February 27th, 2008 by Rightsideup

I note the Wall Street Journal has finally covered Barack Obama’s Patriot Employer Act, which I posted on a couple of weeks ago. It seems he’s been touting it on the campaign trail, too, so apparently he’s still keen on it and willing to admit that fact:

Recently in Janesville, Wis., he repeated his intention to make it a priority as President: “We will end the tax breaks for companies who ship our jobs overseas, and we will give those breaks to companies who create good jobs with decent wages right here in America.”

The paper does a nice job covering the several reasons why this would be awful. Let’s hope that message gets out to the population as a whole and not just the WSJ’s already-conservative readership.

February 8th, 2008 by Rightsideup

A two-fer from the WSJ today, but this one was actually via the Freakonomics blog, which had a shorter and more interesting take. Stephen Dubner suggests that there are still some biases which are more acceptable than others, as he originally suggested in the Freakonomics book. Among these are biases against Mormons (he also illustrates that bias against Hasidic Jews may be another example).

As we wrote in Freakonomics, evidence from the TV show Weakest Link suggested that bias against women and blacks was considered less acceptable than bias against Latinos and the elderly… Based on today’s newspapers, at least, it looks like Hasidic Jews and Mormons probably wouldn’t have done so well on Weakest Link either.

The WSJ article itself is a little long-winded and unstructured but cites lots of people talking about the problem without much insight. But this will be a theme well worth revisiting in a few months. If Romney is going to come back, that makes sense if his main problem was his perceived lack of commitment to big ideological stances. But if this was the real reason he didn’t win, he might easily pour millions more dollars down the drain if he ran again.

February 8th, 2008 by Rightsideup

The WSJ’s op-ed today on Mitt’s suspension of his campaign is a little kinder on him than its previous analysis of his candidacy, although it makes some of the same points anyway:

… while he convinced various radio and TV hosts, he never made the sale about his convictions to enough voters.

The former consultant and entrepreneur also faced a stark data point: His campaign never caught fire with his party’s voters in the way he hoped. Americans often say they want a businessman candidate, but rarely do they elect one as President. Perhaps that’s because they understand the incentives are very different in the business marketplace than in Washington, and they are looking for convictions and ideas as much as technocratic competence in their candidates.

The irony here is that surely, over the last eight years, we’ve seen what ideology alone does, both when not accompanied by competence, and when not tempered by reality. While Bush’s ideology has allowed him to appoint two good Supreme Court justices, his lack of competence and over-emphasis on ideology has meant he’s failed to exercise discipline over Congress by using his veto power, and pursued failing strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Competence is exactly what we need, especially when coupled with strong principles, and perhaps what Romney failed to do was make that point effectively, which was hard for him to do when running as a Bush fan. A businessman’s analytical mind would likely have being able to grasp much more quickly that the Iraq strategy wasn’t working, and probably would have been quicker to make personnel changes too.

Some of the more positive comments were a little kinder, however:

Given that some of his more melodramatic supporters have taken to declaring their intentions to support Hillary Clinton over Mr. McCain, Mr. Romney’s statesmanship will win admirers across the GOP.

… He… showed himself to be a man of personal integrity, and he arguably made Mr. McCain a better candidate — in particular by forcing the Arizona Senator to speak more clearly about the economy.

… [McCain’s] task of unifying the party was made easier by Mr. Romney’s statesmanship.

Glad they recognise that Romney has exercised self-discipline whereas Huckabee apparently intends to continue his Quixotic pursuit of the nomination at great cost to himself, his supporters and the party.

February 1st, 2008 by Rightsideup

The Wall Street Journal today puts another nail in the Romney campaign’s coffin. If he can’t even rely on a conservative newspaper like the WSJ then he may indeed be in real trouble. The article makes several points to back up its dislike of Romney’s candidacy, some of which are inaccurate or at least unfair:

Insurance in Massachusetts is among the most expensive in the nation because of multiple mandates, such as premium price controls and rules dictating that coverage be offered to all comers regardless of health. Mr. Romney’s cardinal flaw was that he did not attempt to deregulate and allow the insurance market to function as it should.

That last line is the kicker. He did try, but faced with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature which had created the mandates in the first place he wasn’t successful. This is inaccurate to say the least.

The mandate in combination with other regulations effectively socialized the Massachusetts insurance market.

Does the Wall Street Journal have some other definition of the word “socialized” than the rest of the world? There is no government provision or insurance for healthcare here – just private insurance provided by private companies to private individuals which can be used for private care in private hospitals. Absolutely, the plan wasn’t perfect, and absolutely the Democrats hijacked it and created something of a Frankenstein’s monster out of it – but this point too is overplayed in the op-ed:

None of this would bode well for a President Romney facing a Democratic Congress that would be even more relentless than the one in Boston.

Relentless? What does that mean? Certainly the national congress, even if Republicans lose further seats in November, would not be anywhere near as Democratic as the Massachusetts legislature. And with far more Republicans there, as well as broad support for Democrats for the principle, it’s quite possible Romney might be able to get something much more like his original vision passed in Washington.

The op-ed ends up reading like a hatchet job by a group of people who have already made up their minds, not a thoughtful examination of Mitt’s candidacy. What we really need – both from Mitt and from observers like the WSJ – is an examination of what we need in our next president, and how he measures up. I’ll provide my version shortly