An Argument I Never Made

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Over at Slate again, William Saletan claims that I’ve argued for Romney on the ground that he can work with Republicans in Congress and Obama can’t. He accurately quotes a column of mine, but I didn’t make that argument there–or anywhere else.

A lot of liberals and even some headline writers in newspapers that ran the column interpreted the column that way, though, so I guess I should have been clearer. (One reason I’ve been misread, I think, is that a lot of liberals think that it’s so obvious that Republicans have been the nuttiest and most extreme opposition party ever that they assume I start from this premise too.) When I wrote the column, Obama had said that Republicans would be more likely to cooperate with his legislative agenda after he won re-election than they had been in his first term. The point of my column was to dispute Obama’s argument, not to mount an affirmative case for Romney.

The argument that Saletan attributes to me–you should vote for Romney because there will be gridlock under Obama–is not one I consider very compelling. For one thing, the column doesn’t try to establish that the enactment of Romney’s agenda would be better than gridlock, which is the least it would have to do to finish out the case. If you do consider that agenda worthwhile–and I made a case for parts of it in a different recent column–then you probably prefer gridlock to Obama’s getting his way too. So I don’t put much weight on the argument from gridlock. That’s why I didn’t make it.

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