Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mitt Romney, the Anti-Panderer

At Right Speak's c-box today, commenter Ohio Joe noted that Romney is pandering to the Pablos of the Republican Party. If so, that is a sure way to lose the nomination as I do not represent a winning majority within conservative ranks. It really calls into question what 'pander' means. Nevertheless, I think that we should consider whether Romney really is a panderer.

No question, Romney pandered during the 2008 campaign. He was a right-of-center governor of MA that transformed himself into the bastion of conservatism on all issues. However, judging by Romney's moves since his exit from the primaries, the real Mitt Romney has stepped forward.

Noah Kristula-Green has an excellent article comparing the answers that both Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty gave to Larry Kudlow on CNBC. Romney refused to pander to Kudlow and the right wing populists when he said that he doesn't want a completely flat tax. Romney also refused to participate in the anti-Fed rhetoric that is growing in conservative circles (thanks Ron Paul). Most importantly, although Romney blasted Obamacare, he added that he wants to have legislation preventing companies from dropping people for pre-existing conditions. There was not a lot of red meat flying around on Kudlow's set, but there was some solid stances.

Romney was also one of the first national Republican leaders who answered the birther question by categorically denying the possibility of Barack Obama having been born outside the United States. The other candidates mostly fall into several categories: those who aren't sure where Obama was born (Trump), those who avoid the question and pander to the birthers (Bachmann, Huckabee?), and those who pander to the birthers and encourage birther investigations, yet later, after five minutes of pander, mention that they don't agree with them (Palin). Saying that Romney is an anti-panderer because he understands where Obama was born is, of course, setting the bar really (and I mean really) low. It's like saying a candidate is smart if he believes in gravity. But when you consider the polls that show such a large percentage of Republicans who believe this non-sense and when you see the way in which Trump has risen in presidential polls, it becomes apparent that Romney is actually being gutsy for believing in "gravity."

Romney's new anti-pandering persona began shortly after the 2008 elections. Then, he supported TARP. Now, he still believes that it was necessary despite the hysteria against it. His answers to his health care plan have been consistent, despite constant cries from some that he should "apologize" for it. Mitt has stated that he is proud of what he did in MA. I am proud that he is proud. Again, it shouldn't take a brave man to own up to his success. But the right-wing base is so paranoid right now about Obamacare, that they may be willing to crucify anyone responsible for anything that closely resembles the President's health care policies.

Then there is No Apology. I was quite surprised after having read Romney's book how little pandering he does. He believes in global warming and that human activity contributes to it. He devotes an entire chapter to reforming entitlement spending. He recognizes that the United States needs to concentrate more on soft power, not just hard power. He goes beyond the "drill, baby, drill" populism and actually throws some cold water on the idea of relying completely on drilling in ANWR (more to come on that later). Even when he criticizes something that is not popular with conservatives, he often shows a lot more nuance than is acceptable to the talk radio fringe (see his views on Cap and Trade). Romney's book may help him fend off the flip-flop charge by giving him the opportunity of pointing to a written record of what he believes.

Quite frankly, Mitt Romney is one of the few national Republicans who doesn't pander. In his book, there are no calls to cut foreign aid. There is no chapter devoted to how Romney would chase away the bogeyman of Sharia Law. In fact, there is no anti-Islamic or anti-immigrant rhetoric at all. Romney doesn't want you to go out and buy gold, neither does he believe that Obama is in cahoots with radical Muslims in an effort to build a secular caliphate (oxymoron? ask Newt).

The past two weeks, Romney was noticeably absent from talk radio's cries to shut down the government. I am not sure that in 2008 Romney would not have jumped into the fray. Maybe it is just Romney's strategy of being the adult among children, but Mitt is simply not pandering anymore.

Here's to hoping that he sticks to it.

Cross posted at The Cross Culturalist.

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

IMO, Romney is being exactly who is, and letting the chips fall where they may.

Good post, Pablo.

-Martha

DanL said...

Pablo,

You wrote a lengthy list of specific instances where Romney did not pander. Good for him on those particulars. I have to disagree with your premise, though, that he hasn't been a panderer since 2008. It's time to get kids in bed, and I don't have time to respond at length to your assertion, but I will provide two examples of pandering.

