When considering which presidential candidate deserves your vote, there tends to be a series of questions that you pose to them (that is to say, if you had the opportunity to do so and assuming that their imagined responses were an honest reflection of their actual positions) that could potentially serve to inform what decision you ultimately come to make in the voting booth. Such questions may vary from their positions on gun regulations, the role of government in stimulating economic growth, possible entitlement reforms, and whether or not they’d be fun to have a beer with. A question that is often overlooked, and which may be one of the more relevant for our current election cycle, is: “why do you even want to be president in the first place?” This, I believe, is one question that a particular candidate, one Willard Romney, has yet to really answer.
Why would Romney want to be president? It’s not as if he’s been lacking in success outside of the political arena. In his tenure at the private equity firm Bain Capital he amassed a considerable fortune, enough, at least, to have the disposable income to install car-elevators in his La Jolla, California home. This is not to say of course that success and luxury (inherited or otherwise) should serve to dissuade one from seeking public office. One needs to look no further than the posh upbringings of Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt to see political actors who, despite their family’s fortune, served as principled leaders- often advocating for the well being of citizens who did not share their privileged backgrounds. Romney has not only displayed none of the concern that other past candidates have for the plight of the underprivileged, but he has also failed to effectively demonstrate what, if anything, is motivating his presidential bid. In fact, he has shown at least a lack of interest, and often times a downright distaste, for aspects of the modern presidency that are ineradicable from what the position entails.
For example, lets take a look at some of his more recent blunders in the realm of foreign policy. Just this past spring Romney felt it appropriate to label Russia as our “number one geopolitical foe;” mocking President Obama’s effort to reset our relations with Russian and opting instead to invoke a Cold War mentality that is out of step with the realities of our current relationship. More recently Romney, in a speech given in Israel, attributed the economic vitality of the Israelis to their purported cultural superiority. In doing so, he fanned the flames of anti-American sentiment among the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world. Romney’s refusal to pay mind to the realities of this sentiment was further illustrated just this past week when, following the attacks on the part of Muslim protesters on the American embassy in Cairo, he lambasted the Obama administration for a statement released on the part of the embassy which voiced an appreciation for the insensitive and inflammatory nature of the video which provoked these attacks. Bracketing the ridiculous nature of a criticism aimed at the White House for a statement that it was not responsible for making, Romney made it clear that, in his estimation, it is ever inappropriate for the U.S. to make any effort to alleviate or subvert the hostilities of a (self-identified) injured party- even when these hostilities are boiling over and the threat of violence is imminent. As Romney should know, the office of the President exceeds a mere willingness to throw insults and disparagements at those who don’t immediately appeal to the nation’s interests. Romney instead seems to long for the days of the Bush administration’s cowboy diplomacy; where “if you’re not with us, you’re with the terrorists,” and where even the most strategically favorable (if not necessary for the sake of endangered lives), attempt at addressing resentment abroad is construed as an apology for American exceptionalism.
On the domestic front, Romney’s distaste for the actual office of POTUS was shown to be even more prominent than his inept foreign policy in a video that was leaked this week to the online publication Mother Jones.
In the video you see Romney addressing a group of donors following his clinching of the G.O.P. nomination in March. When asked to discuss his campaign strategy, Romney begins by commenting on the estimated 47-percent of the electorate who are supposedly democratic hard-liners. Who, regardless of what happens between now and the election, will turn out to vote for Obama. The goal, says Romney, is to focus on the 5-10 percent of the electorate who are self-identified independents.
There is nothing controversial about this. Much could be the same for the democratic campaign of Obama. It has to be assumed that any party is going to lose, regardless of circumstances, a sizeable chunk of eligible voters. It would simply be sloppy campaigning if any candidate were to spend their time courting the votes of those whose minds have never been anything but made up. The problem arises however with the language that Romney uses to characterize this 47-percent. At one point, Romney chides this group as one that he will never be able to convince to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” “My job,” said Romney, “”is not to worry about those people.” To quote Romney at length:
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.
In the above quote, it would appear that Romney views a little under half of the country as parasitic. They live off the government dole, they pine for hand-outs, and they apparently (despite Romney’s earnest efforts) fail to even care for their own lives. These people don’t even pay income tax! If they can’t even take responsibility for their lot in life, then what responsibility does the government have to care for them?
It’s one thing for a candidate to dismiss a population for the purposes of effective campaigning, but it’s another thing entirely to express such obvious distaste for their very existence. It is clear that Romney views these people as not only irrelevant for his White House bid, but as President Romney, he would show the same kind of dismissiveness. Unfortunately for Romney, if he were to win in November, he would not be the president of the 53-percent that would have elected him alone- he’d have to work for the plebs as well. To return then to the question: “Why does Romney want to be President?” it would seem that we still lack an answer. He shows no willingness to engage other countries on equal footing, he shows am alarming disregard for the importance of how the U.S. is viewed abroad, and he obviously thinks of half of the country as unworthy of consideration- even as he works to someday rule them.