With the fallout from the Romney Tapes-for my money the best tapes since the Nixon Tapes, though the NT is still great; seriously, he even discusses Archie Bunker on them-Romney to a man claims that he's not sorry for what he said but how he said it.
This is problematic on a number of levels. Steve Colbert had a great take on it:
"Mitt Romney isn’t backing down from the message of a secretly recorded video in which he says nearly half of Americans are moochers who want the government to provide everything for them. The delivery, however, Romney admitted, was “inelegant.”
"So Stephen Colbert stepped in on Tuesday to deliver that core message with a little more “panache.”
“As you know, we are all gathered here this evening because I have agreed to accept the presidency,” Colbert said. “But unfortunately almost half, two score and seven percent will vote for my opponent, that socialist Hottentot. But what could one do? These people are just greedy parasites, sucking on the withered teat of Lady Liberty. Oh, how their hunger knows no bounds.”
To be sure, what made Colbert's presentation particularly elegant was the top hat and shirt tails. A large part of the problem is that this really wasn't a case of using the wrong words because it wasn't intended for public consumption. It was said before closed doors for his donors ears alone. Nevertheless. George Will thinks he can make the elegant argument that Romney can't:
"In every year divisible by four, the dominant superstition of American politics — faith in the magic of presidential words and deeds — reaches an apogee that feeds national narcissism: Everything that happens anywhere is about us, is a response to something America did or did not do, and can be controlled by a president doing — even just saying — something."
"This self-absorption was evident as Mitt Romney and the Obama administration sparred about violence directed at U.S. facilities in the Middle East and elsewhere. Romney called this the fruit of administration weakness; the administration blamed it on a video. It would require precise intellectual calipers to gauge which idea is silliest."
There's probably some truth in this. However, Romney is doing everything he can to perpetuate this "superstition" by blaming everything that happens anywhere in the world and most of all the economy on the President.
Still, Will goes further and develops his argument and I think really does get us to the core of conservatism:
"A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll asked respondents to say which presidential candidate “would you prefer to have take care of you if you were sick” and which “would you rather invite to dinner at your home.” What is depressing about these questions is not that they miss the point of presidential elections nowadays but that they seem to touch the electorate’s erogenous zones.
“Tell me your troubles,” urged President Franklin Roosevelt in a broadcast fireside chat. But the idea of the president as consoler in chief and master of the bedside manner was unique to FDR until the 1990s. Then a nation with few pains had a president who promised to feel them."
"Imagine, if you can, wanting Dwight Eisenhower at your bedside. Or imagine him, who had seen serious pain, pretending to feel others’. Did anyone in 1952 ask voters whether they would prefer to have Eisenhower or Adlai Stevenson come to dinner? The nation liked Ike but hired him not for the pleasure of his company but to have him see that the laws were faithfully executed and to preserve the peace, which he did."
See, I actually think he's wrong about that. If the nation didn't like Ike so much they wouldn't have elected him. I also don't remember Will complaining when Americans said they'd rather drink a beer with W over Gore. Now Will gets to the essence of conservatism:
"I am not running to be your friend, because I hope you pick your friends from among people you actually know and for reasons unrelated to politics. And I will not insult your intelligence by claiming to feel your pain, which really is yours. Neither will I tell you that as president I would pacify distant mobs. I am running just to make government somewhat less destructive, to partially ameliorate the country’s largest afflictions and to make the world a bit less dangerous."
“My candidacy comes down to an eight-word question, and it is not ‘Will you call me about your tummy ache?’ Rather, it is: ‘Is this really the best we can do?’ It is difficult to prevent Americans from briskly creating wealth, but bad choices by both parties have done so. My opponent is making many promises, although a simple apology would suffice. My promise is that although I will not really create millions of jobs, I will, if Congress cooperates, remove some of the obstacles to your doing so."
“If you want a president who is the center of a government-centered society, pick the other fellow. If you endorse a dependency agenda — more and more people dependent in more and more ways on a government fewer and fewer are paying for — vote for the other party. If you do not share my opponent’s horror about being mostly on your own in the pursuit of happiness that you define on your own, give me a try. If it doesn’t work out, you can fire me in four years.”
See, I think this says it all. What Will is really saying is that conservatism opposes the Mommy State in favor of the Daddy State. The President should be the old fashioned idea of Daddy who says he doesn't care if you're in pain. It's an assumption that paternal love is superior to maternal love.
Another way of putting it is that Will wants a Daddy in the White House not a Mommy. Conservatism is largely based on this gendered concept of the President as Daddy. I think it's problematic on a lot of levels. This is the conceit of conservatism but I think it's flawed. That Daddy seems to care less but he doesn't. Sometimes seeming to care less really is to care less.
While the President is not omni powerful as Will says-but this undercuts Romney's entire candidacy which was to play gotcha on the economy, ignoring that the GOP Congress hasn't done anything to create jobs either and as Will knows is the branch that actually crafts legislation-he can do something. Will is wrong that the government can in no way contribute to growth. If tomorrow there were no government there would also be no private sector. The belief that it's otherwise is the central error in conservatism.