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In Defense of Mitt Romney

Bookmark this one, folks, because it's not likely to happen again. To ensure there are no misunderstandings, I think Mitt Romney is a terrible candidate, and I strongly disagree with all of his current issue positions that I've heard (not that I'd trust him if he flip-flopped back to the issue positions he held when he ran against Ted Kennedy). Particularly relevant to this post, I think his position on the war is completely wrong. I can imagine no reasonably possible circumstance in which I'd vote for him*.

Romney has been roundly mocked for defending his sons' failure to enlist in the military like so:

"My sons are all adults and they've made decisions about their careers and they've chosen not to serve in the military and active duty and I respect their decision in that regard."

He added: "One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I'd be a great president."

I think the first paragraph is a fine answer, and Romney should have just stopped there. It's one thing to criticize someone because their own actions don't match their words. But it's weirdly collectivist to criticize them because their children's actions don't match their own words. Politicians' family members are their own people. (This is related to the way I don't give John Edwards much credit when his wife declares her support for same-sex marriage, nor too many demerits when she complains that white men get no attention.)

But I also don't think that the much-derided second paragraph of Romney's response is as bad as it looks at first. Participating in the democratic process is in fact a way of helping your country. It's bizarre to see liberals implying (or caricaturing conservatives as saying) that military service is the only valid way of helping your country, or that the worth of a form of service is measured by the amount of physical danger it entails.

In any event, I find the whole "chickenhawk" thing kind of silly, because military matters are the only ones where people push this idea that if you support a policy, you should make your career on the front lines of it. To use Romney-centric examples, I've yet to see anyone criticizing him (or his family) for not joining the Border Patrol, even though he supports tougher immigration enforcement. Nobody seems to think it's hypocritical that he hasn't founded an ethanol manufacturing company, even though he supports increased use of that fuel. And who would demand that the Romneys consider careers as sanitation engineers, since every day they blatantly produce garbage that needs to be hauled to the landfill?

*I can't decide whether he's better or worse than the other yahoos running for the Republican nomination, though. I'm still hoping Newt Gingrich gets in. He seems to be exercising an unusual (for a prominent Republican) degree of critical thinking with respect to the war and the environment. And the remainder of Gingrich's positions are standard conservative ones -- unlike Ron Paul, whose attractive positions on the war on terror and the war on drugs are balanced out by being extra crazy on all the other issues. (Obviously I'll be voting in the Democratic primary, although I haven't remotely made up my mind who I'll support.)


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