Thursday, February 16, 2012

Romney, Quo Vadis?

Mitt Romney (DonkeyHotey/flickr)
I’d prefer not to spend too much time on the Republican primaries for the U.S. presidential elections, or on the U.S. presidential elections in general for that matter. Any self-respecting supermarket chain would be losing customers, not to say on its way to bankruptcy, if its products were limited to two mediocre brands neither of which are able to offer what they promise. Even though that’s what the presidential elections have been about for years, or maybe especially because these elections have become devoid of any fundamental debate, the Republican primaries at least have succeeded this year in being of great entertainment value like a TV reality show. Rarely have we seen a bunch of political leaders who say....

things which are either too ridiculous to be true or have any relevance for the challenges of these times. The one candidate who was seen as moderate, reasonable, and smart – even though rigid and not very popular -, Mitt Romney has been a big disappointment, especially to the Republican establishment who are scared stiff of any of the other candidates winning.
Case in point is the latest indefensible defense by Romney: this time Romney is defending his 2008 New York Times Op-ed “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt”, where he advocated bankruptcy of the three car companies over a government bailout (see also my post of February 7, 2012: Obama Hostile to Business? Romney literally started that Op-ed as follows: “If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed.”
Three years later, the car companies have recovered impressively, making 2011 the best year for them since the beginning of the financial crisis. That may be hard to accept for Romney, especially as he is preparing for the next primary on February 28 in Michigan, his birth state and home of the auto industry.
Romney’s first defense came earlier this week in a new Op-ed, now in The Detroit News, U.S. autos bailout was crony capitalism on a grand scale ,in which he tries to explain what he actually meant in 2008, while also laying blame with the labor unions for benefiting unfairly from the bail out. He finally claims that “The course I recommended was eventually followed.” (ed. by the Obama administration). It’s not a particularly strong defense, as even free market magazine The Economist acknowledges. It states that even though it initially agreed with Romney’s analysis in 2008, it later saw the possibility of an industry wide collapse if one of the car companies would have been allowed to go bankrupt. Not surprisingly, David Axelrod, top adviser for President Obama wrote on Twitter “Does anyone believe what Mitt says: that the American auto industry would be better off today if the president hadn’t intervened in 2009?”
So Romney is fighting several battles at once, most of them due to self-inflicted wounds: he has to defend himself against his own 2008 Op-ed., against the Michigan labor unions who he himself declared to be the enemy and against Rick Santorum, who against all odds and with thanks to Romney’s flip-flopping appears to be a credible candidate among conservative Republicans.
It doesn’t appear that Romney’s ‘crony capitalism” defense will work in convincing pundits, let alone the labor unions and workers of Michigan. This is the umpteenth time that Romney makes a statement, reverses it, denies the meaning of it or just changes it again. However weak his current opponents are, this doesn’t instill a lot of confidence in Romney’s candidacy. Where does he really want to go with the auto industry workers, with the economy, and where with this country?
Just like many reality shows seem often like jokes, so does the following joke seem more and more like reality: A conservative, a moderate, and a liberal walk into a bar. The bartender greets them by saying: “Hi Mitt.”

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