Friday, February 08, 2008

Romney Displayed Lack of Character In Bid

Two of the greatest and most admirable leaders of the 20th Century, Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle, both came out of the political wilderness to assume power and achieve their most impressive accomplishments. Mahatma Gandhi rose from South African obscurity tl liberate India from colonial rule. Franklin D. Roosevelt made a comeback from devastating polio. And Sen. John McCain, also a man of character, has just come back from political oblivion to become the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

All of these leaders had things in common: Identity with great causes and the resilience to achieve them. Churchill memorably said once that it was a mistake to live in the atmosphere of a Gallup poll. You have to do what you think is right, and let the chips fall where they may. So, in 1930, Lady Astor said he was "finished." But at the same time, he was beginning to warn of Hitler, and, eventually, he wasn't.

These thoughts come to mind today upon the withdrawal of former Gov. Mitt Romney from the race for the Republican nomination. There are circumstances in which Romney, even this year, could reenter the race -- mainly if something happened to McCain's health. But unless such a calamity occurs, I don't think Romney will be back. In fact, I think he has little basis to run in the future.

He has shot his wad, because unlike the political figures cited above, he ended up standing for very little, and he has lost whatever respect his adversaries once had for him.

As governor of Massachusetts, Romney was pretty much a centrist. His accomplishments were the result of deals with the state's Democratic majority. He even cooperated with Sen. Ted Kennedy on occasion, and he adopted progressive positions on such matters as abortion and gun control.

But when he decided to run for President, Romney gave up his moderation and moved so distinctly to the right that he acquired a reputation as a flip-flopper. His last gasp of a campaign against the McCain resurgence was to claim he was more conservative than McCain, based on these newly-adopted positions. It didn't work. He did not display resilience and, as I said, unless McCain ups and dies in the next few months, he is through. Even his own campaign lieutenants acknowledged yesterday that lack of "authenticity," was his overriding problem. He caused it himself.

Some will say Romney chose the only avenue open to him to run as a Republican. But tell that to McCain. He created an image of independence when he first ran for president eight years ago. Many "experts" said he burned his bridges with the conservative Republicans. But here he is, and most of the conservatives will come around.

Some might bring up Romney's adherence to the Mormon religion as an impedinent. But I think he could have much reduced this problem had he stated more emphatically, as John F. Kennedy once did, that he would not let his religion stand in the way of reaching hiis own judgments as president. Instead, when Romney gave a speech about his religion, he only used the word Mormon once and he neither gave such a flat assurance nor took questions. In short, he did not meet the problem head-on.

Romney also used $35 million of his own money in the campaign. There are occasions such as with Michael Bloomberg when he ran for mayor of New York City, that this works, but usually it only arouses suspicions. We are about to see this, I think, with Sen. Hillary Clinton's $5 million loan to herself.

All politicians who achieve success have to overcome obstacles. Napoleon came from Corsica, Stalin from Georgia. Both Napoleon and Stalin were short in height and not handsome. Churchill had a volatile personality and changed political parties twice. Lloyd George once said Churchill had 100 ideas a day, and two of them were good. De Gaulle had a mordant personality and vaingloriousness that made him anathema for years within the French Army. But Napoleon, Stalin, Churchill and De Gaulle all rose to surmount major crises.

We're about to see with Sen. Barack Obama whether he can rise successfully to meet a crisis. The crisis for him is the Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania primaries. He is going to have to broaden his appeal and narrow Clinton's to win

I'm not saying in all this that McCain will be elected President. He may be, for now, on the wrong side politically on Iraq, and he faces troubles in the economy with little economic experience. Right now, he would not beat Obama and he might not beat Clinton. But his character, and the respect most Americans have for him, give him a chance.

Romney did not display that character, and so, yesterday, he was gone.

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2 Comments:

Blogger unitybroth said...

Ken, what would you think about Bloomberg entering the race?

2/08/2008 11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding Romney's withdrawal from the Republican race for president:it has a lot to do with his being a Mormon,which your post today fails to acknowledge. Religious bigotry is a fact of life in these states. The evangelical right of your less than grand old party still considers mormonism a "cult," and many Americans with this bias voted against Romney.Still more in the Southern states are in thall to Huckabee, the more traditional
Christian bible thumper who took away votes from the far wealthier and more physically attractive Romney--who,though not Winston Churchill or one of other often mentioned heroes, has a killer resume you also neglected to mention.

2/08/2008 2:28 PM  

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