Wicked, Wicked Woman

Cassandra has apparently decided to begin posting again, in spite of her many previous threats to be done with it forever.  You'd have thought she might have mentioned it to us!

52 comments:

rcl said...

I took that poll she links to a month back. Perry, Romney, Paul...

Mitt does sound good. I just don't trust him to do what he says.

Grim said...

Well, that's the problem -- and it's a problem mostly for him. After you've taken every position around every issue, no one can trust what you say.

So I guess where his heart is by looking at where his money interests are, since otherwise unprincipled men normally have their hearts in their wallets. So, here's his list of donors; and here's Obama's list from 2008. I notice some substantial similarities!

The other way to guess what their real priorities are is to look at what they actually did in office. Once again, I notice substantial similarities -- most obviously, Romney did Romneycare; Obama did Obamacare.

Cass said...

Grim, I don't think I could possibly disagree with you more on Romney.

You never do quite see that other candidates with FAR less time spent campaigning have flip flopped too. You might want to Google "Cain flip flop" some time.

As for passing RomneyCare, you see to forget that BOTH parties have been in favor of health care reform for some time and Massachusetts is a majority Dem state. What would you have him do that he did not do? 800 vetoes isn't enough for you?

Chief execs are not supposed to be dictators. They have a role, but legislation is the province of the legislature, not the executive.

Oh, and I didn't say anything because I kind of figured it had been so long that my friends might feel awkward if they had moved on. I will be delighted if anyone still wants to read my ravings, but will also completely understand if not :)

E Hines said...

...Romney did Romneycare....

My only problem with Romney on this is that he can't concede that the individual mandate is a mistake--even at the State level. But I've never had a problem with the steadfastness of his position that what's right for MA (even if I don't think it was right even for MA) is not right for the nation as a whole, mandated from on high at the Federal throne.

He takes money from Obama-supporters--now there's a litmus test on whose money is acceptable? Campaigns tend to cost money, and as far as I'm concerned, American money is legal tender--it's how the money is used by the recipient that matters. Yes, strings can be attached, but it's the strings that want watching, not the money itself.

And in the end, what are the alternatives? Perry? He's a fine governor for Texas. He should stay in Texas. Paul? His concept of foreign policy is even more dangerous than Obama's. Santorum? He's been a one-note pony on what really is a limited issue. And building an economy from the ground up, founded on sound families, looks good on paper, but we need corrections now, not only over the generations such a path would take. He's finally starting to talk seriously about the economy, but I need to hear more. Lots more. Gingrich? Talks a good game. Usually. But he's even more thin-skinned and vindictive than Obama. I don't trust him.

Maybe I should run. Cass, what you got goin' on for the next four years?

Eric Hines

Cass said...

Ironically, one of the reasons I started blogging is that people on ScrappleFace were always emailing me and asking me to run for office.

I would be a lousy politician but probably a good speechwriter for someone else.

Part of my insistence on prior executive experience is that I truly believe it takes two very different sets of skills to get elected and (once elected) govern. I think in general they conflict.

If you have the desire to serve, you hopefully understand that perfect consistency to a set of principles is probably anathema to that end. Cynical, but also very true.

Once you get into office, you will not have perfect freedom to enact your personal policy preferences. You govern a diverse set of folks and the executive is not supposed to be dictator for life.

For all these reasons, I listen to what candidates say but I'm FAR more interested in what they have actually done in the real world. Better indicator.

I don't have a problem with Romney's actual record. He did his job well in the most difficult of difficult circumstances. Right now we are gridlocked. There is NO compromise and no real progress towards solving our problems.

Congress can't even pass a budget: the most elementary task. We don't need more polarization. We need a conservative (and sorry, Romney IS a conservative) who knows how to work with people he disagrees with. We need a budget or our credit rating will be downgraded again.

We need hard decisions about nonproductive sectors, and Romney has a long successful track record of making those hard decisions.

So he has my support. In my personal opinion, no other candidate even comes close to his record and experience. A president/governor isn't going to change a progressive state to a conservative one. That's not a reasonable expectation.

The checking power of an executive is the veto and Romney has a strong record there. His other power is the bully pulpit, and Romney got a LOT of budget cuts past a progressive-controlled legislature.

So I think he's just what this country needs, if we're willing not to let the perfect kill the good. I don't have to like that guy - I just need to believe he has shown he can do the job. But that's just one woman's opinion :p

MikeD said...

HURT, I am... WOUNDED even that you didn't tell us! *insert pouty-face here*

Grim said...

We need a conservative (and sorry, Romney IS a conservative) who...

I am in general not interested in claims of the sort: 'X is/is not a real conservative.' Nevertheless, since you raise the point, I'll ask what you mean by it.

I understand conservatism in politics to be a defensive position: preservation of existing forms only becomes a political issue if those forms are under challenge. This is the real force of the complaint that he has occupied every position on every issue -- that he has no principles he might defend in adversity.

Cass said...

And what is the evidence for that claim?

What was Romney doing when he made public arguments for fiscal conservatism in Massachusetts, if not defending an unpopular conservative principle under adverse circumstances?

