Last weekend Mitt Romney spoke to a friendly, Conservative audience at CPAC. This was an opportunity for him to explain in detail his governing philosophy and Presidential agenda. He would face no gotcha questions from the media, no debate jabs from adversaries, and no time limits imposed by the TV news demand for eight second soundbites.
So he should have been able to make a perfect speech, perfectly in line with Conservative principles. Unfortunately he didn’t quite pull it off.
He began with stirring references to the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Here’s a sample:
For three years we’ve suffered the pain not only of a weak leader but a bankrupt ideology…But it’s not enough to show how they failed. we also have to prove how we will and deserve to lead…Now is the time to reaffirm what it means to be Conservative. The very heart of American Conservatism is the conviction that the principles embodied in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are uniquely powerful foundational and defining…
Good start. While public education abandoned serious instruction in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence decades ago, millions of Americans have recently begun reading them and, inevitably, found themselves shocked by the gulf separating the limited government chartered by the Constitution and the government of nearly unlimited power wielded by Barack Obama.
Conservatives all agree that departing from these founding principles would represent a departure from the greatness of America, from our mission, from our freedom, from our prosperity, from our purpose.
What’s that? “Departing would represent…”? Conservatives agree that the government began departing from the founding principles a century ago. The rate of departure has only accelerated under the Obama Administration. It’s too late to warn of a potential departure. It’s time to turn the ship of state 180 degrees and set course on reconnecting with those principles.
My state was the leading indicator of what liberals were trying to do across the country and what they’re doing now. And I fought against long odds in a deep blue state but I was a severely Conservative Republican governor.
Democrats and media commentators think Conservatives are “severe.” But a genuinely Conservative candidate hoping for Conservative support ought to realize that it isn’t “severe” to limit the power of government. It’s almost as if Romney were trying to play the part of a Conservative and and finding it difficult to adjust to an alien culture, like a Hollywood liberal actor playing a military hero.
Eighteen minutes into a 26 minute speech Mr. Romney finally began to talk about his policy goals
Today we borrow 40 of every dollar we spend. This is unconscionable, immoral, and it will end in my Presidency. I will approach every spending decision, every budget item with these questions: Can we afford it and if not is it really worth borrowing money from China to pay for it.
Romney hopes to appeal to Conservatives’ emotions with what seems like…well… “severe” and decisive criteria for sorting worthy from unworthy spending. Unfortunately it’s meaningless because each of the hundreds of federal programs has a lobbyist, a constituency of dependents, and friends in Congress who will summon up compelling, emotion-driven reasons why it simply can’t be cut or eliminated. Thus, Romney’s criteria will not shrink government, and will not result in any significant change from Obama’s policies.
Since he began his speech referring to the The Founders vision, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, he should end the speech by proposing a shift from continuously growing government to continuously shrinking government, with a goal to be reached over time of a federal government that no longer does anything not authorized by the Constitution.
The founders gave these matters a lot of thought and wrote a Constitution limiting the powers of government to a very few that were “enumerated” in Article I, Section 8. After the Constitution was ratified by the states and became the law of the land many citizens expressed fear that the government would overreach and take on powers not enumerated. So the founders followed up two years later with the Tenth Amendment to make sure there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that…
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
The problem today is that over the past century the government has assumed upon itself myriad powers and functions not authorized by the Constitution. That’s why it’s running trillion dollar deficits. That’s why the current President is not popular. That’s why the economy is not recovering.
The best campaign promise Romney or any candidate could make would be to start phasing out or canceling Unconstitutional programs in an orderly fashion, shrinking government back to it’s core Constitutional functions within a specified number of years.