Mitt Romney as a danger to the nation

Posted on January 12th, 2012 in Politics,Religion by Robert Miller

Mitt Romney (from Massimo Prandi)

Perhaps nothing can stop Mitt Romney’s destiny as the Republican nominee to face Barack Obama in this year’s run for the Presidency of the United States. After his victory in New Hampshire, it seems unlikely that anyone can put up a competitive race against him and by now the Republican aficionados  are meeting and making phone calls to smooth the pathway for a less confrontational nomination process to keep their powder dry for the general election.  In other words the message will go out to Newt Gingrich: stop bringing up Bain Capital and we will go out and buy several hundred thousand copies of your books–isn’t that why you were running in the first place, as a book salesman? But, no matter who the Republicans nominate, this will be a tense election year in which we have to recognize the possibility that the Republican Party could gain control of all three bodies of our national government and further push the agenda of right-wing fanatics, a step that I believe, could put us on the road to an American version of Nazism, through the invention of new enemies galore: think of global climate change theorists and scientists as terrorists. These people are scary, not because they are innately violent (though they certainly approve of violence against people they don’t like and very few disapproved of Sarah Palin putting gun-sight images on electoral maps of Democratic opponents such as Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona in the 2010 election), but because they are extremely naive ideologues, which means they are susceptible to being co-opted and exploited  by the corporate elites–those forces that more directly control Congress and the Presidency than the voters do–people like the Koch Brothers.  This year, the SuperPacs seem to be in charge of primaries and were apparently responsible for shooting down Newt Gingrich’s brief political resurgence in Iowa.  While Obama has often displayed corporatist leanings in many of his decisions and initiatives, including his healthcare bill (which offers a huge subsidy to the for-profit health care industry), his continuation of the Patriot Act and more recently his willingness, through signing the National Defense Authorization Act, to expose American citizens to the possibility that they can be arrested and detained without access to our Constitutionally guaranteed protections (Obama did issue a “signing statement,” but it’s unclear what that really means because the clause about indefinite suspension of citizen’s rights is now written into law; it is one more step along the pathway of confusing war and terrorism, which are two different things and should always be handled in two different ways–to fuse them is to place us on a path of further erosion of our civilization).

You only have to look what happened to the Tea Party movement, which was initially hostile to corporate complicity in our fiscal meltdown, to see how easily that mistrust of corporate greed got re-channeled into a new cause in which Tea Party members now favor gutting the limited oversight of financial institutions provided by the Dodd-Frank bill. The Tea Party members should be supporters of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, but they can’t find the right door to open. The Millennials need to open it for them and perhaps in time they will.

While virtually any Republican candidate can be competitive with Obama for the Presidency (now that Michelle Bachman is out of the race, with Rick Perry soon to follow), it is Mitt Romney that bothers me the most. I believe that if elected,  Romney is capable of promptly sending our country into war against Iran, because he faces the world as a Mormon  ideologue. In my experience (having been a Mormon myself), Mormon ideologues belong to a special class of believers, so inundated with an ideological interpretation of the world, combined with deep suspicions about government, that they coalesce around a belief system that verges on religious hysteria, a mental state that, quite uncharacteristic of the human species in general,  readily accepts the complete absence of any concept of verifiable truth, particularly in their construct of the outside world–they capitulate too easily to their leaders.  I have long accepted the insights of many historical judgements on how naive Presidents have taken us into wars that we had no chance of winning, but, like a child first getting hold of the steering wheel of a super sports car and stepping on the gas pedal, America went zooming into wars that still divide us as a nation and have made an indelible contribution to the polarization of our society. As an indication of the perpetuity of Vietnam into the fabric of American culture, who can forget how John Kerry’s Presidential candidacy was destroyed by the Swift Boat ad campaign that resulted in a majority of voters on election day believing that Kerry did not deserve his Vietnam Medals.

Historian Geoffrey Perret’s book “Commander in Chief: How Truman, Johnson and Bush Turned Presidential Power into a Threat to America’s Future” was the subject of two previous postings here and here. In Perret’s excellent book, he describes how Truman, Johnson and Bush shared a completely naive view of the world and, as a result, failed to understand the nature of the conflicts in which they got us involved (without following our Constitution, which says that only Congress can declare war) and under-estimated the deep cultural divide that controversial wars would create within our society. This was especially true of the Vietnam War, when we had a draft and most young males were vulnerable. But our invasion of Iraq, which was perpetrated purely by propaganda for oil and profit, was equally divided along the American political chasm, whose dimensions now deepen and widen because of more fundamental issues, such as the survival of our species on the planet. America seems a binary country on that single dimension–divided into climate change proponents who accept the science and climate change deniers who support the corporatist interpretation of the world: few seem to be on the fence.