What was he doing when he vetoed bills he disagreed with... 800 times... even when he was pretty sure he would be overruled by the progressive legislature?

If you're more concerned with words than deeds, how do you explain Gingrich's serial willingness to embrace the rhetoric of the Left? How do you explain GOP candidates suing in federal court to set aside state election laws.

Is that how real conservatives defend conservative principles?

Grim said...

You raise two separate issues, one of which is an attack on a position I'm not defending -- i.e., that Gingrich is the proper alternative candidate, and/or a better emblem of conservatism. As far as I know, the main thing I've said in praise of Gingrich over this election season is that he was being very disciplined in not attacking other candidates, relying instead on his own native intelligence to make an impression. That was true at the time we were discussing it, but the ship has obviously sailed.

Now, as for words versus deeds, in politics they are often hard to distinguish. Take the veto issue: in his last year in office, Romney issued 250 vetoes, not one of which survived.

To perform a deed that has no hope of achieving any practical effect is often also called 'making a statement.' Now, if I were attempting to position myself as a fiscal conservative in 2007 -- the aforementioned last year of his governorship -- statements of this type would be valuable of themselves, even though they changed absolutely nothing about the political situation in my state. They might nevertheless grease the path to nomination to a higher office in 2008, among an electorate that was more fiscally conservative than the one in my state.

Now, if you want to talk about deeds of the sort that achieved an effect, we can see that Romney's tenure was marked by increasing taxes on capital gains, job growth of 47th out of 50th among the states, institutionalizing minimum-wage raises, increased environmental regulation, and Romneycare.

If we judge actions only, he's actually stronger on social conservative issues than the fiscal ones he gets credit for being about. He has spoken in a squishy fashion on gay marriage and abortion, but he's been pretty solid in his practical opposition to both.

Cass said...

And you hold the governor personally responsible for not fundamentally (and undemocratically, I might add!) changing the nature of the state of Massachusetts?

Is that the job of a chief executive - to override the will of the governed? Or is it to administer the laws passed by our elected representatives?

This all gets back to, "what is the reasonable expectation"?

Cass said...

By the by, I think the argument that 250 of his vetoes were overridden is irrelevant. First of all, if 250 were overridden, then 550 (the vast majority) were not.

But also, there is something to be said for forcing the legislature to come up with MORE votes for a measure than they originally did when it passed before it can be enacted.

If you do so, you force people to go on record as supporting the bill and their constituents find out where their real priorities lie.

Grim said...

No, not 250 overrides total -- rather, all 250 of his vetoes in his last year were overridden. That article is worth reading in its entirety. It demonstrates the problem of his unreliable position -- many of those vetoes were vetoes of policies he actually ran on enacting, such as stem cell research. On abortion, he ran as pro-choice, then attempted (and failed) to use vetoes to block access to forms of abortion. On stem cell research he ran as pro-research, and then experienced 'a change of heart' when he began to run for President. The minimum wage increases he supported in 2002 he vetoed in 2006.

How do we know he won't use the veto pen to veto the very things he currently tells us he supports? 'Deeds, not words' cuts both ways.

Now, I take your point on getting extra votes, but since the legislature was 90/10% in favor of the Democrats, that's not a major issue.

What is a major issue is what he himself supported. From the second article:

* "Romney was at the forefront of a movement to bring near-universal health insurance coverage..."

* "Romney successfully pushed for incorporating an individual mandate..."

* "According to his 2002 gubernatorial campaign, Romney was a supporter of the federal assault weapons ban."

* "As a candidate for governor in 2002, Romney proposed indexing the minimum wage to inflation and raising the hourly pay..."

* "Governor Romney supported regulation of greenhouse gas emissions..."

And lest we forget, in terms of his devotion to duty:

* "In 2006, his last year as governor, Romney spent all or part of 212 days out of state, laying the foundation for his anticipated Presidential campaign."

Cass said...

You don't have any guarantee.

But at the end of the day, you might want to consider whether his *actions*, taken on balance, were unacceptably liberal? I rarely see this actual argument made - more often I see people saying, "Well a 90% Dem legislature passed laws I don't agree with on Romney's watch!!!"

[thud]

It has yet to be explained to me how he should have prevented this, or why such actions would be considered a good thing?

Cass said...

re: min wage. Your argument seems to elide past the reality that regardless of what Romney actually thinks about the min wage, the Dems had the votes to increase it.

So it was going to happen regardless of what he thought privately.

Now a pragmatic governor can make a grand gesture that changes nothing but establishes his conservative bona fides in your eyes. Which, in the end, means the Dems win.

Or he can say, "Given the undeniable reality that I don't have the votes to enact my personal policy preferences, what can I bargain for that would actually make a difference?"

And that's exactly what he did:

When Romney vetoed the bill last week, he said its ``abrupt and disproportionate increases" would hurt the economy. He countered with his own ``more modest approach," which would have increased the wage by 25 cents on Jan. 1 and subjected future raises to study.

