The crisis of leadership in American government is easily explained: thanks to a flawed presidential primary system that rewards strident rhetoric and hyper-partisanship, candidates tailor their messages to fringe elements in small, unrepresentative states. The result? A nasty, shallow and expensive process that rewards sound bites rather than solutions and gamesmanship instead of ideas. This year, however, we have witnessed a rare phenomenon in American politics. A candidate has emerged from the rough and tumble of the primaries with his dignity intact. The system has produced not a demagogue but a manager, a candidate whose experience is rooted in the pragmatism of the business world rather than the ideology of partisan politics.
That candidate is Mitt Romney.
Gov. Romney won the Republican Party’s nomination precisely because he is not an ideologue—and that is no small achievement. He persuaded enough Republican primary voters that the time has come to put aside dogma and inflexibility in favor of real-world solutions to the array of problems America faces at home and abroad.
Over the last few weeks, Mr. Romney has shown that he is a moderate to his core—he is a manager, and a listener, who believes he can restore the balance between the private and public sectors that has been a hallmark of the American economy.
The Observer endorses Mr. Romney’s candidacy and urges readers to support him.
Four years ago, Barack Obama captured the imagination of many Americans with his thrilling message of change. Given the challenges confronting the president—two raging wars and an unprecedented global economic collapse—the desire for a quick fix was unrealistic.
America supported that candidate (as did this newspaper), but his presidency, so filled with promise and potential, has failed to deliver the change America needs.
True, Mr. Obama deserves credit for strong, decisive action that helped prevent a catastrophic economic meltdown on Wall Street. The financial services sector, the city’s most important industry, came very close to the unthinkable as once-unshakable entities—Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch—simply vanished. Mr. Obama’s policies helped to shore up the industry and, thus, the city.
At the same time, however, the president has evinced a distaste for that very same industry, and his rhetoric has begun to erode its foundation. Class warfare might be a successful strategy for cobbling together 270 electoral votes. But it’s not the way to unite a divided nation.
The president comes to town on a Monday, takes our money, shakes our hands and tells us how much he values the CEOs and innovators of New York. And then on Tuesday, he turns around and refers to business leaders as fat cat bankers whose success was created by the sweat of others. That’s not a friend. That’s not a leader. That’s a politician.
Mitt Romney stands out because—unlike so many candidates in the past—he understands how to build businesses, create efficiencies, make tough deals and carefully consider divergent viewpoints. America needs a strong leader, a practical leader. Mr. Romney knows full well that it would be a tragic mistake to simply assume that the United States will continue to be the world’s economic powerhouse simply because that’s what we’ve been for decades. America earned its global prominence because of the nation’s culture of work and individual freedom. That’s why immigrants came here and continue to come here—not because they seek a handout, but because they want a chance to work and to create and to innovate. In today’s competitive economy, the country needs competitors, not class-war crybabies.
Barack Obama, the candidate of change in 2008, was and will remain a significant figure in American history. His election four years ago truly was a milestone and, rightly, a cause for celebration.
While we admire Mr. Obama, we believe he squandered an opportunity to bring positive change to Washington—and what change he did bring will burden future generations. We continue to rack up debt, buy services we cannot afford and allow unfunded liabilities to continue to grow. This has to end.
Rather than reimagining government’s role in society and the economy by embracing the courageous alternatives proposed by the Simpson-Bowles commission two years ago, Mr. Obama turned to neo-New Deal policies. Rather than building creative partnerships with the private sector, the president chose to demonize the successful. Rather than strengthen the nation’s relationship with Israel as the Arab world imploded, Mr. Obama treated Jerusalem as less a friend than a burden.
Mr. Romney, on the other hand, promises to bring a new and refreshing attitude to Washington, one that speaks to his experience as both a successful business leader and the governor of a state not known for its affection for Republicans.
As he surveys the nation’s stubbornly sluggish economy, Mr. Romney isn’t looking to point fingers, and he certainly isn’t looking to single out chief executives, entrepreneurs and high earners for demagogic attacks and punitive tax proposals. Critics have lampooned him as out of touch; in fact, it is Mr. Obama who has lost sight of the fact that American capitalism is the greatest anti-poverty program in human history.
