The more I look at Mitt Romney, the more I see George W. Bush. At first, I dismissed the comparisons as superficial–both born to wealth and privilege, business executives, conservatives, Republicans–but the more of Romney I watch on the campaign trail and the more I learn about his past (and see how he manages its revelations in the present), the more I see the second coming of George Walker Bush. I’m not alone in this assessment; John Dean, former White House counsel to president Richard Nixon, has evaluated Romney against David Barber’s criteria for predicting presidential performance and concludes that, like Bush, Romney would be an Active/Negative president.
Like Bush, Romney seems to share a lot of personality traits that did not serve the country well in a chief executive: he lacks empathy, self-awareness, diplomacy, compassion, and kindness. He’s even more politically ruthless than Bush, who at least maintained a consistent set of positions throughout his political career–as opposed to Romney, who seems to have no core beliefs whatsoever save those he needs to maximize the number of people who will vote for him in the next election. Romney also shares Bush’s glaring ignorance of foreign affairs, which at first seems odd considering he spent two years living in France, but makes more sense when you read accounts that he spent the time safely ensconced with his fellow American Mormons, and not absorbing the local culture or availing himself of the opportunity to experience an alternative view of the world. In short, take away the folksy appeal and message consistency of George W. Bush, and what you have left is Mitt Romney: an aloof, out-of-touch plutocrat who cares for nobody more than himself, nothing more than his own ambition and power, and is utterly disinterested in anything not directly related to furthering either.
As more of Romney becomes known, more of George Bush appears; watching each new disclosure about his present, his past or his positions is like the political evolution of one of those photo morphs from Romney’s face to that of Bush. Without exception, every new thing I learn about him makes him more and more the spiritual successor to Dubya, and nothing so far has suggested anything to contradict this assessment. I find this alarming, because we are still reeling as a nation from the incredible harm done to every aspect of America from the Bush years, yet it seems that a sizable faction of the country has decided that what we need is exactly more of what created this mess in the first place. When I read about Romney flatly telling a woman he “doesn’t care” how she explains her situation to her daughter, I hear echoes of Bush’s callous mockery of a death row inmate.
Maybe they don’t see it; maybe they haven’t made the connection, maybe they think Romney and Bush have nothing in common–despite having almost everything in common (except for Bush never having run as a liberal candidate for any public office–twice). If that’s the case, I find that unfortunate, because while I could at least accept–not like, not agree with, but accept–the idea that a bunch of people are pining for one more George Bush term (hell, there are Russians, Iraqis and Libyans who still wax nostalgic about the days of Brezhnev, Hussein and Kaddafi, respectively), the idea that people might be voting for Romney without the slightest clue that they’re casting a shadow vote for more Bush just pisses me off. I get the “buyer’s remorse” that some Bush voters claim to have had when they thought they were voting for a “compassionate conservative” whose foreign policy would be “humble on the world’s stage”, like the man said it would be during the 2000 election–but that didn’t explain why they still voted for him in 2004, nor does it explain why any of these same voters would now be considering Romney, who’s basically promising he’ll be “Bush Redux–now with the new and improved version of Jesus!” I challenge anyone to find me a significant difference between any of Bush’s positions and those of Mitt Romney.
Which brings us to Mitt Romney’s recent European tour, intended as a “charm offensive”, but apparently one heavier on the “offensive” than the “charm”. He has expressed concerns about England’s Olympic security arrangements, and chided their inability to manage their immigrations and customs officers. He forgot the name of the opposition leader, insulted parliament, and told them that the last thing the U.S. needs is to become like Europe. In short, Romney has wandered through his first official outing as the presumptive Republican presidential candidate like the quintessential asshole tourist: acting as if the notion that the other 192 countries in the world don’t, in fact, think of themselves as the provincial backwaters that he sees them as had never even occurred to him. In all honesty, I’m not sure it ever has. I see no evidence that Romney has any more grasp of international relations than he has of interpersonal relations, and I see the idea of a Romney presidency as a huge step backwards for the country in this regard.
We already went through this once this century. We had a president who didn’t “do nuance” and who scorned diplomacy, who preferred to operate by edict and unilateralism. We had a president who gave the world two options–“with us, or against us”–and left no room for any middle ground, who refused to compromise, who refused to negotiate. A president whose grasp of foreign policy was so vapid and shallow that he thought major world crises could be resolved simply by telling countries to “knock that shit off”, and whose sense of decorum was so wildly misaligned that he could casually molest a foreign leader without the slightest tinge of self-awareness or acknowledgment of basic protocol. We’ve seen this show before; we know how it plays out.
