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Tuesday, January 1, 2008
posted by Kyle Hampton | 12:28 PM | permalink
David Brooks says that a Mitt Romney nomination would ensure a Democratic win in the general election. Besides the speculative nature of such a prediction (or the inherent unreliability), Brooks tries to justify his conclusion by painting a picture of Mitt Romney that doesn’t fit. He starts with a straw man “any true conservative” argument in reference to Mitt Romney’s excellence of organization and planning:
And yet as any true conservative can tell you, the sort of rational planning Mitt Romney embodies never works. The world is too complicated and human reason too limited. The PowerPoint mentality always fails to anticipate something. It always yields unintended consequences.
It is true that Mitt Romney is a meticulous planner. He loves data and argument. He is known for taking apart a problem, analyzing it, and putting it back together with a solution. Such rationality, creativity, and clarity are certainly desirable traits in any walk of life, but certainly in a potential president. But somehow Brooks tries to make this virtue into a vice equating rationality with inflexibility or a lack of creativity. He argues that the unpredictability of a campaign (or life more generally) makes Romney’s planning useless. Yet experience tells us otherwise. Planning is not mutually exclusive with either flexibility or creativity. Indeed, if one looks at the successes of Mitt Romney’s life in either the private or public sector, it is clear that Romney’s planning has fostered rather than stifled creativity and flexibility. Even in this election, it has not been Romney’s campaign that has been unable to adapt to the evolving campaign, but his opponents’ operations. Romney has been the constant as other candidates have risen and fallen. I don’t see how Brooks can turn this pattern of success into a fault other than through convoluted logic.

Brooks also tries to make the argument that Huckabee’s camp has made, that the Reagan coalition is dead:
But his biggest problem is a failure of imagination. Market research is a snapshot of the past. With his data-set mentality, Romney has chosen to model himself on a version of Republicanism that is receding into memory. As Walter Mondale was the last gasp of the fading New Deal coalition, Romney has turned himself into the last gasp of the Reagan coalition.
This argument is fallacious because it fails to see the distinction between the New Deal and Reaganism: success. This seems to be a classic mistake made if one only sees Reaganism as a political movement. But Reaganism was more than just a means for political success. It was a set of principles that made the country prosperous. The New Deal had been discredited as a system for national prosperity by the time Walter Mondale ran in 1984. To equate the two movements is to miss they key component.

Moreover, Brooks’ argument that conservatism needs to evolve somehow glosses over the current example of what he seeks: George W. Bush. Bush’s compassionate conservatism was not an adherence to Reagan’s principles. Bush’s policies broke with key tenets of Reaganism. His evolution of conservatism has left the country worse off than had he followed the principles of Reaganism. Romney seeks a return to those principles. Romney wants to see a more limited government and fiscal discipline. He wants to enforce the border and inject a healthy dose of competence into government. This is an evolution of the current conservatism. Other candidates would continue Bush’s policies. Thus, Romney has not failed for imagination (otherwise he would look to build on the current brand of conservatism), but has sought historical examples of excellence in guiding his policies. Apparently such a distinction is lost on Brooks.

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Apparently Brooks forgets that there will be a lot of debates between the nomination and election. Not many people in this country as a whole have even seen Mitt that much to form an opinion. When he's on the stage and people can compare his vision vs. the Dems people will come his way.This thing with Mitt and young people is natural because they see republicans as authority figures and would rather have the permissive parent in the Dems. Mitt can win them over by convincing them more government spending by the Dems will put them in a bigger hole in the future. Mitt also has an inherent advantage in that he is a governor vs. a senator.Also anti war candidates have never won.

I had another thought about this Brooks unfair peice.I guess he didn't see what happened in La. last Nov. when Bobby Jindal won on a positive message and a promise to clean up corruption while not being a strong ideologue. People want someone to clean the crap up in Washington. This part of Mitt's message is barely getting out. Hopefully once he gets the nom he can start giving some policy speeches and win most of the electorate over. Frankly it wouldn't hurt for Mitt's people to start reviewing how Jindal got where he is.

Excellent extirpation! Go Mitt!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 1, 2008 at 7:09 PM  

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