Ponnuru adds a series of questions of which one in particular carries a lot of force.
The [Republican] party has reached a consensus on most issues.
3) Is that consensus correct? If not can Romney supply what it lacks?
On the most urgent economic issue of the day – recovery from the Great Recession – the Republican consensus is seriously wrong.
It is wrong in its call for monetary tightening.
It is wrong to demand immediate debt reduction rather than wait until after the economy recovers.
It is wrong to deny that “we have a revenue problem.”
It is wrong in worrying too much about (non-existent) inflation and disregarding the (very real) threat of a second slump into recession and deflation.
It is wrong to blame government regulation and (as yet unimposed) tax increases for the severity of the recession.
It is wrong to oppose job-creating infrastructure programs.
It is wrong to hesitate to provide unemployment insurance, food stamps, and other forms of income maintenance to the unemployed.
It is wrong to fetishize the exchange value of the dollar against other currencies.
It is wrong to believe that cuts in marginal tax rates will suffice to generate job growth in today’s circumstance.
It is wrong to blame minor and marginal government policies like the Community Reinvestment Act for the financial crisis while ignoring the much more important role of government inaction to police overall levels of leverage within the financial system.
It is wrong to dismiss the Euro crisis as something remote from American concerns.
It is wrong to resist US cooperation with European authorities in organizing a work-out of the debt problems of the Eurozone countries.
It is wrong above all in its dangerous combination of apocalyptic pessimism about the long-term future of the country with aloof indifference to unemployment.
Of all those candidates who have run for the 2012 GOP nomination or contemplated running, Mitt Romney is the only one who has shown any degree of skepticism about the profoundly and dangerously mistaken Republican consensus. Sometimes he shows that skepticism by refusing to join the criticism of the Federal Reserve. Sometimes he says things that reveal a truer understanding of today’s problem – when he cites poor sales, not lack of confidence, as the reason businesses do not hire. On rare occasions, he will affirmatively defy the consensus, for example, in his willingness to challenge China on its currency manipulation – a challenge that the dollar’s exchange rate against the Chinese currency should be lower, not higher.
Am I satisfied with Romney’s position on these issues? No. Do I worry that he’ll fear to deviate from party orthodoxy even after he is elected? Yes.
But I put my hope in three things: (1) Romney is not only very intelligent, but he also has demonstrated through his career a devotion to facts over ideology. (2) Romney has visibly not been caught up in the panic and rage against President Obama that has done so much to distort Republican thinking since 2009. (3) Romney has not signed up for the kind of ultra-deluded tax-cutting as solution to all ills program advocated by Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman. His unwillingness to over-commit himself during the Republican primaries signals an openness to future contingencies should he be elected president.
Slender hopes? Yes. But no other Republican offers any hope at all.