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Behind closed doors, Romney reveals real reforms

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 10:30 am - April 16, 2012.
Filed under: 2012 Presidential Election,Real Reform

A lot of bloggers (mostly on the left) are buzzing about an MSNBC report of presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s remarks at a “closed-door fundraiser . . . Sunday evening” where the former Massachusetts governor “offered some of the most specific details to date about the policies he would pursue if elected.”

Unlike remarks the presumptive Democratic nominee made four years ago at a similar closed-door fundraiser, Romney’s comments hardly present the image of an elitist politician looking down on American citizens not drawn to his campaign.  Instead, they reveal a conservative reformer, eager to eliminate excessive bureaucracy and to promote federalism:

“I’m going to take a lot of departments in Washington, and agencies, and combine them. Some eliminate, but I’m probably not going to lay out just exactly which ones are going to go,” Romney said. “Things like Housing and Urban Development, which my dad was head of, that might not be around later. But I’m not going to actually go through these one by one. What I can tell you is, we’ve got far too many bureaucrats. I will send a lot of what happens in Washington back to the states.”

Asked about the fate of the Department of Education in a potential Romney administration, the former governor suggested it would also face a dramatic restructuring. (more…)

Has class warfare rhetoric ever won an (American) election?

Last night when I “rescued” a comment caught in our spam filter, I wondered why this critic was so convinced that class warfare rhetoric would propel his candidate back into the Oval Office.  Weighing in on my piece about Ann Romney, Joseph wrote:

And it’s a little disingenuous to say that the work of a wealthy SAHM [Stay-at-Home Mom] who never has to worry about health insurance and has to instead manage an army of support staff and decide which Escalade to bring down in the garage elevator… is in ANY way equivalent to that of an uninsured mother who has to worry about where her kids’ next meal might come from and MUST therefore work outside the home.

In response, I made a request of our critic, a request I repeat this morning:  “please tell me elections where class warfare has made a difference in favor of those waging the battle.

Our reader is not the only one to (attempt to) use Mitt Romney’s wealth as a wedge issue against the presumptive Republican nominee.  Last week, instead of discussing the images in photos the Romney family released over Easter weekend, the folks at CNN used them to talk about the family’s wealth, asking  the photos were “much ado about nothing” or  “an example of a candidate who might be tone-deaf to how most of the public actually lives.”  Seems the Obama campaign and their allies in the media are the only ones asking those questions.

Democratic strategist Paul Begala echoes this talking point, comparing Romney to Thurston Howell III of Gilligan’s island (dubbing Obama the Professor–a comparison which falls apart when we recall just how resourceful was that usually nameless academic).  (Via HotAir headlines.)

And it doesn’t appear than attacking a candidate’s wealth (even if inherited) has been particularly effective in presidential elections.

At perhaps the darkest moment in American economic history, during the Great Depression, Americans elected and embraced a man far more akin to the fictional tycoon than Mr. Romney.  FDR lived on a spacious estate on the Hudson, having inherited rather than earned his wealth. (more…)

Governments should leave us free to pursue happiness,
not make its achievement a public policy goal

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 8:28 am - April 16, 2012.
Filed under: Freedom,Happiness,Pursuit of Happiness

Apparently in conjunction with Robert J. Samuelson’s thoughtful Sunday column, The global happiness derby, the Washington Post is running a poll today asking readers if they believe happiness should be the goal of government:

Even a significant major it of that paper’s readers (who would, I dare say, skew left along with its editorial direction) don’t believe governments should make our happiness their goal.

Now, to be sure, our Declaration of Independence defines the pursuit of happiness as a right; Mr. Jefferson thus did not define the right as happiness, but its pursuit, an important distinction.  It seems almost that it then becomes an aspect of another right, liberty — that governments should leave us free to pursue happiness.

Although, as Samuelson notes, some social scientists believe governments can promote happiness, the means of achieving that state of mind cannot be reduced to a crude formula.

Better he argues to “leave ‘happiness’ to novelists and philosophers — and rescue it from the economists and psychologists who think it can be distilled into a ‘science’ and translated into pro-happiness policies”:

Creating an impossible goal — universal happiness — also condemns government to failure. Happiness depends on too much that is uncontrollable. For starters, personality. We all know people who seem blessed — stable marriage, healthy children, successful job — who are restless, grumpy and sometimes depressed. Meanwhile, others plagued by misfortune — sickness, shaky finances, family disappointment — persevere and remain upbeat.

Contradictions abound. Freedom, the ability to choose, is also essential to well-being, says the happiness report. But freedom permits people to do self-destructive things that reduce happiness.

And freedom also allows people to mend their ways and improve their state of mind. (more…)

Is David Axelrod all that savvy a political strategist?

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 12:00 am - April 16, 2012.
Filed under: 2012 Presidential Election,Random Thoughts

Last July, I questioned Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod’s ability to run an effective political campaign if his candidate were not a blank slate:

Axelrod did run a pretty impressive presidential campaign in 2008, but then his candidate was pretty much a blank slate — and the mainstream media amazingly uninterested in Barack Obama’s record.  He could thus get away with promising vast new federal programs to appease his party’s liberal base while assuring independent voters he supported a “net spending cut.”

As 2012 approaches, with his candidate no longer a blank slate, with Americans now familiar with Obama’s record in office, will Axelrod be able to craft a winning campaign?

Would Axelrod had run as effective a campaign had the media scrutinized Obama’s record as they had Sarah Palin’s?  (And had the market not melted down right barely six weeks before the fall election?)  Yesterday, it seemed David Axelrod seemed to be acting as if it were still 2008 and he was still running the campaign of an amorphous outsider against a entrenched incumbent:

In an interview on Fox News Sunday this morning, David Axelrod said the 2012 election will come down to a choice: Do Americans want “an economy that produces a growing middle class and gives people a chance to get ahead and their kids a chance to get ahead?” Or do they want to continue down “the road we’re on”?

Continue down the road we’re on?  Um, isn’t his candidate the one who has taken us on that journey?

“Axelrod,” Jennifer Rubin quips, “seems almost at a loss to respond once the talking points are challenged.

He seems to be Davey One-Note, campaigning with an amorphous candidate with a feel-good message of a better America with a thriving middle class against those who would establish policies entrenching the rich and well-connected.

Will he land a blow on an opponent who has learned to punch back?

UPDATE:  “This kind of message“, writes Conn Carroll commenting on Axelrod’s remarks, “worked great when Obama was an insurgent candidate running against eight years of President Bush, but now Obama has to defend four years of his own administration.”

UP-UPDATE: In a similar vein, John Podhoretz offers, “Axelrod knows how to run Obama as the candidate of change. His words suggest he doesn’t know how to run Obama as the candidate of the status quo.