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If I were to compare either Mitt Romney or President Obama to the model I hold in my head of an ideal president, both would miss the mark by about the same distance, but for different reasons. Unfortunately we only have two choices at this point so I thought I'd help the three or four independent voters in the United States work through the decision. I'm neither Republican nor Democrat, so I have the advantage of being able to start writing this post without knowing which side I'll come down on. This is as close as you can get to objectivity.

Let's start by examining President Obama's record on the economy. He inherited a massive debt and added quite a bit of his own in the name of stimulus. The vast majority of economists agree that cutting spending or raising taxes when the economy is in free fall would kill it. That's why I assume that a President Romney, or any other president, would have done exactly the same thing President Obama did. Any president would have followed the consensus of credible economists. That's the only way to cover your ass.

When the shit is heading toward the fan all zealots become pragmatists. That's probably why Chief Justice John Roberts abandoned conservative ideology when he cast a deciding vote to protect Obamacare, thus saving the credibility of the Supreme Court. Likewise, a conservative Republican president would have done pretty much what President Obama did and run up the debt to keep the economy from the ledge.

Then there's the question of whether the Republican effort to thwart President Obama at every turn is the President's fault or Congress' fault. I think "fault" is the domain of non-thinkers. A better question to ask is what will work in the future. We can be sure another four years of gridlock will be risky. I think the advantage goes to a Republican president because the Democrats in Congress are less Kamikaze-like and more willing to compromise.

The next question that must be asked is whether an effective get-things-done Romney presidency would be a good thing or a bad thing. Here we have very little to go on. If you look at his track record, he seems the ultimate gamer. No matter what game you drop him into he learns the rules and finds a way to win. Examples:
  1. School (excelled)
  2. Business (excelled)
  3. Family (awesome)
  4. Church (leader)
  5. Governor (won)
  6. Olympics (fixed it)
  7. Presidential primaries (won nomination)

While some observers might find his lack of philosophical consistency a problem, I see it as a plus. He's a pragmatist. If he were running for the job of Satan he would say he's in favor of evil, at least until he got the job and installed central air conditioning in Hell. To put it more bluntly, it's not his fault that so many citizens are idiots and he has to lie to them just to become a useful public servant.

If you were to compare Romney and Obama on raw talent, I think it would be a tie. If you ask what sorts of things Romney would do that differ from what Obama would do, I think the answer is 100% unpredictable. I think Romney would talk like a good conservative and govern toward the pragmatic center, just as Obama talked liberal and governed in the center. While both men would probably govern toward the middle, only one of them has a decent chance of getting something through Congress. Advantage: Romney.

One big advantage in rejecting President Obama for a second term is that it reinforces the idea that politicians who don't find a way to succeed - no matter the reason - should be fired after the first term. We hold CEOs of public companies to that standard and no one complains about that because it works. A CEO doesn't get to blame his competition for his bad performance. He has to overcome the competition or get fired. It's a good system for everyone but the CEO, which is exactly how it should be.

I often hear Democrats saying the main reason to favor a Democrat for president is to make sure any Supreme Court nominations are liberal-leaning. That only matters if one can predict the sorts of cases that will come before the court in coming years. It also assumes justices vote the way observers predict they might and we know that doesn't always happen. All things considered, I think this is a fair tie-breaker if you assume Romney and Obama would be similar in their handling of the economy and international affairs. But I would caution against overweighting this factor because I don't know how many Supreme Court decisions in the coming years will affect your life in a meaningful way.

One of the big advantages that Obama had going into his initial run for president is that citizens knew that electing an African-American president would have positive social implications. It sends every right signal about what the country wants to be, even if it hasn't quite reached it yet. We're the country where anyone can be president if he or she works hard enough. That's a powerful idea. But now, four years later, that idea has served its purpose. The country doesn't get much psychological benefit from a second Obama term. On the flip side, a second-term president has the freedom to take some risks, at least until the final two years of his lame duck status.

One of the strongest features of Romney's personality is his ability to change his mind. Opponents call it flip-flopping. I call it pragmatism. Every flip-flop served a transparent purpose. You can almost see him wink to the smart people in the country, as if to say, "This flip-flop is just for the benefit of the dumb people. Don't worry."

My prediction is that a Romney presidency would mark the end of the Tea Party. I think the Tea Party is mostly an anti-Obama movement, i.e. largely racist. Once a white Republican is in office, the Tea Partiers will dissolve back into the mainstream. So if you think Tea Party activists are polluting the system, the non-obvious solution might be a Republican president.

