Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hoping Romney is Lying

David Brooks has an utterly bizarre column up today arguing that we should vote for Mitt Romney because he lies so much. Really:
To get re-elected in a country with a rising minority population and a shrinking Republican coalition, Romney’s shape-shifting nature would induce him to govern as a center-right moderate. To get his tax and entitlement reforms through the Democratic Senate, Romney would have to make some serious concessions: increase taxes on the rich as part of an overall reform; abandon the most draconian spending cuts in Paul Ryan’s budget; reduce the size of his lavish tax-cut promises.

As President Romney made these concessions, conservatives would be in uproar. Talk-radio hosts would be the ones accusing him of Romneysia, forgetting all the promises he made in the primary season. There’d probably be a primary challenge from the right in 2016.

But Republicans in Congress would probably go along. They wouldn’t want to destroy a Republican president. Romney would champion enough conservative reforms to allow some Republicans to justify their votes.
Got that? Because Romney has always said and done whatever would advance his interests in the short term, Brooks assumes that he would repudiate everything he ever said that would keep him from getting his plans through the Senate. As Matt Yglesias puts it,
The best case for Romney is that his campaign is largely bullshit. . . . Indeed perhaps the signal illustration of how much Romney benefits from his reputation for dishonesty is that Brooks doesn't so much as mention Romney's absurd promise to launch an economically destruction trade war with China. If Sherrod Brown were running for president on Romney's currency manipulation platform, center-right commentators would be losing their shit. When Romney does it, the assumption is that he doesn't mean what he's saying.
I think this sort of thinking is very dangerous. Given how little we know about Romney, we just don't know how he sees his core interests, and what, beyond becoming President, are really his main goals. I would like to think that he would revert to managerial moderation in office, but I don't believe it. People hate to be criticized by their friends, and this goes doubly for politicians, and I suspect that having run as the champion of conservatives Romney would find it very hard to turn his back on them.


More from Dave Weigel on this same theme:
At least 21 newspapers that endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 have endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012. Half of these endorsements are couched in the hope that Romney hornswaggled Republican primary voters and will govern as a moderate. “Like his primary rivals,” editorialized Florida Today, “we never bought Romney’s newfound conservative purity. During the presidential debates, Romney wisely resumed his identity as a pro-growth pragmatist.”
I see all of these editorials as exercises in hope. The editors, like a lot of Americans, want a moderate alternative to Obama, so they take a leap of faith and proclaim that the real Mitt Romney is the man they want. I hope they're right, but I doubt it.

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