Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Defending Mitt: An Unpleasant Task

Over the past few years, Mitt Romney has tried to monopolize issues, ranging from health care and social security reform to the war in Iraq, by surrounding them. It's not just a matter of flip-flopping or changing his mind about an issue; Romney appears to want to hold onto internally contradictory positions in ways that would, if anyone thought he was sincere about it, challenge the rational actor model. It's as if he believes hypocrisy and self-contradiction are the values most prized by voters in a presidential election. Assuming Romney wins the Republican nomination, the Obama presidential campaign surely will run TV commercials featuring Romney contradicting himself, and Romney's response will  be? He can't deny he said what he said. Perhaps he'll insist that x = -x is not a contradiction at all, but a sensible, conservative approach to policy-making.

Having said all that, Romney does not deserve all the flak he is taking for admitting that he likes to be able to fire people who do not do a good job. Yes, I know, he said it in such a way as to create the opportunity for a wicked-sounding sound-bite. And the previously principled Jon Huntsman, among others, have been exploiting that opportunity mercilessly. But the fact of the matter is that we all like to be able to fire people who do a lousy job for us. We like to fire cable TV companies and cell phone companies that overcharge and provide poor service; we like to fire handy men who cause more problems than they fix; and we especially like to fire politicians who we consider venal, corrupt, stupid, immoral or otherwise lacking in character or ability.

Perhaps it was unwise politically for Romney to talk about firing anyone given the relatively high unemployment rate, but shame on the other hypocrits who, by criticizing Romney's statement, imply that everyone, not matter how incompetent, deserves a job, including as President of the United States.

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