For that reason, New Yorkers have a special reason to embrace Mr. Romney. He has made it clear that he sees successful, high-achieving and, yes, high-earning Americans as his partners, not his enemies. New Yorkers may still have a special place in their hearts for Mr. Obama’s undeniable place in American history. But it’s important to remember that the president’s anti-Wall Street rhetoric and his soak-the-rich tax proposals are aimed at many of us.
What’s more, the city actually has fared even worse than the rest of the country over the last four years. The city’s stubbornly high jobless rate of over 9.9 percent is higher than the national rate of 7.8 percent. The loss of Wall Street jobs and reigning in of pay has had a negative trickle-down effect on New York’s service industry businesses as well.
Romney’s Plan for Growth
Mr. Romney understands that Washington must work with corporate America, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs to recapture their trust and to ignite their imaginations. To that end, he proposed cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent, the world’s highest, to a more reasonable 25 percent. He also has proposed a permanent 20 percent reduction in marginal tax rates for individuals. Mr. Romney’s critics charge that this formula has been tried before to no avail. They have forgotten their history—tax cuts by Democrat John F. Kennedy and Republican Ronald Reagan helped fuel job creation, investment and prosperity.
At the macro level, Mr. Romney could not be more clear: Job creation—not what he memorably called “trickle-down government”—must be Washington’s priority. That position stands in remarkable contrast to Mr. Obama’s priorities when he took office, as he used his mandate to ram through Obamacare, the largest expansion of government since the Great Society.
But Mr. Romney knows that the key to job creation lies not in Washington, but on both Wall Street and Main Street, where the creativity of capitalism and the vision of risk-takers can chart a new course for millions who have seen their prospects dim over the last four years. Bill Clinton said that those who work hard and play by the rules should be assured of a bright future. But the last four years have seen millions of hard workers consigned to the unemployment line and some 46 million become dependent on food stamps—up from 31 million in 2008. Mr. Romney is caricatured as an unfeeling child of privilege, but it is hard to miss his outrage when he talks of the unemployed and underemployed people he has met during his campaign.
Mr. Romney also understands that government can no longer afford to spend trillions that it simply doesn’t have. Entitlement programs, including Medicare and Social Security, need to be reformed. Cultures of dependency—both at the individual and the corporate level—must be transformed. We saw that here in New York City in extreme form. The city of the late 1980s, where one in seven New Yorkers was on welfare, had essentially ceased to function. Both Rudy Giuliani and Bill Clinton applied common-sense solutions to get the city and the country off the mat, and the results are inarguable. The difference between the New York of the late 1980s and today is astonishing, although there still is work to be done.
America and the World
Credit where it is due: under President Obama, the world’s master terrorist met his demise at the business end of American weaponry.
Other than that undeniable achievement, Mr. Obama’s conduct of foreign policy and national security has been incoherent and ineffective, as the continuing and ever-changing saga of the terrorist murder of U.S. diplomats in Libya demonstrates.
But for so many New Yorkers, the most disconcerting failure of the Obama years has been the nation’s deteriorating relationship with Israel. He foolishly sought to create strategic separation between Washington and Jerusalem, believing that this would somehow impress the Arab world’s dictators and demagogues. Precisely why this would be in the national interest remains a mystery—in any case, the shift was a strategic disaster.
Israel rightly believes that Mr. Obama simply doesn’t comprehend the threats to its very existence. There is no reason to believe that the Obama administration will have Israel’s back if Israel attacks Iran’s nuclear facilities—a move that may be required to prevent the haters in Tehran from possessing and using weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Obama appears to believe that peace will come to the Middle East simply by forcing Israel, the only true democracy in the region, to return to its pre-1967 borders without even the most basic concession from the Arabs. What kind of a friend would make such a demand?
Mr. Romney will not stand by idly while vicious anti-Semites in Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood threaten Israeli civilians. He will not bow to wishful thinking when terrorists hijack protest movements in the Arab world. And he will call out Israel’s critics in the West for their hypocrisy and utter disregard for the Jewish state’s security concerns.
Change to Move Forward
The United States simply cannot afford another four years of weak leadership. The genius of American capitalism and the moral authority of American foreign policy must be restored.
Mitt Romney has a plan to do both. He has the credentials to restore the economy and to defend American values in a hostile world. He has the skills to help create jobs and a brighter future for our country.
This election is a true turning point for the next generation. Mitt Romney is the change the nation needs. And he is the change New York needs.