``Governor Romney and the Legislature share the common goal of increasing the minimum wage, but they were not able to come to agreement on the size of that increase," the governor's press secretary, Eric Fehrnstrom, wrote in an e-mail statement last night. ``The governor favored an increase in line with inflation and periodic reviews every two years. The Legislature wanted an increase that substantially exceeded the rate of inflation, and we thought that was too much, too fast."

Notably, the veto override was unanimous. Think about that. You play the hand you're dealt.

If it's a weak hand (and his was) then you're going to have to compromise and understand that if it's a tradeoff between none of the loaf and part of the loaf, part is better than none.

I think your formulation (and the imputation of bad intent absent proof - a la, "he was just positioning himself to run for higher office and the evidence for this is that it's what I think) is less than convincing.

E Hines said...

I understand conservatism in politics to be a defensive position: preservation of existing forms only becomes a political issue if those forms are under challenge.

This is a common definition perpetrated by modern Liberals, 18th Century conservatives: believers in government as "savior." I do not attribute anything to you by this; I merely point out a source of this definition.

A (modern) Conservative, as I understand one to be, believes in these:

—individual freedom,
—individual responsibility, and
—the primacy of the individual over the state, which means
—the state works for us, not the other way around, and not with a Patrician class as intermediary for us.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

Mr. Hines:

There's a split between "traditional conservatism" and "individual conservatism" that is recognized by political scientists. The traditional conservative position isn't quite the one you cite; it is that institutions are necessary to guide humanity in appropriate ways. This includes the government, but also the church, fraternal or civic organizations, etc.

The individual conservative position is seeking to conserve the liberal position of the 18th century, which is largely as you say it is.

I am looking for the common thread between the two types. Both of them attempt to preserve an existing social order thought to be of benefit. This enters the field of politics if and only if there is an attempt to modify or undo that order, by someone who thinks they have a better idea. Thus, I think it is right to say that conservatism is essentially defensive: it seeks to defend, to conserve, some good.

That's the problem with declaring Romney to be a "conservative." If you mean he is more a man of the right than the left, that may be; but if he is not merely that, but a "conservative," I want to know just what it is he intends to conserve. I'm not sure the man has demonstrated any sort of core principles that he would defend even against his own interests; and if he has no principles he will so defend, whatever else he may be, he is not a conservative.

Maybe he's just an unprincipled seeker of wealth and power. That's OK -- our system is set up to deal with such men -- but I see no special advantage in choosing such a man. I might prefer to ensure the opposition of the legislature to the President, than to put the legislature in a position where they felt a party interest in following the lead of an unprincipled man: one given to following the broad and easy path to wealth and power.

Grim said...

Cass:

I would credit the reasoning on the minimum wage more if it were an exceptional circumstance. The problem is that he very often did this: ran on one position, vetoed it once in office.

You don't approve of my imputation that he was doing this to position himself for the Presidential run; well, if by imputation you mean that I am merely representing it as so, then you'd be right to object. Yet "imputation" has also the meaning of assigning a value by inference from the processes with which it is involved.

What processes were at work at the same time? Well, the absence of the governor from his position of duty in order to prepare for a run for higher office. (How would we feel about a general officer who absented himself from his command for 212 days of the year in order to prepare for a Presidential run?) He was able to meet the requirements to file to run in 2008 before leaving office as governor. He declared his intent to stage a full-time run for president in 2005, just before his marathon year of 'statement' vetoes aligning himself with Republican voters outside his state.

That's a fair amount of evidence of a process that lines up with the value being imputed. It's a rational reading of the situation, and one that I think is very highly probably correct.

E Hines said...

Both of them attempt to preserve an existing social order thought to be of benefit.

And yet, that's why I made the distinction concerning the modern Conservative. Such a one is not trying to preserve anything; he's trying to change the present order--away from the modern Liberal's 80-year-old conception of Big Government--back to the original 18th Century Liberal tenets on which we were founded. This is also why I draw the confluence of modern Conservatism and 18th Century Liberalism--"traditional conservatism," which I take to be Cassandra's Rethugs, or something like that, doesn't enter into my construction. Incidentally, this also does not exclude the usefulness of institutions, including government. The Constitution was written as it was in part due to recognition that we needed a stronger government than the Articles of Confederation provided. Besides, government must exist, else it cannot work for us.

Moreover, I'm not a political scientist. I've never held myself to be bound by much in the way of authorities. [g]

...if he has no principles he will so defend, whatever else he may be, he is not a conservative. Neither is he a liberal. He is nothing more, or less, than an unprincipled person. Nor conservatives (yours or mine) nor liberals have a lock on principle or unprincipled-ness.

I think there are too few modern Conservatives extant today. Cass, you, and I come to mind. Some of the other correspondents in your blog. Perhaps Marco Rubio. Possibly Chris Christie; although much of his "purety" is contaminated by running a heavily Blue state, sort of like Romney (though I concede that Christie is more conservative than Romney).

Cass said...

The problem is that he very often did this: ran on one position, vetoed it once in office.

The facts don't support you on this, Grim. Not even close.

