but in our real world they are interrelated. So, as I begin this process of measuring presidential candidates (political sphere), I start with the rules for civilization. 

Herman Cain, photo from Fox News
Specifically, the rules for civilization include having a people who believe in God as the giver of their inalienable rights; to not believe in God as the right giver is to give that honor arbitrarily to a human. So, while it’s possible to be an adequate administrator while not believing, it isn’t possible to lead a country toward civilization without believing. 

Among the behaviors belief in God requires are the basics of the 10 commandments (true whether a person belongs to a Judeo-Christian faith or something else). Among the 10 commandments is this proscription: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” This brings us to the second rule for civilization: family is the basic unit of civilization. Leadership toward civilization must include preservation and nurturing of the family—from which all rules for civilization are passed from generation to generation. Without a critical mass of strong, intact families, civilization decays into savagery—always.

So, does it matter whether a politician is a sleazebag? Yes, it matters. Can such a person still love the country and make wise decisions concerning the execution of constitutional laws? Yes, it’s possible—but it’s not probable. In addition, when such a leader secretly behaves sleazily, he not only breaks a solemn oath to those closest to him, his own family; he puts himself in the position of being vulnerable to blackmail, which puts our nation at risk, possibly at critical turning points. 

If it doesn’t matter, let the politician admit openly to being a sleazebag, instead of lying to the voters. 

This opinion is at odds with an opinion piece from Fox News yesterday, by Dr. Keith Ablow, who says: 

I am simply stating a fact: The sexual histories of political candidates and elected officials have no place in politics because they can distract us from supporting those men and women with the skills to reduce the nation’s debt, create jobs and defeat our enemies.
The world is far too dangerous to exclude from public office those men and women whose sexual histories make us blush or make us sick. We shouldn’t even indulge our obvious, regrettable and seemingly insatiable hunger to peek in on them.
Like it or not a man can be unfaithful to his wife and a patriot who is faithful to his nation. A man can make horrible, unfathomable decisions about who he goes to bed with and make brilliant decisions about the economy and foreign policy. A man can break his marriage vows in sleazy motel rooms and be willing to die for his country.
The reasoning that suggests that a man who cheats on his wife can’t be trusted with the public till or legions of soldiers or nuclear weapons is naïve to the point of being foolish, and distracting to the point of endangering our national goals. 

So rest assured that I am aware I am considered naïve and foolish for thinking it is important that the prime leader of a civilization should himself be civilized. Nevertheless, I believe I am right. 

I don’t, as Ablow implies, have an insatiable hunger to peek in on the private, intimate relationships of politicians. I am comforted to see a healthy marriage and family; it gives me useful data. Its absence also gives me useful data. 

So, with this background, let me say that I do not assume all rumors are true. The first one, then two, then three accusations of sexual harassment against Herman Cain strike me as opportunistic and unlikely, considering lack of detail, lack of consistency with any other reports on Cain’s career, and the odd connections to Chicago (and its political machine, which Obama has always been part of). I don’t know enough yet about these women coming out of nowhere, suddenly now, and then the addition of this week’s accusation of a long-time affair. 

I don’t deal with lying well. I don’t understand using lying as a tactic or tool, either of attack or self-defense. So it’s hard to assume someone is lying without some kind of surrounding information. When a man has a long, distinguished career, with no apparent evidence of sexual dysfunction, it would be cruel to jump to the conclusion these accusations are true. It is also difficult to get into the heads of someone who would put herself forward with a lie, simply to destroy someone. So I don’t dismiss the women, but I do find their timing and details suspect. 

Then we get to the media narrative about Cain: he doesn’t answer the accusations well. In future posts I’ll cover some of the other media narratives and why we shouldn’t heed them. Unfortunately, this one strikes me as accurate. Here, for Cain’s use, is an example of a clear answer: “I categorically deny that I have ever behaved in a way that could be construed as sexual harassment by these women or any others. It happens in business that people in power can be a target of disgruntled employees who sue with baseless accusations. These nuisance lawsuits are occasionally settled because that is more efficient and cost-effective than litigating. While you may disagree and would have preferred there be no settlement, because settlement leaves my reputation vulnerable, I acted in a way that I thought was best for my organizations.” 

Instead, he said there may have been a settlement, but he didn’t know. And then he said we know the accusations were baseless, because when they were investigated they were found to be baseless. But—he presumably didn’t need an investigation to know that; he already knew they were baseless. What he may have meant was, “While I, of course, knew the accusations were baseless, investigations verified that.” 

Then there was the new accusation this week, about the affair. Let me speculate on how Romney would handle such an accusation. Following laughter, he would say, “That is absolutely false. Everyone who knows me knows it’s false. I carry out my life in a way that prevents even the appearance that such behavior could be part of my character. Ask anyone who has known me well during my entire life.” And thousands of people would indeed verify as to this aspect of his character. 

Cain, instead, failed to categorically deny, and said the accuser was an acquaintance, someone he had thought was a friend. He said something about his lawyers’ giving him information about what was supposed to be in the story. Then a day or two later he claimed that his (or any other candidate's) private consensual sexual life is none of the media’s business. And then it comes out that since the accusation he hasn’t talked with his wife about what really happened. Really? Not even a phonecall of reassurance? It looks bad. 

There’s still a chance this was nothing. I have a hard time believing a person of his business acumen would have the hubris to run for president—as his first elected office—when he knows his behavior has been so bad that a single true revelation would completely destroy his chances. Would such a man take that risk? If so, he’s not wise enough to be the most powerful leader of the free world. 

The sexual accusations aside, there are other stumbles that trouble me. A singular example is the way he handled an accusation of racism against Perry. Perry’s family leased hunting land for some decades. A rock near the entrance (not actually on the property, if I understand correctly, but only next to the entrance) contained an unacceptable racial epithet, as part of a place name of the adjacent property. About three decades ago (but I don’t know how long after the family began leasing the property) Perry and his father covered up the offensive word. Enough of their covering had worn away that it was possible to see part of the word and ascertain what it had been.  

The media went to Cain with the information that Perry had a bad word on his property he hadn’t promptly covered up. It was a set-up. Cain didn’t perceive it. Instead he answered that, if it was true Perry had neglected to do something about that word, he was indeed racist. Instead of doing due diligence, he gave the knee-jerk reaction the media was seeking and accused a decent, respected man with a long history of contrary evidence, of being racist. When you’re the lone black man on your side, with the idea of showing conservatism is not equivalent to racism, as the media conspires to say, then that was a serious gaffe. 

With my advantage of hindsight, I suggest Cain could easily have said, “I have a hard time believing my esteemed opponent Rick Perry is a closet racist. Let’s assume we don’t have all the information yet.” 

I didn’t write off Cain because of this error. But I did become more skeptical. My guess is that the accumulation of these errors—along with the possibility that he may be guilty of any of the sexual accusations—will end his campaign well ahead of the first primary state, maybe within a week. Overall, I think he has been a valuable addition to the political debate. I wish he had been a better man.