Mitt Romney delivered a stem-winder in Poland, so powerful that even one of his most persistent critics was impressed.
His recitation of the United States’s vital role in keeping the flame of freedom burning during the Cold War was an obvious jab at President Obama, who has been mute more often than not on human rights. (Romney: “Czeslaw Nowak recalled the days in 1981 when he, [Lech] Walesa, and others were imprisoned by the communist regime. Just when it felt like they might be forgotten by the world, the captives learned that in the White House, the President of the United States was lighting candles. It was a demonstration of unity with them — a sign of solidarity. ‘When Reagan lit the candles,’ Mr. Nowak recalled, ‘we knew we had a friend in the United States.’ ”)
Especially noteworthy, I think, was the consistency in Romney’s message in Poland and Israel regarding the connection between freedom and prosperity. In Poland, Romney said this:
Perhaps because here in Poland centralized control is no distant memory, you have brought a special determination to securing a free and prosperous economy. When the Soviet Empire breathed its last, Poland’s economy was in a state of perpetual crisis. When economists analyzed it from abroad, one heard talk of the prospect of starvation in major cities.
But from the depths of those dark times, this nation’s steady rise is a shining example of the prosperity that economic opportunity can bring. Your nation has moved from a state monopoly over the economy, price controls, and severe trade restrictions to a culture of entrepreneurship, greater fiscal responsibility, and international trade. As a result, your economy has experienced positive growth in each of the last twenty years. In that time, you have doubled the size of your economy. The private sector has gone from a mere 15 percent of the economy to 65 percent. And while other nations fell into recession in recent years, you weathered the storm and continued to flourish.
When economists speak of Poland today, it is not to lament chronic problems, but to describe how this nation empowered the individual, lifted the heavy hand of government, and became the fastest-growing economy in all of Europe.
He gave that same message about the wonders of capitalism privately and in public in Israel. He is talking about the habits of free people, and the moral case for capitalism. It took a while (a 2008 campaign, and about half of this campaign), but Romney got to the heart of the matter, and his core beliefs. In domestic policy terms, he is arguing that Obama doesn’t understand how his policies impair freedom, and therefore diminish prosperity. Someone should ask Obama where prosperity comes from, and how it is fostered. (If the answer is “light rail” or “green jobs,” you understand the depth of of his intellectual confusion.)
Notice in the latest Romney ad how that same message delivered in Poland has become central to Romney’s domestic policy vision:
Put differently, Romney has a worldview. When he talks, he’s saying something of interest (in part, I think, because he reads and relates the contemporary research and analysis on what he is talking about), even if you don’t agree with it.
We’ll see if he and his advisers can paint this vision effectively at the Republican Convention — with enough concrete descriptions of what he’d do to empower individuals here in the United States, lift the heavy hand of the federal government and help this country once again become the engine of growth for the world. If so, he’ll have gone a long way toward clarifying the choice in November.