Romney's campaign position was that the min wage should be increased to $6.96 in 2002 and indexed to inflation from that time forward. The bill he vetoed raised min wage to $8.00 and did NOT index it to inflation.

How anyone can seriously represent this as "vetoing what he campaigned for" is beyond me. Yes, both bills dealt with the minimum wage but Romney's veto is perfectly consistent with his campaign position and unsupported assertions to the contrary do not change that fact.

From the Wiki article you cited earlier:

As a candidate for governor in 2002, Romney proposed indexing the minimum wage to inflation and raising the hourly pay for the state's lowest-paid workers from $6.75 an hour to $6.96 an hour starting January 2004, saying, "I do not believe that indexing the minimum wage will cost us jobs. I believe it will help us retain jobs."[130]

Here's the bill Romney vetoed:

In July 2006, the legislature passed a bill increasing the minimum wage to $8.00 an hour, and he vetoed it. "I have spent hours reading a wide array of reviews on the minimum wage and its impact on the economy, and there's no question raising the minimum wage excessively causes a loss of jobs, and the loss of jobs is at the entry level," said Romney when he vetoed the bill.[131] He proposed an increase to $7.00/hour [Note: 4 cents over what he proposed during the campaign!] (which represented a 25 cents an hour increase over the existing rate.) The legislature voted on July 31, 2006 to override his veto (uanimously in the Senate) thus setting the minimum wage at the higher amount.[132]

If you're basing your opposition to Romney on issues like his minimum wage veto, I think you need to do more research.

FWIW, I don't like the min wage either but it makes perfect sense to index it to inflation. No serious analyst believes it will be abolished any time soon. So if we're going to have a min wage there are two choices:

1. Index it to inflation so it doesn't lose value every single year.

2. Wait until it has lost value and then try to fight the Dems when they want to raise it even MORE than inflation.

Which is pretty much what happened here.

Texan99 said...

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

You cagey woman. Even when I gave you a hard time the other day about not starting up again, you still didn't twig. And then instead of welcoming you back, we all start arguing with you about Romney! (Even though, of course, you're right.)

Grim said...

Cass:

You're a very clever woman, and I always admire your attention to detail; but you're still attempting to deny a trend via a single example. How to deny the vetos-against-position on abortion, stem cells, etc?

As much as I respect your ability to build an argument to excuse one example of those things, the trend still stands. If for the sake of argument we say it was fine on the minimum wage issue, there remain the other issues.

MikeD said...

If I may, I suspect that she's defending the position she knew and researched best. That's not to say she cannot defend the others, simply that this is the point she chose first. And I think it's fair, once she points out the weakness in one element for us to examine the others ourselves.

For example, you state "On abortion, he ran as pro-choice, then attempted (and failed) to use vetoes to block access to forms of abortion. On stem cell research he ran as pro-research, and then experienced 'a change of heart' when he began to run for President."

So your objection is that he abandoned position that were less conservative in favor of those that were more conservative. Are you saying you would feel better about him as a candidate if he were to hold consistently liberal positions, as long as they were consistent?

Grim said...

Mike:

I'm saying what you said yourself at Cass's place:

But as Eric says, at some point, you need to draw a line and say "no further." ... I DO expect for him to be able to deliver a coherent answer to more conservative people WHY he made those compromises.

This is exactly the point I was making on policy versus strategy. If these strategic reversals are part of a coherent defense of a policy, what is the policy? What is it the policy that makes it coherent to be pro-choice then and pro-life now, pro-stem-cell-research then and anti- now, and so forth?

What policy admits of defense by both sets of strategies? If there isn't one, then instead these reverses are what they would seem to be: questions about which he will take whatever position seems to be the quickest and easiest road to power.

Are you saying you would feel better about him as a candidate if he were to hold consistently liberal positions, as long as they were consistent?

I deeply resent it when political figures take us to be suckers. We are apparently meant to believe that the gentleman from MA had a complete change of heart on every hot-button issue of the day, just as he decided to run for a different office with a more conservative electorate.

How can you not hate a man who thinks you such a fool as to believe he can get away with saying that to your face?

Cass said...

You are imputing to Romney a motive you have not even come close to proving he actually holds.

Now you may be right, but the accuser normally has the burden of proof. If you wish to assert a malign motive on no evidence (or to simply declare that a 'trend' exists while never really establishing that in fact Romney vetoed positions he ran on) then I'm going to point out that this is an assertion unsupported by evidence.

I've pointed out one case where your assertion is not supported by fact using the very article you cited to assert it in the first place. The burden of proof for your accusation does not shift to me by virtue of having shown that the facts undercut your assertion.

I would think rather the reverse to be the case, Grim :p

Grim said...

You have come up with one arguable exception to a trend that I have proven exists from more than one example, Cass. If I give you your exception, it doesn't defeat the trend -- which is not in dispute, as far as I know.

In any case, the burden of proof is a criminal affair; we're discussing a politician. There are very good reasons for the presumption of innocence in criminal law, and there are equally good reasons for the presumption of guilt in politics. We are, after all, not talking about removing a man's freedom but increasing his power.

Cass said...

