Mitt Romney: Rejecter of Populism

The reviews are in for Mitt Romney's new book, "No Apologies: The Case for American Greatness," and aside from all the policy Romney introduces as an entree to his potential 2012 run at the White House, a salient take-away seems to be that he's NOT going to try to placate the laissez-faire populists that hold so much influence in the GOP these days.

It's perhaps an odd thing to take away from Romney's book, since its entire conception centers on America's global standing--a foreign-policy/national-security ideology of American exceptionalism that Romney has exuded since 2007--but in his domestic policy analysis, reviewers say Romney has essentially blown off all the pressure Republicans now face to placate the tea partiers.

Then again, maybe it just says something about the state of the Right, or the state of the author of this post, that even in a book by Romney, who wasn't supposed to get the tea party vote anyway, a book that seems designed to offer an easy contrast with President Obama's alleged "Apology Tour," it feels appropriate to contextualize the whole thing in terms of tea party-ism.

The Boston Globe's Sasha Issenberg writes:

The former Massachusetts governor and highly successful businessman says his critique of populist politics applies to both President Obama, who is battling bankers over Wall Street rules, and Republican leaders who have courted the "tea party'' movement by turning their anger on corporate leaders along with government.

Instead of ideological fervor, Romney is working to win over Republican voters and party elites with intellectual sobriety more tightly linked to his career as a management consultant and venture capitalist. If he runs again for president in 2012, he is preparing to do so as a serious policy wonk with a taste for economics and geostrategy but little interest in unnecessarily inflaming the culture wars.

And ABC's Teddy Davis concurs:

On the domestic front, Romney articulates a conservative vision while managing to show a measure of independence from the Hard Right.

Although anti-tax activists typically oppose revenue raisers of any kind, even if they are intended as a replacement for other taxes, Romney's book flirts with the idea of a new tax on gas or carbon which would be paired with a reduction in the payroll tax. Romney's book does not actually embrace a "tax swap" but he nevertheless describes it as currently being the best game-changing strategy for achieving energy security.

When it comes to the Wall Street bailout which is loathed by many Tea Party activists, Romney defends Hank Paulson and credits President Bush's former Treasury Secretary with saving the US financial system. Romney then goes on to criticizes Tim Geithner, President Obama's Treasury secretary, for the way in which he has administered the Toxic Asset Relief Program.

Human Events gives it high marks as a policy layout:

All in all, Romney's book provides a well-organized display of his stand on key issues.  His Obama critique is well executed, including commentary on Obama's abandonment of our missile defense program in Poland and the Czech Republic, his repeated apologies for America, his expansion of our debt, and his September 2009 UN address.  Romney's intermittent anecdotes with regard to business experiences, hands on encounters as governor, and the trials and tribulations of his own family, add a nice personal touch to his policy and statistical explorations....

Romney's No Apology: The Case for American Greatness is a sound expression of his approach to some of our nation's greatest present challenges.

And now, for meatier analysis of the book's foreign-policy/national-security vision, Spencer Ackerman's takedown of Romney as an inhabitant of fantasyland:

So many things are wrong with Romney's view of an imperiled America that it is difficult to know where to begin. First, the idea that the U.S. is locked in a struggle for global supremacy with "violent jihadists" overlooks the exponential differences in economic resources, military strength, and global appeal between America and an increasingly imperiled band of Waziristan-based acolytes of Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda can attack us; it cannot displace the U.S. as a global leader. It manufactures nothing, trades with no one, and has absolutely nothing to offer anyone except like-minded conspiratorial murderers. In order to disguise these glaring asymmetries, Romney has to use an empty term -- "the jihadists" -- which he cannot rigorously define and with which he means to absorb the vastly different aims and ambitions of rival terrorist groups and separate nations like Iran.

"Violent jihadist groups come in many stripes across a spectrum," Romney writes, "from Hamas to Hezbollah, from the Muslim Brotherhood to al-Qaeda." But al-Qaeda exists because it considered the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt too accommodating of the Egyptian government; Hamas has literally fought al-Qaeda attempts at penetrating the Gaza Strip; and Sunni al-Qaeda released a videotape just this weekend that derides "Rejectionist Shiite Hezbollah." There is absolutely nothing that unites these organizations in any programmatic manner except Romney's ignorance, and the expansion of ignorance is insufficient to topple an American superpower.
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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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