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Romney and “Conservative Doctrine”

There is apparently nothing that Mitt Romney can say that will shake David Frum’s confidence in him (via Andrew):

That vivid phrase, “doom loop” gets the headline—and nicely obscures the way in which Romney has otherwise popped open the escape hatches from conservative doctrine.

“There is also a recognition in this country” nicely elides the question whether Romney himself believes in any parallel between America’s situation and those of Greece, Spain, and Italy.

The “conceivably” is an elegant extra-distancing touch. A lot of things are conceivable, including many things that are impossible.

I admit that I don’t understand support for a candidate based on the assumption that he is a slippery weasel unwilling to state publicly his own views on important issues. Here Frum is arguing that Romney is thoroughly disingenuous and engages in deceptive wordplay, and he describes this as Romney’s “leadership secret.” Scott Galupo is almost certainly right about how Mitt Romney would govern if elected, but I have to think that moderate and reformist Republicans are deluding themselves into believing that Romney secretly agrees with them in spite of everything he has said during the campaign. This is reminiscent of the persistent efforts of some foreign policy realists and moderate Republicans to ignore the content of Jon Huntsman’s policy proposals, which were antithetical to most of what most of his admirers claimed to want, and to pay attention only to his temperament and personality.

For what it’s worth, this gives Romney too much credit for cleverness and too little for staying on message. One of Romney’s regular themes is that he is opposing Obama’s efforts to make America more “European,” by which I believe he means an America with a larger welfare state. Romney has made the comparison with Greece explicit on several occasions:

On Hannity, in a repeat of an earlier comment that’s looking to become a signature Romney campaign line, the former Massachusetts governor tied Obama’s policies to those of the Greek government, suggesting that America’s growing debt is driving the country towards a Greek-style bailout [bold mine-DL].

“We are moving toward the Greek-type numbers. My guess is at the Democratic convention, [Obama] will not be appearing in front of columns like in Denver. He won’t want to remind people of Greece,” Romney said.

There doesn’t seem to be any “escape hatch” here. Romney may or may not believe that the comparison with Greece is valid, but he seems to be doing everything possible to associate himself with that idea.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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