You have come up with one arguable exception to a trend that I have proven exists from more than one example, Cass.

But you never did prove this, Grim. You merely asserted it.

To prove it, you would need to actually cite what he promised during the campaign and then show that he vetoed, not something RELATED TO his original position, but the VERY SAME THING and moreover, that he did this repeatedly.

Personally, I worry about a politician who never changes his mind on anything. Facts are stubborn things: most of our dearly held convictions don't stand up well to critical and honest review of the facts. That's why I love data and charts - I've noted many times how my own biases didn't stand up to the facts.

No fault marriage is a perfect example - I uncritically accepted the notion that it is to blame for the weakening of marriage but when I did the research I learned I was wrong and changed my position.

E Hines said...

...there are equally good reasons for the presumption of guilt in politics.

Do I hear an echo of David Axelrod ?

Eric Hines

Grim said...

Since his words do not usually reach me, I cannot possibly echo them; but how nice it would have been if he had meant it.

Grim said...

Cass:

Your no-fault divorce research was an excellent contribution to a difficult debate. I greatly respect it, and have profited from it in formulating my own thoughts on the subject.

I am not, however, going to set out to prove Romney's culpability at the same level of detail. There are two reasons for this: the first is that I do not think that his inconsistency needs to be proven beyond all reasonable doubt, as if this were a criminal matter; but the second, which you may appreciate more, is that the existence of such research may soon be of value only to the Obama campaign.

I have what I think are adequate reasons to oppose Romney's nomination, but while I will not under any circumstances support his candidacy, I recognize that many of you feel otherwise. I will not vote for him nor support him, but neither will I make it an obsession to destroy him.

Cass said...

Well, it may be that if I have time I will examine the claim.

I don't ask that you change your mind about Romney - what reasons are sufficient to you is a question only you can answer.

Let me ask this: if it were demonstrated to you that he did not, in fact, veto positions he supported while on the campaign trail, would that make any difference to you?

I mean no insult by this (seriously, Grim) but it is my clear impression that you would not support him even if it were demonstrated that the main objection you cite to his candidacy were not (in fact) true.

That may be because you have other reasons for opposing him. But I do think it is a fair question.

It is my belief that flip flopping accusations are very easy (too easy) to make but all too often unsupported by the historical record. It's not hard to find some statement - often taken out of context - that creates the appearance of a flip flop when juxtaposed with a none too detailed description of the supposed flip flop.

In my mind, the test is whether, if you fairly and accurate describe BOTH the original position and the supposed reversal, the supposed flip flop is in fact inconsistent with the original position.

Grim said...

I take no insult. It's a fair question.

The problem I have with Romney isn't that he has flip-flopped; rather, the apparent flip-flops appear to be to be symptomatic of a larger issue, which is that he has no principles that I can rely upon. It is not just the vetoes; it's everything he's said and done one way when he wanted the votes of the people of Massachusetts, and then suddenly began to say and do another way when he wanted my vote. As I said above, I resent the apparent assumption that a slick reversal like that is something I'll just swallow like bait on a hook.

Thus, it almost certainly would not be sufficient to show me that there is some deeply nuanced understanding of each of his 800 vetoes that makes it possible to read that particular action as not entirely incoherent with some other statement. That wouldn't make it better: in fact, the more elaborate the justification presented to make his reversals OK, the more it would aggravate the sense that his word couldn't be trusted.

One thing about GWB, who was far from perfect: you generally knew just where he stood from what he said. It's a quality I like in a man, even when I disagree with him.

Grim said...

I'll give you a non-veto example: gun rights. Today, Romney says "I support the Second Amendment as one of the most basic and fundamental rights of every American. It's essential to our functioning as a free society..."

Great. I agree with that entirely. However, in MA, he said:

"We do have tough gun laws in Massachusetts; I support them. I won't chip away at them; I believe they protect us all and provide for our safety."

He also signed into law a permanent ban on many semiautomatic weapons; and he supported the Clinton Assault Weapons Ban.

So... is there a principle here? Do I go with his words or his deeds? Or do I just assume that he'll do whatever he thinks will get him where he wants to be?

I think it's the latter, honestly; but one way or the other, I resent that he thinks that he can talk to us this way and we'll just line up and support him.

Cass said...

, I resent that he thinks that he can talk to us this way and we'll just line up and support him.

If Romney in fact thinks that (this has not been established) then you're probably right to resent it.

Issues are rarely black and white, even in the comments sections of blogs. When you are the person tasked with administering and executing as opposed to making the law, that's even more true.

It may be that some governor, somewhere has swept into office vowing to repeal every law he disagrees with, though for the life of me I don't know how he would do so!

But that seems like a quixotic and quite possibly dangerous standard for choosing an executive (though it's a great standard for choosing a despot).

I think I'm going to bow out. You seem quite certain you know what Romney thinks and what his motivations are. When I see statements like this, I don't really know how to respond except to say:

Thus, it almost certainly would not be sufficient to show me that there is some deeply nuanced understanding of each of his 800 vetoes that makes it possible to read that particular action as not entirely incoherent with some other statement. That wouldn't make it better: in fact, the more elaborate the justification presented to make his reversals OK, the more it would aggravate the sense that his word couldn't be trusted.

