Like me, Hugh Hewitt, the radio talk-show host, has been a long-time fan of Mitt Romney, dating back to Romney’s days as governor of Massachusetts. The author of A Mormon in the White House? and The Brief Against Obama: The Rise, Fall & Epic Fail of the Hope & Change Presidency. He talks with me about what happened last night and what it does and does not mean.
KJL: What happened?
HUGH HEWITT: This is 2004 with red and blue reversed, with a big Democratic assist going to Mother Nature, not because of the Christie hug — the governor was just doing his job — but because the storm blew away the coverage of Romney’s closing argument.
KJL: Was Romney just a flawed candidate?
HEWITT: No. He was very good, but the presidency is not easily taken from an incumbent who makes use of its vast powers.
KJL: You and I, we know him — but I’m not sure the country ever met him?
HEWITT: This is complicated. I think most people know him to be very smart and most believe him to be generous and many know him to be virtuous, but envy of great wealth is a deep problem in this country, and the Chicago campaign played on that.
KJL: Is it because he was Mormon?
HEWITT: No, thank God.
KJL: Is it because of “Romneycare”?
HEWITT: No, not even an issue in the closing weeks of the campaign.
KJL: Was the case against Barack Obama not strong enough?
HEWITT: The case against the president’s reelection is airtight, but just enough of the electorate voted for the hope that he could do better with experience.
KJL: Was that enthusiasm thing — that Governor Romney had some kind of advantage there — a delusion?
HEWITT: No, and it would have been even more pronounced had Sandy not intervened. Sandy won this election for the president.
KJL: What was going through your mind when Romney conceded?
HEWITT: Deep disappointment for the country, sadness for a wonderful man and his amazing family, and concern for the American military and our national security.
KJL: What message should this send to the president?
HEWITT: The message he will take away is that the country wants more of whatever it is he wants to do.
KJL: What message should this send to Republicans?
HEWITT: From Sesame Street: “Practice, practice, do it again. Over and over, till you get it.” The GOP has caught up on the technology front but not messaging. Its candidates need to be much more disciplined about ideas and their delivery. Mitt Romney was badly hurt by down-ticket races and controversies taking the focus off the message of freedom and faith.
KJL: What does this mean for the Catholic Church, plaintiffs such as Wheaton College, and freedom itself?
HEWITT: The Department of Health and Human Services regulations will be struck down, but we need Alliance Defending Freedom more than ever. The Catholic leadership is used to a long view, and they need it now, especially on their college campuses and their high schools.
KJL: Was Paul Ryan a mistake?
HEWITT: No, he was a very good vice-presidential candidate, and one of the silver linings is that he returns to the House with increased stature.
KJL: Where do we go from here?
HEWITT: Congressman John Campbell said on my show last night that the House GOP will not accept a slow move towards socialism. Neither will the country.
2014 and 2016 will be the GOP’s 2006 and 2008 — if we do not kick them away.
KJL: Will America be the same?
HEWITT: Our Founders were men of genius and our Scripture is true so the country will weather the certain storms ahead. I have never been smart enough to be a “Straussian,” but the great political theorist wrote in The City and Man: “However much the power of the West may have declined, however great the dangers to the West may be, that decline, that danger, nay, the defeat, even the destruction of the West would not necessarily prove that the West is in a crisis: the West could go down in honor, certain of its purpose. The crisis of the West consists in the West’s having become uncertain of its purpose.”
There is an argument underway that Mitt Romney launched, and which has to be continued, about the purpose of America. The country didn’t give up on that purpose yesterday, so we will be fine provided the political class doesn’t mistake the reelection of a popular figure with a wonderful family for a redefinition of America’s and the West’s purpose.