First, his endorsement of Christine O'Donnell in the general. There was absolutely no need for him to endorse her. She had no chance of winnning, and his endorsement meant didley squat. There would have been no difference in the election if he had just kept silent. His endorsement was nothing more than bald faced pandering to the tea party.

The second piece of evidence is his unwillingness to cut defense spending. He wants to tie it to 4% of GDP. If he was serious about reducing the deficit he would address serious reform of defense spending. He is pandering to the defcons.

I'm sure that I could come up with several more items if I took the time too, but I don't have the time. And even if I did, my assertions would be dismissed by the Romney crowd, just as my criticisms of Huck are dismissed by the Huck crowd.

Right Wingnut said...

Looks like Pablo drank the Kool-Aid. I leave the specifics to Dan.

Pablo said...

Dan,

I get the impression that Romney sincerely wants to bring the GOP together. He did not endorse O'Donnell in the primaries, but rather after she won the nomination. Even David Frum says that he would have voted for O'Donnell in the general election. I don't know that that was pandering.

The defense thing may very well be pandering. Romney actually wants to increase defense spending. He has his reasons, but they conveniently lead him to a position that is agreeable with the base.

Pablo said...

Dan,

I am not saying the Romney never panders at all. I am saying that he panders very little and far less than the other 2012'ers.

Anonymous said...

Dan, Romney endorsed everyone after they won their primaries. He was consistent in that. If he really wanted to pander to the tea party, he would have made some key endorsements in the primary.

I'm not saying he hasn't pandered to the tea party at all, because he has gone out of his way to be positive about them. Find a politician who hasn't done that.

You think he's pandering to the defense crowd. But if he said we should cut defense, people would accuse him of pandering to the tea party.

It's just possible that Romney actually believes defense needs to be at a certain level--to be able to deal with unforeseen circumstances. This week, Gates said that we are at the limit of being able to do the three wars we have right now.

I would think Romney is committed to cutting waste in the defense budget. He's pretty good at that. But many people--me included believe we should go after entitlements long before we touch defense.

-Martha

Anonymous said...

What I reject is the idea that it is impossible for Romney to hold a true position. No other politician is accused this way, yet every last one of them does their fair share of pandering.

I realize that in many ways Romney put himself in this position, by pandering to social cons in 08.

-Martha

Anonymous said...

DanL, Mitt's position on national defense is not ad hoc pandering, it's not based in a vacuum to trick people into voting for him; on the contrary, his explanation for his position is perfectly consistent with the entire theme of his book, which is that a strong america = a prosperous america and a safer world. If pandering means saying things you don't really believe to get a specific group to like you, this isn't it.
MikeZ

DanL said...

"Romney endorsed everyone after they won their primaries"

So, he made 535 Congressional endorsements? And thousands of state level endorsements? That doesn't pass the smell test.

DanL said...

Oh yes, one more instance of pandering. That edit job that he did to his book when it went to paperback. I can't recall the particulars, but you know what I'm talking about.

DanL said...

Just before the 2008 FL primary McCain falsely accused Romney of having a timetable for withdrawel from Iraq. That was dirty politics at its worst, and it payed off by costing Romney FL.

He learned from it since then. He has thumped his chest and growled to the best of his ability to try to wipe clean the former image of a Dovish candidate who did want us out of Iraq within 4 years.

Pablo said...

"If pandering means saying things you don't really believe to get a specific group to like you, this isn't it."

I think Mike nails that definition. There are so many times when I hear Newt Gingrich and I think, "There is no way he actually believes that."

Anonymous said...

Dan, He had hundreds of people he endorsed, but he did endorse in every high profile race. I actually wish he had refrained from O'Donnell, but I don't think it was a pander. You had many, people trying to put a good face on DE.

The edit job? I think that is a stretch. Only Romney would get criticized for updating and clarifying something in a book. What was the pander? Was there a position change?

-Martha

Anonymous said...

Dan, Romney was consistent on defense all the way through the campaign.

-Martha

Pablo said...

"So, he made 535 Congressional endorsements? And thousands of state level endorsements? That doesn't pass the smell test."

O'Donnel was running for Senate. Plus, this was obviously a gesture to the Tea Party that we need to come together as Republicans. I don't see this as pandering.