Which is why I find it so unfathomable that here we are, just 4 years removed from the disaster of the Bush presidency, seriously contemplating bringing back the same leadership qualities and policies that created the situation that everyone is so unhappy with today. I get that the economy hasn’t recovered as well as everyone would like, but does anyone really think that the fault for that lies entirely with Obama, and that none of the problem lies with a Republican party that took office in 2008 and 2010 publicly declaring that they had no more important goal than to see the President fail in every way possible? Does anybody think Romney is seriously going to fix anything? Romney will get less opposition in Congress, but all that means is he’ll have less trouble reconstituting exactly the same stupid and destructive policies that created the economic mess of today. If anyone with any sense of objectivity is serious about solving the problems that the country is currently facing, they won’t be looking to replace the president; they’ll be looking to get as many Republicans out of national office as possible. Mitt Romney isn’t running on a platform of solving the nation’s problems; he hasn’t presented any serious explanation of how he would address any of them. Mitt Romney is running on a platform of “Obama hasn’t solved everything but I’m not Obama!” That’s about as detailed as the Romney Plan for America™ is at this point. If he somehow manages to get elected, we are all screwed.
If there are any Mitt Romney supporters who can lay out a solid, coherent explanation for why they support his candidacy, what they expect from his leadership, and what specific policies they expect him to affect as president, I’m interested in hearing from them. To date, all I have heard from Romney supporters at all levels are a bunch of empty platitudes that either don’t match the actual candidate’s policies, or represent positions that are utterly specious (e.g. “Romney will repeal Obamacare”, something he would have absolutely no power as president to do in any meaningful way, assuming he was even serious about it–which is a bold and flawed assumption).
Conservatives like to complain about how little we know about Obama, but the fact of the matter is we know damned little about Romney, and what we do know is way more disconcerting–at least to those of us interested in avoiding a repeat of the Bush years. We know that he has no interest in the working class or minorities. We know that his policies favor the wealthy and connected. We know that he has the same hostility to a healthy regulatory framework that has led to one expensive bailout after another, from the Savings and Loan scandal of the 80’s to the 2008 housing crisis. We know that his grasp of foreign relations is nonexistent. What we don’t know is what his proposed solutions are to any of the issues he faults Obama for.
That’s not to say he doesn’t have any solutions, it just means he doesn’t have any that he’s willing to share with us yet; I would submit that’s because if he outlined any of his policy specifics, the parallels to George Bush’s policies would be too glaringly obvious to ignore. I say that Romney’s priorities would be: cutting taxes on corporations and the wealthy. Rolling back regulations on finance and industry. Privatizing, cutting, or eliminating Social Security and Medicare. Some sort of Amnesty program for illegal immigrants. These aren’t really difficult things to figure out; they’re the same boilerplate policies Republicans have been trotting out as “new ideas” since the Reagan days; the Republican party is like Jon Favreau’s pre-Iron Man career, when all he really could–and did–talk about was Swingers, and what a great idea it was. Yes, it was great–but move on. Thankfully, he did, and the Iron Man movies are a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the Republicans are still stuck in 1983, and still have the same four solutions to any and all problems: Kill it, privatize it, deregulate it, or cut its taxes. When none of those can be shoehorned into a semblance of a coherent narrative, deny the problem actually exists.
Thus, Iran needs to be bombed, Social Security needs to be privatized, the economy needs to be deregulated and its taxes cut, and climate change doesn’t exist. All of these positions were espoused by George Bush, and all of them will be canon in a Romney presidency. They are articles of faith among the Republican orthodoxy, and there is absolutely nothing to suggest that Mitt Romney would buck Republican orthodoxy in any way other than eschewing alcohol–wait, no. . . he even has that in common with Bush. They really couldn’t be more alike if you cloned Romney in a vat from Bush’s epithelial cells. Foreign policy matters. Understanding how the world works matters. It may not be necessary to work in a mail room, an office, or a loading dock, but if the job you’re applying for involves commanding a million troops and a nuclear arsenal, it’s somewhat important that you have a basic grasp of foreign politics–and even foreign geography. It’s hard to negotiate from a position of respect with a country like Iran when you go on the public record arguing that their only route to the sea involves hopping over Turkey, particularly when there’s been a massive amount of attention over the past 18 months about Iran’s potential to shut down the straits of Hormuz.
These are the kinds of gaffes that not only cause a candidate embarrassment, but call into question his qualifications to even be running for the office, let alone win it. All partisanship aside, does anybody really think, based on his campaign performance in 2011 to present, that Willard Mitt Romney is in any way, shape or form ready to be the President of the United States? Can anybody identify any objectively sound reason to believe his presidency would be any different from that of Bush? Has he made any pledge, statement or promise that in any way differs from Bush’s actual presidency?
A vote for Romney is a vote for more George Bush. Same personality, same politics, and–make no mistake–same results. We don’t need that again. We can’t afford that again. These are serious times, and we face serious challenges. We simply can’t afford to elect a president just so some rich guy can check one of the more extreme items off his bucket list. Mitt Romney has nothing to offer the country that we haven’t already tried, and that hasn’t already failed miserably. Whatever problems the country faces, I feel comfortable declaring that Mitt Romney has the solution to exactly none of them. The guy can’t even get along with the country that is our closest ally on the whole planet. Why would we expect him to be able to manage the countries who aren’t?