Sunday, December 25, 2011

Time's Joe Klein tries to position Romney as a Centrist

It is perhaps not surprising to see a Mitt Romney puff piece in Time Magazine (“Why Don’t They Like Me?” Dec. 12) since Time Inc.’s chief is a well-known ultramontane Catholic and Joe Klein, the author, is less than progressive.  Indeed, one could well expect that Bain Capital and or Romney and or LDS might be shareholders in Time Warner.

What is vaguely surprising is the attempt to seem “balanced” by charting Romney’s flip flops while stuffing the text with weird pro-Romney statements.  This may be an effort to limit and channel the opposition to Romney rather than to win support, as the media establishment struggle to provide the republicans with a “centrist” candidate.

The entire first page of the article is dedicated to praising Romney for his courage in resisting ethanol subsidy pandering in this campaign, as opposed to his conduct in 2008.  That there might be another explanation, namely that Romney  is following Cheneyomics in wanting to keep oil prices HIGH and establish “energy independence” using US and Canadian tar sands, something threatened by subsidized (or unsubsidized) ethanol,  does not occur to Klein.  In 2008, when gasoline prices doubled in a few months, there was fear in both parties that the American consumer would revolt, since it affected him worse than the oil shocks of the 1970s.  Most urban sprawl has been built subsequent to those shocks, meaning the consumer has less choice to resist oil price hikes now since he has further to travel.  But subsequent shocks and the lack of any urgent public demand to punish oil companies has persuaded conservatives they can safely ignore the public’s feelings on gasoline prices.  To Romney, an old investor in foreign oil companies, it must be a welcome relief.

The second page talks about flip flopping but does not really explain it.  Klein suggests Romney had to pretend to be liberal to get elected in Massachusetts, and he has to pretend to be conservative to get the Republican nomination, but Klein’s belief that makes him a centrist is unfounded and suspect.   Since the Massachusetts legislature was solidly left, all Romney’s “achievements”  in office were bound to have a left tinge, and do not imply any kind of liberalism.  Indeed, some of the small things he did, like the petty way he tried to stop gay marriage in Massachusetts by refusing to print corrected  forms, and his refusing to grant new liquor licenses, suggests that confusion of religious and secular mission which people fear from the Mormons. Klein concedes that Romney may “really” be a social conservative, but his idea that Romney may “really” be an economic relative liberal seems a wild fantasy, as though he is trying to label Romney as the “centrist” Republican candidate in defiance of the candidate.  

 The evidence Klein offers, Romney’s support for the City Year service organization, is laughably out of place. The Mormon hierarchy has been pushing national service  for 80 years and it is an obsession of virtually all Mormon politicians.   To argue that Romney’s support for City Year and non-attacks on Americorps are “Centrism” is to misunderstand Mormon orthodoxy, which views national service as a way to get the rest of America to pay for, copy, and validate their mission  program, and stop Mormons feeling behind the curve professionally with others of their age cohort.  Indeed, Klein even goes so far as to suggest Romney “probably” opposes Americorps, which is a brazen thing to say about a high Mormon official, essentially implying he does not follow his church.  Mormons consider national service "their" issue, and they think that the whole country would benefit from being forced to do service work, as long as their own missionaries might receive public funds.

That Romney has tried to stay closer to the center of Social Security and Medicare means he reads polls, and does not say one thing about what he would do as president.

Klein then launches into a bizarre and laudatory summary of Romney’s business career.  Bain Capital were not “turnaround” artists under Romney but predatory vultures seeking often to limit competition within an industry by pillaging the companies they bought and selling them to competitors.   Klein ends with the now obligatory softball criticism of Romney’s style (“robotic” or “lawn sprinkler”) while indicating Romney may well be the only Republican who can win.  It is as though Klein thinks these bald assertions can forestall any lurking liberals from investigating behind the Bain Curtain.

The important thing is to understand the point of articles like this.   If you are going to puff Romney, why bother with saying anything negative?  The answer is the target readers of the Time article are not Romney fans but enemies.  By taking a jaundiced view of the man but slipping in uncritical admiration of his business and centrism, Joe Klein is trying to disarm Romney’s opponents, to circumscribe and define their thinking so as to make ideas like “Romney is a skilled manager,” something which is not true, a matter of consensus among people who oppose him and narrow the channel where attacks on him will come from to “flip flopping,” where Obama has a similar problem; and style, which is trivial.

No comments:

Post a Comment