Two events Friday should give nervous Republican some solace about Mitt Romney. First, the virulently anti-Israel and pro-appeasement Zbigniew Brzezinski criticized Romney for failing to grasp foreign policy. Whew! Any doubters about Romney’s pro-Israel, pro-human rights and pro-defense spending agenda can breathe easier. But more important was Romney’s speech in Wisconsin.
The Post’s Phil Rucker reported: “In a formal speech here, the former Massachusetts governor delivered a passionate defense of America’s free enterprise system, which he said had been under attack by an administration that considered businesses as “the villain and not the solution.” This was a livelier and more presidential Romney. (“More than at any other moment in the campaign, Romney took on the air of the nominee. Romney, who often stumbles as he reads from teleprompters, delivered this speech crisply and with unusual passion. He wore a suit and stood before eight cedar-framed American and Wisconsin state flags.”)
As we’ve remarked before, this is what happens when a candidate becomes effectively the nominee: He seems more commanding. In this case, the content of the speech was sharper as well.
His critique of the president was hard but not overstated: “President Obama did not cause the recession, but he most certainly failed to lead the recovery. His stimulus protected the government, not the people. It was promised to hold unemployment below 8 percent. It did not. Barack Obama’s stimulus was as ineffective as it was expensive. His Obamacare didn’t help create jobs, either. It discouraged small businesses and health companies from hiring new workers. And Dodd-Frank hurt the community banks that provide loans to small businesses. But the ‘Too Big To Fail’ banks are even bigger today. He failed to deliver on jobs, but on his goal to raise energy prices, he sure came through. All in all, President Obama prolonged the recession and slowed the recovery. His economic strategy is a bust.”
After reviewing the dismal economic stats he painted a larger vision — appropriately on the day he snagged Rep. Paul Ryan’s endorsement, a vision that sounded familiar to Ryan fans: “Barack Obama and I have fundamentally different visions for America. He has spent the last four years laying the foundation for a new government-centered society. I will spend the next four years rebuilding the foundation of our opportunity society, led by free people and free enterprises.”
In Obama’s vision government consumes an ever greater share of the economy (“government at all levels consumes 38 percent of the total economy or GDP. If Obamacare is allowed to stand, government will directly control almost half of the American economy”). In Romney’s the private sector is restored:
One must ask whether we will still be a free enterprise nation and whether we will still have economic freedom. America is on the cusp of having a government-run economy. President Obama is transforming America into something very different than the land of the free and the land of opportunity. . . .
I don’t want to transform America; I want to restore the values of economic freedom, opportunity and small government that have made this nation the leader it is . . . .
This means that government must be smaller and have strict limits placed on its power. Obamacare violates both principles. I will repeal it.
Taxes should be as low as possible, in line with those of competing nations, and designed to foster innovation and growth. That’s why I will cut marginal tax rates across the board.
Regulations are necessary, but they must be continuously updated, streamlined and modernized. Regulators should see part of their job as protecting economic freedom, promoting enterprise and fostering job creation.
Workers should have the right to form unions, but unions should not be forced upon them. And unions should not have the power to take money out of their members’ paychecks to buy the support of politicians favored by the union bosses.
In short, government must make America the best place in the world for entrepreneurs, innovators, small business and big business — for job creators of all kinds. Business is not the enemy. It is the friend of jobs, of rising wages and of the revenues government needs to care for the poor and the elderly and to provide for the national defense.
That’s a conservative message that a Paul Ryan or a Marco Rubio could easily have delivered. It was also optimistic and forward-looking: “America has become vulnerable to new competition, to looming debt and to those who would substitute more government power for more freedom. We have made some bad choices and ignored the mounting threats. But if the hill is a little steeper before us, we have always been a nation of big steppers.” He wrapped up with some uplifting rhetoric some conservatives have found lacking in Romney’s repertoire:
Together we’ll build the greatest America we have ever known, where prosperity is grown and shared, not limited and divided, an America that guarantees that ours is the door that innovation and greatness always knocks on first.
There was a time — not so long ago — when each of us could walk a little taller and stand a little straighter because we had a gift that no one else in the world shared. We were Americans. That meant something different to each of us, but it meant something special to all of us. We knew it without question. And so did the world.
Those days are coming back. That’s our destiny. Join me. Walk together this Tuesday. And take another step every day until November 6th.
Not every day will be as good for Romney as Friday. But it was a good one, and it suggests he’s got more to offer than many have acknowledged.