No Apology by Mitt Romney: A Review

I was a Romney supporter in 2008, but in 2012 I’ll be voting for Ron Paul, kind of like this guy. Because I’m a Mormon I’ve received some flack for this. “But Romney was a stake president! He’s a good guy!” I hear from some. I’ve also received flack from Republicans not of the Mormon persuasion who say “Romney was a successful businessman, he can fix our economy!” Others are less pro-Romney and merely don’t like any of the other GOP candidates. Gingrich is morally debauched, Santorum…well, he’s just not Romney, and Ron Paul is, of course, unelectable.

I’ve argued with these people that Romney, Gingrich, and Santorum are little different than Obama when it comes to their political philosophy and policies. This line of reasoning generally draws gasps and then laughter. “What, are you an idiot?! Of course Romney and Obama are different! They’re completely different!” is the feedback I get. In every case I ask the person who is so convinced of the differences between Romney and Obama to show me one way in which their policies differ, other than that Romney has said he would veto Obamacare. As of yet I have received no responses. That isn’t to say there aren’t any differences, because I know there are some, although I think they are inconsequential and effectively melt down to being shot in the head with a pistol or a rifle.

The most stinging criticism I have received has been from those who insinuate that I don’t really know anything about Romney, and that I haven’t even read his book. I include one comment in its entirety to give you a flavor of what I’m referring to:

As for me I look for a man who has been successful at all his endeavors. Who has no vested time on the beltway. Who has taken on the liberals in their own state and won. Who was praised by conservatives, liberals, independents and libertarians alike for his approach to health care in his democratic state (until of course it became politically unpopular and claimed by all of the above, for their individual motivations, as the seed of Obama care which HE totally opposes). Who has his own money invested in the outcome. Who has had a career of turnarounds and has actual major leadership experience. Who took the Olympics after 9/11 when many lobbied to have a bye and resurrected it from the hands of dishonor and corruption to be the most successful of winter Olympics, thus giving all a needed patriotic boost. Who believes the constitution an inspired of God document that made possible the restoration (of the gospel of Jesus Christ). Who represents everything that is good about family and the strength of America. Who was brought up in a home where American values were core and continues them with his family. Who would have a hard time with the legalization of drugs and prostitution. Who has been financially successful through his own work ethic and resolute dedication. Who certainly has weighed on the scale all of his opponent’s thoughts and has clearly laid out his beliefs in his book, “No Apologies,” for all to read and attack (clearly Joshua has not studied that). And, who is a faithful Temple recommend holder who does not shy from his faith or that of his fathers and has served others in church callings from (being a) home teacher to (being a) Stake President and has administered and understands the principles of welfare.

Never the less, Joshua, and others of like mind, may get what they clearly must want most. A man who cannot, under any circumstance, win the election. And they can loudly claim their cause was right as the nation suffers another four years of President Obama. If that happens they may well loose their opportunity to influence the good that Paul represents in the future.

I had already decided to read Romney’s book prior to receiving this comment, but this threw fuel on the fire to read it quickly. I don’t want to be the guy who rushes to judgment. I want to give people a fair shake. It’s true that I don’t know Romney personally. I’ve never spoken to him. I do know some people who know him very well, and whom speak highly of him. I don’t know anyone who knows him personally who speaks negatively of him. I happen to think he’s a nice guy. I think he’s brilliant when it comes to the business world. I’d hire Romney in a heartbeat to run a private equity firm. I have nothing against Romney on a personal level, just as I have nothing against Obama personally. What I don’t like about both men are their philosophies about the role of government and the resulting policy stances. But to be fair to Romney, I decided to read his book No Apology.

Before starting the book, I was just a little worried. What if the Romney supporters were right? What if I liked what I read? What if after reading the book I was convinced the best course to take would be to support Romney instead of Ron Paul? It turns out my doubts and fears were in vain. Having read the book, the one word I would use to describe its contents is “horrifying”.

Although I possess the disposition, I lack the time to go into the complete details leading to my visceral reaction. But I will share my main four thoughts:

1. Foreign policy. Romney starts the book talking about his foreign policy views. This is what disturbed me more than anything else. Romney’s perspective is the classic neocon circular reasoning–anything America does is good, only America can be trusted, if it weren’t for America the world would be in horrible shape, America has saved the world from self-destructing, and if America doesn’t continue to be #1 the Islamists and Chinese will kill us all.

I agree that America has done much good in the world. I agree that the world is a better place due to America’s existence. But America, or more correctly, the federal government of the United States, has done many bad things as well, things that perhaps we should apologize for.

What frightens me more is that I don’t see that Romney understands why terrorists hate us. I don’t think he understands why many other countries see the US as a bully. Ironically, his book gives many reasons why we should build up our military as a reaction to what other countries are doing, but he seems to fail to see why those reasons work in reverse for those other countries. In failing to put himself in the shoes of others around the world, Romney commits the same error that has been made throughout the world’s history by many brilliant people, that of assuming that anyone who disagrees with him is stupid, or at least limited in their understanding. Hey, we all do it, I’m doing it right now. But I’m willing to be proven wrong, would be glad to be proven wrong, whereas I don’t get the impression Romney is open-minded enough to change course, and I think Romney’s course will lead us to wars, potentially major wars, we might have otherwise avoided.