Before GWBush was elected President, we didn’t hear from him on the campaign trail about how he wanted to go to war. It was after his election that we learned about his proclivity for making war and his plans  for invading Iraq. But Romney has consistently beaten the drums of war as he promises a more confrontational policy towards Iran; keep in mind that our own government’s best assessment from the National Intelligence Estimate (a summary of all our intelligence information) is that Iran is not making a bomb. But Romney’s advisers are hawks that want to push this issue and Romney promises to raise the military budget over the projections of Obama’s budget. Never mind that Obama’s military budget will still be larger than that of GW Bush. Romney has no experience with war–he never served in the military (neither did Obama, but we know Obama hates war).  So Romney will be more inclined to listen to his advisers, among whom are hawks who promote this more confrontational stance towards Iran and do not want to see America become a shrinking power.  Any war with Iran would lead to an immediate closure of the Strait of Hormuz and very likely would lead to a much wider war, to say nothing about running the risk of collapse in the global economy. Every day 20% of the world’s oil supply, or 17 million barrels of oil moves through the Strait of Hormuz, making it, economically, one of the most important passageways on the planet. As Michael Klare points out, we are entering the Geo-Energy-Era in which energy demands are escalating and easy access to oil is diminishing, with fever-pitch efforts by countries and companies to secure more oil contracts. Some analysts claim that blocking the Strait of Hormuz for any significant length of time could dramatically increase the cost of oil by 50% and trigger a global recession or depression.  It probably no longer matters whether there is a glut of oil on the market as the futures trading in oil seems permanently hyped into the perception that, as a planet, we are running out of oil at a time of skyrocketing demands needed to serve the exploding economies of China, India and other parts of Asia. Can we afford to elect a President who is so naive that he  is willing to go to war based on false premises about Iran’s nuclear weapons program? This is what I mean about a President that has no clue about the principle of verifiable truth. Of course it doesn’t help that the Obama administration seems to be hyping the Iran/nuclear bomb threat as well: is that for election purposes, like Kennedy’s famous “missile-gap” charge when running for the Presidency against Nixon in 1960?

If there is any advantage in having Mitt Romney run for President, it will be that finally, the American electorate, will get to know what a private equity firm is and how Mitt Romney, as the head of Bain Capital, managed to destroy many companies for the sake of profit.  Private equity firms, while bringing huge profits to the investors, destroy companies by saddling them with debt used to pay off the buyout of the company or give resources back to the investors and managers of the firm. If a company needs to buy plant equipment to improve their productivity, they cannot do it if saddled with debt, forced on them by their new owners. If you believe that Bain Capital has been good for our economy and jobs, then you should read the Think Progress article on Mitt Romney Job Killer. When Romney ran against Ted Kennedy for his Senate seat in 1994, just as in today’s campaign, he advocated his record of job creation and his business experience to challenge Kennedy. But Kennedy won that race by illustrating one of Romney’s “success stories” using the example of American Pad and Paper or AMPAD, a company that under Bain’s ownership, cut jobs and reduced wages. Kennedy played television ads featuring interviews with laid-off AMPAD employees and won the race at a time when Romney might have more easily unseated Kennedy.The AMPAD story continued after the election and according to the data presented in Think Progress, Bain invested $ 10 million in  AMPAD, but pulled $100 million out of the company. AMPAD had to cut 385 jobs and with $392 million in debt in 1999, filed for bankruptcy in 2000.  In our current depressed economy, with millions out of work, shedding light on predatory, private equity firms will not enhance Romney’s chances of unseating Obama, but it may help educate voters on whether it’s more important to have good-paying jobs or highly profitable investment firms that form one of the mechanisms by which the middle class shrinks as the wealthy get richer. Today more than ever before in our consumer-based economy, it is important to have good paying jobs in order for people to maintain consumption, create demand and grow the economy. Right now the imbalance of income distribution is slanted in such a way that consumer demand cannot get off the ground and Mitt Romney has no clue on how to fix the problem, unless of course he takes us into war.


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