by Paul Gottfried: The
Ghost of Joe McCarthy
once in a blue moon, I find myself agreeing with Dana Milbank
of the Washington Post (October 18) when he observes that
"conservatives are mum about Mitt's moderation." Making
allowances for Milbank's ideologically colored view, when he says
that in recent weeks the Republican presidential candidate "sprinted
toward the center," this columnist is correct on two points.
One, Romney has abandoned just about every "conservative"
social position he took during the primaries; and two, "conservative"
commentators and GOP regulars don't seem to mind. They're too
busy celebrating Romney's ascent in presidential polls, or else
complaining that Romney hasn't savaged Obama's foreign policy
GOP media celebrities may be receiving their worldview as well
as money from neoconservative fat cat Rupert Murdoch, who is an
ardent American interventionist. They seem to be oblivious to
the fact that most Americans are not complaining about Obama's
insufficient aggressiveness in international relations. How many
women voters or even old-time conservatives, like me, do Republican
mediacrats think they'll attract by continuing to scream about
Benghazi or, as Ryan did in his debate with Biden, gripe that
our president didn't get tough enough with Putin over Syria? Contrary
to something else Ryan suggested in his debate with Biden, it's
not at all clear that the anti-government side in Syria is any
more freedom-loving than those Alawi Muslims who are now in power
and whom the Russian government backs.
we really eager to jump into another Near Eastern quagmire, particularly
while we're still involved in the occupation of two Muslim countries?
And allow me to express (for a person of the Right) two other
heretical ideas: I'm not sure whether Obama is more to blame for
what happened in Benghazi with the attack on our embassy than
was George W. Bush for 9/11. Although Obama and his staff misrepresented
the facts afterwards, I can't figure out how they were responsible
for the terrorist attack itself. I'm also not sure what Romney
intends to do to stop Iran from developing a nuclear device. Will
he join the Israelis in launching an attack on that country? I
doubt his foreign policy advisors would hold back President Romney
if he decided on this course.
warlike positions may drive away far more voters than Romney's
adherence to whatever social positions he took as a primary candidate.
In the primaries and once or twice since, he's claimed to be pro-life
but when Obama stated during the debate that Romney does not support
Planned Parenthood, Romney predictably tried to weasel out of
the charge. What he should have answered is that he heartily endorses
all the other activities provided by Planned Parenthood, but wishes
this organization would restrict its activities to those endeavors
and not facilitate abortions. But being a consummate opportunist,
Romney wouldn't take this straightforward position. Perhaps it's
because it's not the one that he's consistently held throughout
his political career.
Obama accused his opponent of supporting those tough measures
introduced in Arizona under Governor Jan Brewer against illegal
immigration, Romney again switched colors. Although he had enthusiastically
backed this law and although, as Obama correctly pointed out,
had put the person who wrote it on his advisory staff, in the
second debate, Romney tried to align his position with Obama's.
Here too he was clearly equivocating in order to reach out to
potential Democratic voters.
I found even more egregious his answer as to whether he supports
legislation enacted by Obama and the Democrats allowing women
to bring suit against employers for unequal pay (relative to what
men were receiving) without time limitations. For someone who
supposedly believes in a free market economy and who should not
want to saddle employers with endless, expensive litigation by
groups of women claiming to have been given unequal pay in the
past, Romney should have explained why he opposed this legislation.
Of course he did no such thing. He answered instead by boasting
about how he had recruited lots of women for his administration
in Massachusetts. When Romney decided to outdo Obama on the subject
of who could provide more student loans, I yelled out the answer
that he should have given: "They drive up tuition and leave
students with debts that many of them will default on."
One knows more or less what four more years of Obama will bring,
but Romney seems harder to figure out. He looks nice enough and
does have a photogenic family. He probably would manage the economy
a bit better than the present administration and would please
the Right and center by probably appointing (but who knows!) less
left-leaning judges to the federal courts than those favored by
the Democrats. But this guy changes his positions the way Beyoncé
switches her hair styles. Even worse, his supporters have been
so conditioned to hate Obama that they don't even notice.
Gottfried [send him mail]
is Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown
College and author of Multiculturalism
and the Politics of Guilt, The
Strange Death of Marxism,
in America: Making Sense of the American Right, and Encounters:
My Life with Nixon, Marcuse, and Other Friends and Teachers.
His latest book, Leo
Strauss and the American Conservative Movement: A Critical Appraisal,
was just published by Cambridge University Press.