I would not have voted for O'Donnell, but I am not trying to bring us together. Actually I am at war with the some of the tea party folks, but we have already been through that.

Anonymous said...

RW- you might re-think accusing someone else of drinking koolaid ~

-Martha

Pablo said...

Dan,

Here is a simple question. Who panders more, Mitt Romney or Michelle Bachmann? You can go down the list. Do you not agree that Romney panders the least of any of the 2012ers? I will spot you Daniels.

Matt "MWS" said...

I'm saving my comments for part two of the series:

"Newt Gingrich, the Anti-Adulterer."

Anonymous said...

Barbour. Does he pander? I don't know enough yet.

We do know that Pawlenty is clearly one.

-Martha

DanL said...

Refresh my memory. Did Mitt Romney endorse Joe Miller? But he was running for the Senate too. Why didn't he rate an endorsement?

Matt "MWS" said...

Pablo,

"he added that he wants to have legislation preventing companies from dropping people for pre-existing conditions."

Considering that position is a) overwhelmingly popular and b) bad policy, I would call that a pander.

Matt "MWS" said...

Pablo,

"His answers to his health care plan have been consistent,"

Are they? Does he still say how proud he is of it? Does he still suggest- as he did in the FIRST edition of his book- that what he did in MA, he can do for the country? Does he even still bring it up, unsolicited?

In relation to MassCare, Romney's acting like a formerly proud papa, who would brag constantly about his kid, until he discovered that the real father was the milkman.

Anonymous said...

Dan, you have a point on Joe Miller. But by then, Joe Miller was being investigated and all that stuff came out about how he lied, etc. If O'Donnell was bad, Joe was way worse.

It seems like you expect Romney to be better than everyone else. That's not fair. A lot of people endorsed O'Donnell after she won, but I don't think you would call them panderers.

-Martha

Anonymous said...

Matt, maybe I missed it when I read No Apology, but what and where exactly is that sentence you're talking about?
MikeZ

Anonymous said...

MWS, Romney has been entirely consistent on MassCare. He has not distance himself from it. He has always said it was good for Mass, it has some problems, and that it is a state plan--not meant to be a model for federal health care. He said other states can learn from it, or implement, whatever.

I know someone thought they had a gotcha on the quote from the book, but every statement he's ever made has been that he did not intend it to be a federal plan.

-Martha

Anonymous said...

Mike, I found the item in question. It is on page 177. Romney has just explained the Mass plan. The sentence that is supposedly the gotcha moment is where Romney states:

"We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country, and it can be done without letting government take over health care."

The problem with the assumption that he wants MassCare as a federal program is that the sentence is taken out of context. In the preceding paragraphs he states:

"The notion of getting the federal government into the health insurance business is a very bad idea."

Then he explains why, and how it would lead to single payer system.

Next: "My own preference would be to let each state fashion it's own program . . . States could follow the Mass model if they choose, or they could develop plans of their own."

Romney clearly does NOT want a national plan, and has NEVER said so.

-Martha

Anonymous said...

The fact that he re-phrased/clarified it in the paperback means he would like it to be completely understood that he doesn't want a national plan like MassCare, and he does not want the impression of anything else.

-Martha

hamaca said...

"Pander", "Pandering" is over-used and vague almost to the point of being meaningless. I think it's a lazy accusation to make against most any candidate.

Anonymous said...

Martha, thanks for clarifying. I'm getting ready to move into my first apartment and my books are in boxes.
MikeZ

Matt "MWS" said...

hamaca,

You're just pandering to the intellectually rigorous.

Matt "MWS" said...

Martha,

You don't detect ANY more defensiveness in Mitt's treatment of MassCare? You think he brings it up as much in '11 as he did in '07?

Spenza said...

Matt MWS, it would not be wise for Mitt to ALWAYS be in a defensive type of posture regarding Masscare. He has answered much, he can touch little and let people do their research, and take it at Obama to put him on the defense.

Mitt's playing it right.

Spenza said...

