Amidst the torrent of commentary on the Second Coming of Newt, Jonah’s point is worth considering:
Mitt Romney is still the sensible choice if you believe these are rough, but generally sensible, times. If, however, you think these are crazy and extraordinary times, then perhaps they call for a crazy, extraordinary — very high-risk, very high-reward — figure like Gingrich.
This helps explain why Newtzilla is so formidable. In order to stop him, you need to explain to very anxious GOP voters that the times don’t require him.
I’m in the latter camp: I think these are “crazy and extraordinary times.” Matter of fact, I wrote a whole book on the subject. So, for me, it’s not enough merely to replace Obama: He’s a symptom of the problem, rather than the underlying cause. The ship of state has become encrusted with barnacles upon barnacles, and, if the next guy isn’t committed to getting rid of them, we’re still going to sink.
Is Mitt the fellow to do that? Hillsdale’s Paul Rahe considers the matter:
He will do what he needs to do to attract our votes, or, at least, in his awkward, inept way, he will try. And in this one particular he may feel bound to keep his promise. But once in office – like Eisenhower, Nixon, Bush One, and Bush Two – he will drift into extending the power and scope of the administrative entitlements state.
That would seem the way to bet. “Drift” is the best way to sum up his nominal stewardship of Massachusetts. In national office, he might approximate the instincts of David Cameron: Occasionally, depending on the audience he’s pandering to, he’ll say the right thing, but it’s entirely whimsical and arbitrary, and underneath the drift goes on.
This next term is critical for America, not just because (if the IMF is correct) it may mark the end of America’s long run as the world’s leading economy but because, if Obamacare is not repealed in the next four years, it will never be repealed. As I’ve said for years, government health care fundamentally (as Newt would say) redefines the relationship between the citizen and the state into one closer to junkie and pusher. Once the Obamacare goodies kick in, getting back across the Rubicon will be a tough job. Nothing in Mitt’s past suggests he’s got either the stomach for that fight or the savvy to win it — and that’s before you consider his basic instincts on the matter:
His initial response to Obamacare was to want “to repeal the bad and keep the good,” and among the things he thought good about the President’s healthcare reform were the incentive structure (i.e., the individual mandate enforced by fines) and the provision that insurance be provided to those with pre-existing conditions who had not seen fit to pay for insurance when they thought that they were healthy (i.e., making the responsible pay for the irresponsible).
So, if these are “crazy and extraordinary times,” go with the crazy, right? Newt certainly thinks bigger than Mitt, but unfortunately he thinks in the same direction of unbounded micro-managerial faux-technocracy. Professor Rahe again:
Gingrich is a lot like Romney. Neither man recognizes that the source of our problems is government meddling and the distortion that this produces in what would otherwise be a free and relatively efficient market. What they think of as a cure is, in fact, the disease… What these managerial progressives in their desperation to manage the lives of the rest of us fail to understand is that the intellectual presumption underpinning the aspiration to “rational administration” that they embrace is the principal cause of our woes.
It’s a tragedy that the Republican nomination has dwindled down to a choice not worth making. Yet not a single real vote has yet been cast. Iowa and New Hampshire will do us all a favor if they look beyond the frontrunners and keep genuinely conservative candidates in the game.