There's nothing "deeply nuanced" about pointing out that support for indexing the minimum wage to inflation and support for raising the minimum wage to a level that outpaces inflation are two very different things.

Neither is there anything "deeply nuanced" about pointing out that saying you will do nothing to erode currently existing abortion rights and supporting the creation of NEW rights are two very different things.

If you insist upon dismissing the differences between things that are clearly (in my view) not the same, there is no possibility of making my position understood.

And so it would be best to go no further, except to say that if he is unprincipled then clearly so am I.

Because I agree with him. That's the problem with black and white characterizations.

Grim said...

I'm familiar with Romney's spin on why his abortion vetoes do not constitute a violation of his pledge. I'm also familiar with his claim that his views were "drastically altered" on 9 November 2004 -- after he met with a Harvard University researcher, according to the story, but also right after GWB won re-election and it was time to start thinking about who the next Republican president might be.

But take heart. First, you've had no difficulty explaining your position. I think, at least, that I understand it: you admire Romney's experience as an executive, both corporate and as a governor. You believe that he experienced some success in creating across-the-aisle compromises and in cutting spending in the face of a hostile political environment. You believe that he represents the political model that this country needs, and you are therefore willing to give him the leeway you think he needs to maneuver in a difficult and divided political environment.

Second, the odds are very strongly in your favor. My objection isn't widely shared. Politicians who follow this model tend to do quite well for themselves, and I expect it will work for Romney too.

Cass said...

I'm familiar with Romney's spin on why his abortion vetoes do not constitute a violation of his pledge.

Once again, allow me to observe that a campaign pledge to support and faithfully execute EXISTING abortion laws cannot reasonably be construed to mean, "I promise to support NEW laws that expand abortion rights".

Unless of course you believe that "new" and "existing" mean the same thing (they don't). Or that "I will not seek changes in the law" is the same thing as "I promise to support changes to the law" (it isn't).

Grim said...

Yes, Cass, I know that he said that. I also know he said that "The choice to have an abortion is a deeply personal one. Women should be free to choose based on their own beliefs, not the government's."

That's a principle -- and it's out of order with the proposition that he would merely not introduce new restrictions, but would faithfully defend old ones.

See, it's not that Romney hasn't said something that would support his spin on the facts -- he has. He's taken every side, so there's always something that supports his current position. It's just that there's also always something that opposes his current position. The things that sound like statements of principle are sometimes in alignment with his current position (re: gun rights) and sometimes not (re: abortion rights). His actions, if they are consistent with anything, are consistent with highly rarefied readings that omit the offending 'statements of principle.'

Look, here's a pretty big page on Romney and abortion. The man has taken all the sides of this question, and which position he took tracks precisely to the opinion of the electorate he was seeking to please.

Now that's just what you'd expect from an unprincipled politician. That's just what he appears to be: a man who, unsatisfied with fantastic wealth, also needs to win power. What will he do with it? I have no idea: it's why I don't trust him.

Political power like any power is not an evil in itself -- it can be a tool. If it becomes an end in itself, however, it is a corruption.

Cass said...

Grim:

.... here's a pretty big page on Romney and abortion. The man has taken all the sides of this question,

No, that is not true. He has consistently said the same things:

1. He personally opposes abortion (so do I).

2. The current law says that abortion is legal.

3. He would not seek to reverse existing law (note that a governor does not actually have this power anyway - a fact that is not irrelevant).

4. He will not support the expansion of abortion rights or the creation of abortion rights that don't exist now in Mass. A governor DOES have veto power - a fact that is not irrelevant).

To "prove" that Romney has changed position, you cite a page full of other people stating (but also not providing evidence) that he has changed his position.

Unfortunately, other people's unsupported assertions are no more valid than your unsupported assertions. And "new" and "existing" are still opposites.

*backing away from the keyboard*

Grim said...

Not to be difficult, my friend, but a whole lot of the entries on that page are either question and answer sessions or interviews with Romney. A great deal of it is him saying stuff about abortion, things like:

"I believe people understand that I'm firmly pro-life. I will support justices who believe in following the Constitution and not legislating from the bench. And I believe in the sanctity of life from the very beginning until the very end." (2011, Republican primary.)

"Romney disclosed that he became committed to legalized abortion after a relative died during an illegal abortion. The disclosure came after Romney, who said he is personally opposed to abortion, was asked to reconcile his beliefs with his political support for abortion rights. 'It is since that time that my family will not force our beliefs on that matter,” He said the abortion made him see “that regardless of one’s beliefs about choice, you would hope it would be safe and legal.'" (1994, MA Senate Race)

"I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years that we should sustain & support it." (1994, MA Senate race)

"Q: You were effectively pro-choice as governor?
A: About two years ago, when we were studying cloning in our state, I said, look, we have gone too far. It’s a “brave new world” mentality that Roe v. Wade has given us, and I changed my mind. I took the same course that Ronald Reagan took, and I said I was wrong and changed my mind and said I’m pro-life. And I’m proud of that, and I won’t apologize to anybody for becoming pro-life." (2005, the year he declared he was running for President on the Republican ticket)

Grim said...