What about tax policies, class warfare, and the rich getting richer? My guess is that Obama can never raise taxes on the rich because Congress would block it. But a Romney presidency might succeed in closing some loopholes for the rich as part of a larger compromise on the debt. I think the non-obvious path to raising taxes on the rich might be a Republican president working out a deal with Democrats in congress. I see no hope that President Obama could push through any increase in taxes on the rich.

We hear a lot of campaign talk about jobs, but I don't think a president has much impact on employment rates. I call that a tie.

I've heard liberals argue that Romney is a big money guy who would use his presidency to make the rich even richer because those are his people. That argument assumes Romney sees his self-interest as best served by making the rich richer. I think he's driven by Mormon principles to make the world a better place. Say what you want about the plausibility of the Mormon religion, but those folks are the real deal when it comes to helping their neighbors. I think Romney is steeped in Mormonism, and while he's clearly interested in his own success, my impression is that his ambition is inseparable from his Mormon impulses to make the world a better place. The last thing I'm worried about is his motives.

Likewise, I think President Obama's ambition for himself and his family is tied to making the country a better place. I don't think he's a secret socialist or trying to destroy America. He's a pragmatist trying to do whatever works, which at the moment is almost nothing. In terms of character and motives, I'd call the candidates a tie.

Given all of that, I'd say President Obama would be a better choice for liberals who prefer a liberal-leaning Supreme Court and accept the risk of falling off the fiscal cliff because the government is gridlocked during a second Obama term.

If you prefer a more conservative Supreme Court, Romney is your man. But you have to accept the risk that his economic policies might be more pragmatic and middle-of-the-road than you hoped.

If you're a racist, of any ethnicity, none of the other factors matter. You already made up your mind. The rest is rationalization.

If you are a fan of government gridlock, under the theory that the best government is the one the does the least, President Obama is the best choice. It's a safe bet that he wouldn't get much done in a second term.

If unemployment is the main thing that matters to you, I think you have to accept the fact that neither candidate has much control over it. But Romney is more likely to get something done, either good or bad. If you assume government inaction will lead to economic doom, the definition of insanity comes into play here. Insanity is doing the same thing you were doing and expecting a different outcome. By that line of reasoning, reelecting President Obama is a sign of mental illness. If you think Romney has only a 10% chance of improving things, but a gridlocked government under President Obama means certain economic doom, the sane person takes the 10% chance of survival. But keep in mind that you're only guessing on the odds.

My prediction is that President Obama will run the table during the debates and easily win reelection. The wild card, which is starting to play out, is if Romney makes just one more strategic flip-flop, this time on the topic of medical marijuana. His vice presidential pick, Ryan, has already stated he thinks the question should be left to the states. Normally a presidential candidate lets his pick for vice president float ideas to see how they perform. If the public likes the idea, the top guy adopts it. If the candidate for vice president gets hammered by the media, the candidate for president spins it as not important, taken out of context, or going off the reservation temporarily. We just saw Ryan float the idea of states making their own decisions on medical marijuana and he got zero blowback. It sounded conservative and reasonable. The stage is set.

No true conservative would change his vote to Obama just because Romney came out in favor of keeping the federal government out of state business, including medical marijuana. But plenty of folks would find that topic important enough in their daily lives to vote for Romney even if they don't like anything else he has to offer. Marijuana users are about 7% of the population. That's enough to decide the election.

If I'm right about Romney being the ultimate pragmatic, flip-flopping, gamer, he'll follow Ryan's lead on states' rights, lose every debate and still win the election by a hair. Is that a good thing? I have no idea.

 
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Oct 4, 2012
I just read this and I do disagree, Obama said it best last night, sometimes you just have to say NO. Sometimes you have to stick up for what you believe in. It is clear Obama has a belief system (which I happen to agree with). It is clear that Romney does not (modulo that he may be a decent man in his church). You only have to look at his business deals and from his performance in the primaries and last night; it is clear he has absolutely NO belief system about politics (that he is willing to share.) The Scott Adams article seems to say that this sort of behavior, which he call pragmatism is OK to have. I disagree because you have no evidence that that the man is just hiding a good belief system or that he really has NONE!
 
