By Tim Montgomerie
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I've made my own brief case for Mitt Romney in today's Times (£). I've argued that he's far different from the demonised caricature of the Democrat ad campaign. Instead he's better-placed to end the gridlock in Washington that is preventing America from facing up to its fiscal challenges. I give examples of the ways in which Barack Obama is far from the uniting figure that is sometimes suggested.
Posted below are some of the best chunks of writing on the American election. I particularly recommend the top two quotes from David Frum and Ross Douthat – especially to any British Conservative who is supportive of Barack Obama…
Obama's recipe for America is to do what Gordon Brown did: "The country's most pressing economic problem IS the break-down of the old middle-class economy. Wages are stagnating at the middle, class lines are hardening, and more and more of the benefits of growth are claimed by the very wealthiest. President Obama delivered his answer to this problem in his important speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, a year ago: more direct government employment (at higher wages), more government contracting (to enforce higher wages), and more government aid to college students (in hope that expanding the number of degree holders will raise their average wage). Obama is following a path explored by the British Labor governments of 1997-2010, when the majority of the net new jobs created in northern and western England, Scotland, and Wales were created in the public sector. That approach pushed Britain into fiscal crisis, when the recession abruptly cut the flow of funds from south-eastern England to pay everybody else's government salary." – David Frum for the Daily Beast.
An election about the size of American government:
"Already our government redistributes too much from the young to the
old, from working families to retirees, from productive entrepreneurs to
protected clients. To accede to this government’s permanent expansion
is to walk, with eyes wide open, into the kind of economic and
demographic trap that has ensnared the weaker economies of Europe today.
President Obama did not single-handedly put us on this path. But he has
kept us on it, accelerated our progress down it, and campaigned for
re-election as though taking this course had no downsides whatsoever.
He’s the candidate of the Medicare status quo in a country facing an
entitlement crunch, of government bailouts in an economy with a crony
capitalism problem, and of contraceptive mandates in a society with a
birth dearth. For an incumbent president facing a mistrusted opposition
party, this may prove a formula for a narrow electoral victory. But for
the country that might vote to re-elect him, it risks four more years of
drift, stagnation and decline." – Ross Douthat in the New York Times.
And here are the other quotes:
Obama has not governed with the largeness with which he campaigned: "If Obama had governed in a way truer to his inauguration, he would have used this winter of recuperation to address the country’s structural weaknesses. He would have said: Look, we’re not going to have booming growth soon, but we will use this period to lay the groundwork for a generation of prosperity — with plans to reform the tax code, get our long-term entitlement burdens under control, get our political system working, shift government resources from the affluent elderly to struggling young families and future growth. When people say they wish Obama had embraced the Simpson-Bowles
deficit-reduction plan, they don’t mean the specific details of that
proposal. They mean the largeness that Obama’s inauguration promised and
the Simpson-Bowles moment afforded. They mean confronting the hard
choices, instead of promising more bounty for everyone with no sacrifice
ever." – David Brooks in the New York Times.
Obama has a record of ignoring bipartisan advice: "Soon after the midterm election, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform—aka Simpson-Bowles—issued its report. Mr. Obama had established the body by executive order (after Congress refused to), so it was his commission. He informed its 18 members: "Everything is on the table." That wasn't the case. ObamaCare was protected, but the president still balked. The commission called for cutting the deficit by $4 trillion and proposed a bold tax-reform plan to lower rates and shrink the deficit. The president's response was dismissive: He would study the report. He mentioned Simpson-Bowles fleetingly in his State of the Union speech a month later. He ignored it entirely in his proposed budget. Not surprisingly, his reputation for fiscal irresponsibility spiked." – Fred Barnes in the Wall Street Journal.
But is Romney any more bipartisan? "Romney's professions of bipartisanship also collide with promises he has made to his own supporters — promises he could scarcely abandon even if he wanted to (and he says he doesn't). On "Day One" of his presidency, the GOP candidate says, he would begin the work of repealing Obama's healthcare law — something Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed to block. If a straightforward attempt to repeal Obamacare fails in the Senate, many Republicans want to undermine the law by blocking its implementation and funding — a guerrilla campaign that would embitter Democrats and undercut cooperation on other issues." – Doyle McManus in the L A Times
The Democrats have fought the negative campaign they promised: "In a remarkable New York magazine article by John Heilemann this May, senior Obama aides frankly described the task ahead — delegitimizing Romney. He would be attacked as a vulture capitalist, a cultural revanchist, a social Darwinist. “For anyone still starry-eyed about Obama,” said Heilemann, “the months ahead will provide a bracing revelation about what he truly is: not a savior, not a saint, not a man above the fray, but a brass-knuckled, pipe-hitting, red-in-tooth-and-claw brawler.” “Bracing” does not fully capture it. Throughout the summer, the Obama campaign and its allies accused Romney of not paying taxes, of possibly committing a felony, of personally outsourcing jobs to China and India, of stashing money in the Cayman Islands, of bearing responsibility for a woman’s death from cancer." – Mike Gerson in the Washington Post
Romney understands the economic importance of culture: "He praised the Israelis for the “cultural elements” in their success, the qualities that had made the actual, economic and political desert bloom. “Culture makes all the difference,” he declared. Of course this brought a bucket of condemnation upon his head because it was taken as an implied criticism of Palestinian culture. But his point goes to the heart of the West’s current problem. Does it still, as it once did, contain within itself the capacity for renewal, adventure and enterprise? Is its prized freedom a principle of activity for each individual or merely the right to moan about everything and tell the government to put it right?" – Charles Moore in The Daily Telegraph.
If Romney wins it will be because Obama's negativity backfired: "if Obama loses the White House, everyone – absolutely everyone – will attribute that fact to the fatal first presidential debate. And that will be largely right, not just because the President performed badly but because the public expectation of Mitt Romney was so dramatically contravened. Having been traduced and travestied by an Obama-worshipping mass media, Mr Romney simply became himself: reasonable, intelligent, obviously pleasant and impressively commanding of the argument. The electorate was not just bowled over with surprise, it was outraged by the misrepresentation of this man who had been depicted as half-monster, half-buffoon. American voters learnt an important truth not only about Mr Romney, but also about the systematic bias of the media." – Janet Daley in The Sunday Telegraph.
Romney's different presidential style: "Setting his political agenda aside, President Romney appears as a different kind of political leader. His victory ends the melodrama of the “great leader” who raises politics to a pseudo-religious level. It restores normalcy to the relationship between the public and the presidency. When historians write the account of Mitt Romney’s comeback, they will discover Americans’ latent wish for a steady hand and a more calibrated and businesslike view of what a president should be, and they will take note of Americans’ longing for more self-restraint and greater modesty in presidential conduct. The election will mark an end of charisma and a rebirth of constitutionalism." – James Ceaser in the Weekly Standard.