2. We Just Need Good, Smart People in Charge. Romney also falls into the trap of believing that things will be well if we can  just get good, smart people in charge. The Founders understood the danger of such thinking and that it leads to a dictatorship much like the one they were trying to escape. The Constitution was written expressly to restrain the federal government from becoming too powerful. But Romney, while paying lip service once or twice in his book to limited government, makes it obvious by 50 or 60 references that he sees government as a valuable tool for bettering the lives of Americans as well as the rest of the world, not just by providing defense services and a justice system, but through policies related to education, health care, the economy, and more. Nowhere does he convincingly portray Americans as people who, if left alone, can figure out how to do much better for themselves those things government tries to do for us today. His view is not that government is the problem, but rather that we simply have the wrong people running government, and that if we could simply get the right people in charge, like himself, then things would be fantastic. I prefer Thomas Jefferson’s view–“In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”

3. The System. If Romney understood The System, he would better understand the danger of putting faith in men rather than the Constitution. Let’s explore an analogy to make this point. Let’s imagine an evil being exists whose goal it is to make all people miserable. You can imagine this is Satan, George Bush, Obama, Lindsay Lohan, or whomever you please. How might this person use our form of government to achieve his or her ends? Here’s one possible route; 1) convince the people to trust their government by electing good men to it, 2) convince those good men that the role of government is to do all good things for the people, 3) promote the growth of government and its involvement in all areas of life through good programs, designed to truly bring good things to the people, 4) once government has become firmly entrenched in all areas of society, replace the good men with bad men. You can guess the rest from here.

Good people with good intentions create the system whereby bad people with bad intentions can do far more harm than they otherwise could have. The only protection is to not allow the good people to create that system. This does not mean the good things government does don’t exist, in fact they can and will almost always, if not always, be provided faster/better/cheaper by the private sector. Restraining the growth of the system is the only guarantee against tyranny and slavery, and has no downside other than that those who desire power over others won’t be able to get it.

Romney seems to have no sense of this phenomenon. He pontificates at length as to how Obama is doing the wrong things, but that he, Romney, would do the right things on behalf of Americans. The idea of doing nothing and allowing individuals to do their own things is barely touched upon.

4. Freedom. Romney focuses on results rather than principles, and the prime principle he misses is that of individual freedom. He speaks of using government power to encourage good things, but fails to realize, or does not have a problem with the fact, that government power is force. Government does not act by persuasion, it uses the power of the state to force what it deems to be “proper” behavior. In some cases we reasonably delegate this power to government, as in the case of defense, police protection, and the courts. But we are very far away from merely delegating those limited powers to our government, and Romney’s misunderstanding of this principle is nowhere clearer than at the end of the book when he dismissively refers to anyone in favor of the legalization of marijuana as hedonists and expresses his support for keeping it illegal. Many credible arguments have been made as to why the war on drugs is an expensive failure that does more harm than good, but the fundamental principle is individual liberty. I cannot delegate to government those rights which I do not possess. As an individual, I do not have the right to enter my neighbor’s house, kidnap him, and lock him up because he’s smoking something I don’t want him smoking. And just because a group of individuals call themselves the government, this does not give them the right to do this either. But Romney does not understand this fundamental principle, and if he doesn’t understand it in this matter, he will fail to see where it applies in countless other areas, and that ignorance of the principle of human liberty, perhaps more than anything else, is what truly horrifies me.

Romney and Obama are not exactly similar because they want to do the same things with government. They are almost identical in that they both want to use government to force people to do what they think people should do. They are identical in that they see government as a tool with which good, smart people can make the world a better place. The Founders realized this was dangerous. They wrote the Constitution to keep people like Obama and Romney in line and prevent them from mischief. But in this day and age, with the Constitution more of a guideline for politicians than a hard and fast rule, can we trust anyone in the office of President, other than a person who will shrink the power of that office and has shown the intellectual understanding of why that’s necessary and the commitment to do so?

  • Nick

    Thanks for the great article here.

    I too am a Mormon horrified, not by Romney’s character, but by his lack of understanding of true principles of freedom.

    I don’t just want better management of the same big government. I want the government restored to it’s constitutional limits so that I can enjoy more freedom and reap the consequences of my actions. I have little doubt that Romney is a better manager than President Obama, but that’s not what I’m looking for.

    I also have little doubt that Romney’s character and beliefs are more or less inline with my own, but that’s also not what I’m looking for. Conservatives castigate minorities and others all the time for voting for similar candidates instead of looking at the issues. Aren’t we doing the same thing if we vote for a man based on his similar believes and values rather than his intentions to protect our God given rights. I don’t just want a candidate that agrees with me on everything; I want a candidate that will protect my freedom to believe and act the way I want to.

    Keep up the good work Joshua.