...which is fine. OK, a relative died from an illegal abortion, that's traumatic; maybe that can utterly change your worldview. And 2005, that's like ten years later! Thinking about stem cells could totally change your worldview. Again.

Except, you know, there's that gun issue again.

"I support the Second Amendment as one of the most basic and fundamental rights of every American. It's essential to our functioning as a free society..." (2011, Republican primary)

"We do have tough gun laws in Massachusetts; I support them. I won't chip away at them; I believe they protect us all and provide for our safety." (2002, MA gubernatorial race)

This is what he does, Cass. I won't bark if you still support him, because you think his experience and so forth makes him the best candidate. I won't vote for him myself, because I don't understand him, but I won't bark if you back him.

Maybe he just wants the power because he wants the power. Maybe he won't do anything with it besides bask in it. He could be a pretty good President, then, on AVI's terms -- a guy who doesn't really want to do anything, he just wants to hold the office for a while.

My problem is that I don't understand men like this. Where I come from a man tells you what he thinks, and he lives or dies by what is in his heart. I don't know this guy. I don't understand him at all. He's not the kind of man I know how to trust.

Cass said...

Grim:

General statements of support for a right do NOT logically imply absolute refusal to limit that right under any circumstances.

Nor do they constitute a promise to defend that right always and everywhere. You are reasoning from the general to the specific (always risky, especially when you insist upon ignoring actual statements, the purpose of which was to clarify the degree of support for the general principle).

You don't get to do that.

I am "pro life" in the sense that my privately held belief is that abortion takes a human life. If I came upon an adult strangling a 6 month old child in an alley, I would feel morally bound to intervene. So would you.

But when I pass an abortion clinic, I will not physically intervene to stop a pregnant young woman from entering and killing her unborn child.

And neither would you, unless you have a secret life we don't know about. Neither would the vast majority of even passionately pro-life voters.

There is no conflict there. You may not like the fact that Romney came right out and said, "These are the lengths to which I will go to defend my privately held belief" because you think (erroneously) that not promising fight to the death on every issue means you were purposely misleading people about your personal belief system.

I know you are smart enough to figure out the logical inconsistencies in that position.

Grim said...

You're sticking with the one case, of him saying both that he is against abortion and that he won't alter the laws. You're ignoring the cases in which he said that he wants to sustain Roe, and later said that he hopes to see Roe repealed. I realize you want to frame him in the best possible light, but he has given us explicit contradictions on that score (see the page just cited, or the oppo book listed above -- abortion starts on page 13).

Even in that frame you prefer, though, there are logical entailments. To say that you believe that the principle of the 2nd Amendment is coherent with MA gun laws is to say that the principle doesn't actually mean anything at all. Those aren't some minimal limits, but (as he noted) pretty stiff laws.

So, yes: some limits on rights are not impossible. However, support for a principle does require support for the basic entailments of that principle.

The analogy that seems right to me is this: say we had a young man who was running for office who said, "I believe in the sanctity of traditional marriage. For that reason, I will not sign any bill endorsing same-sex marriage."

Now, let's say he doesn't sign any such bill; but he does conduct an affair with a married woman. Or two. Or five.

We can argue that he's kept his promise -- after all, he didn't promise not to commit adultery, being unmarried, and he hasn't signed any bills licensing same-sex marriage.

However, we can also see that the principle he was citing as reason for his promise not to license same-sex marriage is not his real principle. Although he claimed that his specific promise was driven by a general principle -- respect for the sanctity of marriage -- in fact, he doesn't really hold that principle. Even on the most generous terms to defend him as having kept his word is to say that "his word" is limited to specific promises; but whenever you hear him talking about general principles that structure his worldview, these things aren't to be taken seriously.

Texan99 said...

These are all good reasons to support another GOP candidate in the primaries.

I can't understand voting for Obama next November, or even staying home.

Grim said...

As Kipling reminds us, T99, "the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: 'Stick to the Devil you know.'"

We know what Obama is, and we have learned how to foil him. If it came to his re-election, there would be a Republican House (and most likely, Senate) to oppose his every move. In four years, he'd be gone and both parties would have to nominate someone new to run -- someone neither Romney (given his defeat) nor Obama.

If Romney wins, I don't know what he wants. I do know that his record suggests he'll come to that Republican Congress, and ask them to give him a little something on the spending issue. From Obama, they'd reject it. From him, I think party loyalty will tempt them.

We're better off with an honest opposition Congress than with one that is complicit with (slightly lower, slightly milder) increased spending.

E Hines said...

We know what Obama is, and we have learned how to foil him.

Sure we do. That's why we have Obamacare, and Dodd-Frank, and an out of control EPA and NLRB, and unconstitutional appointments deliberately intended to bypass the Congress' role, and (vis., Berwick) legal recess appointments, similarly made deliberately to bypass the Congress' role, and on and on. How, exactly, have we foiled him?

