As I noted yesterday, I read and was not impressed by Mitt Romney’s speech over the weekend at CPAC. I’ve had the chance to speak with Romney at some length, and he’s smart and well-informed. However, at heart he is also badly out of step with the modern Republican Party, and as a result has to pretend he’s something he isn’t.
In other words, his fellow Republicans are probably right to look at him suspiciously. He doesn’t believe half the stuff he says, he doesn’t say half the stuff he believes. I guess that makes him dishonest, but in one sense there’s something honest about his dishonesty, because he just can’t hide it well. He knows all the dance moves, but he doesn’t know how to dance. Unlike Newt Gingrich, for example, Romney can’t bring himself to really believe all the things he thinks he has to say.
I came away a lot more impressed after reading the CPAC speech of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. While I disagree with a lot of what he had to say, that’s to be expected. What I found reassuring is that Daniels comes across as a serious, mature politician who would not be out of place in the White House. You don’t have to agree with a person’s policies to recognize leadership potential. And frankly, he’s the only possible Republican candidate I would describe that way.
For example, I doubt the rest of the GOP field could pull off a statement to the CPAC faithful cautioning them to keep things in perspective and suggesting compromise in the national interest might not be so bad:
“Purity in martyrdom is for suicide bombers. King Pyrrhus is remembered, but his nation disappeared. Winston Churchill set aside his lifetime loathing of Communism in order to fight World War II. Challenged as a hypocrite, he said that when the safety of Britain was at stake, his “conscience became a good girl.” We are at such a moment. I for one have no interest in standing in the wreckage of our Republic saying “I told you so” or “You should’ve done it my way.”
The question is whether “serious” and “mature” are attributes that GOP primary voters will find appealing, or whether they’re looking for something else this time around. I expect Barack Obama to win re-election no matter who runs against him, but if Daniels were to pull it off somehow, the country would still be in good hands.
– Jay Bookman