The Corner

The Romney Speech

Here’s my take: Put aside how rambling and unfocused it was. Maybe that can be chalked up to a bad night or fatigue. But to speak for 50 minutes or so and not to talk about the Iraq war before a conservative audience at a crucial moment in that war is bizarre and just wrong and almost offensive in my view. This doesn’t seem like an oversight. He went out of his way to check off every conservative box–except the one that is politically risky at the moment. The rest of his foreign policy stuff–when he talked about Iran and the broader war–felt very shaky and about an inch deep. His account of how he came to change his view on abortion–through the issue of stem-cell research–isn’t very compelling and he would probably be better off not talking about it at all. Fairly or not, people aren’t going to believe it. It was his misfortune to boast about signing Grover Norquist’s no-tax pledge, after Jeb Bush gave a very mature and persuasive explanation earlier in the day for why he hadn’t ever signed the pledge, but still cut taxes each year he was in office. I’m a fan of the pledge myself and I’m glad Romney signed it, but his boast on this night after following Jeb played into what will be the chief vulnerability to his candidacy–the sense that he is simply pandering to the right. Believe me, I prefer politicians pandering to the right than to something or someone else. But it won’t be enough to sustain a serious presidential campaign, which has to have a deeper rationale than occupying a niche in the marketplace. It was just one night, and Romney is impressive in many ways, but Saturday night was a missed opportunity.


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