So Obama gets re-elected. His governance by Executive diktat continues apace, and the damage wrought by Obamacare and Dodd-Frank expands.

The devil I don't know is far better than this version.

say we had a young man who was running for office who said, "I believe in the sanctity of traditional marriage. For that reason, I will not sign any bill endorsing same-sex marriage." ... we can also see that the principle he was citing as reason for his promise not to license same-sex marriage is not his real principle.

You're arguing from a false dichotomy. You've made clear your definition of "traditional marriage," and I daresay most of us agree with it. However, this isn't the only view of what a traditional marriage entails. Our young man, given the information available (which seems a metaphor for the discussion of Romney), may hew to a different tradition.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

Well, I suppose there may be a tradition in which a married person may conduct affairs outside the marriage without it being considered adultery; but I haven't heard of it. I would tend to consider non-adultery a core entailment of the principle of "traditional marriage," and I'm not aware that anyone else thinks otherwise.

Although, the only reason we speak of "traditional marriage" today is that it used to be considered a core entailment of marriage that it would be between members of the opposite sex. So, you know, you're right to suggest that words are slippery in the mouths of politicians. Even the words that denote the founding bedrocks of our civilization can't be taken for granted anymore.

But that, if I may say so, is my point in trusting only men who don't treat their words as light things. It is why GWB, in spite of his flaws, was a man I felt I could trust; and why not everyone else in politics is.

Cass said...

Grim:

It was my intent to bow out here. I don't agree with you, but continuing to point out the many ways I disagree with you won't accomplish anything.

I do object to your repeated characterizations of my arguments. They is inaccurate, and because I don't believe you would deliberately mischaracterize them, I think I may rightly infer that you do not really understand my points at all.

Either way, I'm done :)

Grim said...

I think I may rightly infer that you do not really understand my points at all.

Sadly, my dear friend, I often find that in our strongest disagreements I share that sentiment exactly. I must likewise believe that sometimes we simply cannot make each other understand; but my respect and admiration for you is nevertheless very great.

Cass said...

Back atcha, Grim :) Either way, I enjoy the discussion!

Cass said...

If Romney wins, I don't know what he wants. I do know that his record suggests he'll come to that Republican Congress, and ask them to give him a little something on the spending issue. From Obama, they'd reject it. From him, I think party loyalty will tempt them.

The converse (obverse? I'm so confused...) is also quite possible.

Bush - precisely because he was so blunt - aroused near pathological hatred and opposition in Congress. Another man could very likely have asked for the same things and gotten a different reaction.

The people aspect matters, as does not losing face. It will be easier for Congressional dems to compromise with a Rethug president who doesn't openly antagonize them. No one likes to hear that, but it is nonetheless true.

I have many times at work gained the agreement of clients to things they formerly refused to do by simply allowing them to feel that they weren't losing a fight between adversaries, but rather cleverly negotiating a deal from which both sides benefitted.

The weird thing is that terms didn't change - only the players and their reactions to each other.

Grim said...

I certainly agree that you get more flies with honey, etc; and that people will agree to almost anything if you can convince them that it was always their idea.

Compromise can be a real virtue, but when you go to compromise it is important to have your values in the right order. You're there to trade less valuable things for more valuable ones, after all; and so you need to be sure you're correct about which is which. It's easier for me to rely on an agent to do this if I understand what his priorities are and that they are in order -- otherwise, like Jack, he may trade the family's only milk cow for a handful of beans, which are likely to prove not to be magic beans.

Cass said...

You're there to trade less valuable things for more valuable ones, after all; and so you need to be sure you're correct about which is which.

I would submit that whenever we're talking about values, "correctness" is irrelevant. Values are rarely correct or incorrect.

More often, the determination of "less valuable" or "more valuable" depends on a number of factors, some of which are aesthetic, some practical, and many can only be ascertained by conjecture (as in, "if I do X, Y will happen).

Grim said...

Sometimes that can be true -- you may value a Picasso more than a Rembrandt, while I may disagree. Or you may value an opportunity opened by a bad trade more than the lost value from the trade itself.

However, often there is an order that we can recognize. This is the point I was trying to make at your place about the tactical, strategic, and policy/principle levels. It's a fool who trades tactical success for strategic failure: such trades are the mark of bad generalship. By the same token, sometimes a general will accept a tactical loss in order to obtain a strategic advantage.

At the Presidential level, policy and principle come into play. Even a strategic victory is of no good if it undermines your overall policy (or principles).

The policy I most worry about is the spending/debt/reform-of-entitlements issue. I worry that there will be a temptation to pursue a strategic advantage (say, electoral gains via some new spending program like GWB's Medicare Part D) instead of the policy. I know the Republicans will fight for the right policy if they are arranged in opposition to the current President: their strategic advantages and the policy will align. Defeating the President will serve both purposes.

If there were a candidate who clearly had a firm principle on this policy issue, I could rely on him to lead his party in the right direction. If a candidate gives me no clear assurance that he understands that principles drive policy, while policy drives strategy, I wonder if we will not see failures of the type already well represented in our recent past.