MWS "You don't detect ANY more defensiveness in Mitt's treatment of MassCare? You think he brings it up as much in '11 as he did in '07? "

He shouldn't. The problem Mitt has is not Masscare, it's people not seeking educate THEMSELVES on it. Instead, they listen to the media and Mitt's opponents. This puts Mitt in a situation of softly defending it while taking it to Obama for an unconstitutional law he passed.

Doug NYC GOP said...

Mitt has been extremely CONSISTENT on MassCare - just look at that video the Dems are trying to tarnish him with. In he states it's good for MA. He has never maintained it should be rolled out as a Federal plan. If other states want to look at, take things from it fine, but not a "one size fits all" plan.

When he speaks of getting HC reform for the nation, it's through the states enacting their own plans.

It's seems people's bias prevents them from grasping this simple, yet most essential point.

Doug NYC GOP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doug NYC GOP said...

Are you going to tell me that Timmy Pawlenty, good man he may be, wasn't pandering, to the Tea Party and Talk Radio crowd, with that absurd "Action Movie" video he put out?

Are you going to tell me Palin, Gingrich, et al, were not pandering in their endless carping about the Mosque last year.

Huckabee isn't pandering to his base, when he says he's more Sears than 5th Avenue? (I don't think those size 48 Portly suits he squeezes into are off the rack from Sears. I also doubt he'll be decorating his new $3 Million home from them as well.)

Romney has been consistent on the Defense Budget for a long time: reform and cut waste, but keep the department strong and up to date. Are the other candidates pandering when they advocate a strong defense? Or a rational tax policy etc?

Pandering is playing upto and throwing red meat out on the fringe issues like birtherism, socialism, from the comfort of a Fox News studio and pre-screened, softball questions.

OhioJOE said...

"Romney also refused to participate in the anti-Fed rhetoric that is growing in conservative circles" You just figured that out now, Generalismo???? Hello, he is Pro-Fed to pander to his banking buddies just like he pandered to you the other day to make you happy with your anti-Birtherism Crusade.

Sometimes I wonder, if you were hired for entertainment purposes.

OhioJOE said...

"First, his endorsement of Christine O'Donnell in the general. There was absolutely no need for him to endorse her." Let it go buddy, your cap and tax candidate lost fair and square in the primary. Perhaps next time, you'll learn not to support an extreme liberal in the primary.

"Are you going to tell me Palin, Gingrich, et al, were not pandering in their endless carping about the Mosque last year."
Well, Doug, you are in the minority on that one.


"Are you going to tell me that Timmy Pawlenty, good man he may be, wasn't pandering, to the Tea Party and Talk Radio crowd, with that absurd "Action Movie" video he put out?" BINGO!!!! We have a winner, that is why we do not have a problem with voting for Mr. Pawlenty in the General despite the fact that he is not perfect.

Noelle said...

What is the difference between pandering and running on your beliefs and principles? If your principles coincide with the strongly held beliefs of a certain group, is it pandering when you focus on them? I am not a one issue voter, but if I were, that one issue would be the economy. Is Mitt pandering to me when he emphasizes that issue?

OhioJOE said...

Well Noelle, I admire the fact that there are at least a few people left in your camp who are intellectually honest.

Anonymous said...

OJ, I laugh when you use the term intellectually honest. You have twisted yourself into more pretzels over Romney than I can imagine.

-Martha

Anonymous said...

Doug, good points.

I still want to know why others are allowed to have legitimate positions, but every single position Romney holds is somehow a pander.

Is he NOT ALLOWED to hold a true position on ANYTHING?

-Martha

PS. Pawlenty is the worst. The fake southern accent in a couple of speeches takes the cake.

OhajoJOSIP said...

Oh Please Martha, if you were as Conservative as you claim, you would not in all honesty refer to the promotion of Conservatism as Pandering. Did you ever consider that maybe you should stop pandering to non-Conservatives? You are welcome to try it out.

Anonymous said...

OJ, seriously? You don't think Pawlenty's fake southern accent was a pander? HA HA HA!

-Martha

OhajoJOSIP said...

I respectfully told you several times that I would not speak with a Minnesooooooooootan accent and I am glad that I was able to learn how to speak with an Eastern Ohian accent.

BOSMAN said...

I find that most People usually use the word pander to describe someone they're not particularly fond of, when that person says something that an audience agrees with.