 
Sep 22, 2012
Elections are just an emotional horse and pony show... The dynamics of the situation is Federal style government speeds the nations entropy process because any phase transition (mainly failures lately) at the federal level quickly transition locally, there is only one. Hence the reason for states rights... redundancy. That way one phase transition doesn't effect the entire system, there are 50. With redundancy the nation has room to correct failure and slow the entropy process. Just look at history... exponential entropy as soon the redundancy was removed. Simply, don't put all your eggs in one basket.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 20, 2012
Whitehouse dream team:

President = Scott Adams
Vice President = Adam Savage [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1nSuWztIrY ]
Messaging = Dan Roam [ http://www.danroam.com/ ]
Funding = Colbert SuperPac [ http://colbertsuperpac.com/ ]
 
 
-11 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 14, 2012
Scott, why would you think Romney would lose every debate? An incumbent President who failed in so many of his "hope and change" promises is a pretty big target. And Romney, I think, is an excellent speaker! He should have no problem with Obama.

Still, wish it was Newt instead of Romney.
I'd love to see Obama in a debate with Newt Gingrich! I would guess that at the last moment some emergency would come up and Obama wouldn't even show up!
 
 
Sep 13, 2012
Here you advocate the idea of not re-electing a president who can't get anything accomplished regardless of the reasons. I have to say I'm opposed. Following that policy would make refusing to compromise a solid political strategy for any members of congress who wanted to see the president voted out, and I don't think any reasonable people want to encourage that.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 13, 2012
@whtllnew, if you had clicked on the link and read the whole column I was referring to, you would see that Sowell went on to explain that a very similar phenomena occurred during the Reagan administration, which hardly took place during an agrarian economy.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 13, 2012
Dooby, interesting post. Unfortunately, I don't think we're anywhere near the stage where the super-rich become targets of mob violence. There was a recent story that this class have accumulated an off-shore treasure trove of 21 trillion dollars, which is larger than the economies of USA and Japan combined. Think about that: the money these "wealth creators" have taken out of circulation in the world economy is larger than the economies of USA and Japan combined. There should have been national outcry; yet hardly anything was said, even in left-wing publications.

Probably the reason that Sheldon Adelson has donated so publicly to Romney's campaign is that Republican voters are so indoctrinated now that they think greed is something to be admired. To me, "businessman" is a dirty word, comparable to !$%*!$% or !$%*!$% but to the majority of Republicans, it's more consistent with "saint" or "super-hero". So when Clint Eastwood said "It's time for a businessman!", the crowd went nuts, as if he said "It's time for free alcoholic beverages!"

[How does one take wealth "out of circulation"? If you buy a yacht, the money keeps circulating. If you invest in any sort of financial instrument it is still part of the productive economy. Someone is using that investment to build businesses and fund infrastructure. -- Scott]
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 13, 2012
What funny is for an external observer, the USA political system is doomed to gridlock. You have three level, each competing for nearly the same power and you give the population a chance to blindly fallow their emotion and change part of the different chamber at different time. Someone could call it putting fresh blood in the middle of a president's term, most other will only say that just a good way to keep the system paralyses unless the three level are strongly leaning the same way.

Obama did what he had to do to manage the economy. Any republican president in his shoes facing a democrat congress would have as much luck getting their economic plan passed.

Also, in an objective note, you heard a lot more of republican polluting and bringing down the political debate that the reverse. Demagogy, notably on the health-care system of Obama was just that, demagogy. That a severe minus for republican for anyone who wish to try and keep up the political debate. I don't care if Romney lie to the masses to become a good public servant, but I do care when the masses do buy unnecessary argument that are logically flawed.

And yes, definitely, if what you say Adams is true, that a second mandate for Obama mean a gridlock system, then every extreme conservative should vote for the guy. They genuinely think that any form of government is bad. Strategic voting is sometime weird.
 
 
Sep 13, 2012
Regarding firing politicians for poor performance, I have had the idea for several months now that someone should start a campaign to try to get as many people as possible to vote against all incumbent Congressmen this election, no matter what they think of their particular candidates, Republican or Democrat, etc. Given that Congress has a lower approval rating than telemarketers and lobbyists (!), you wouldn't think this would be that hard, but unfortunately people often like *their* Congressman, don't want to support the other team, etc.

Actually, it's far too late for this election, but it could be awesome in 2014 if things still aren't going well. It would be especially nice to start the campaign before the Congressional primaries.

If anyone reading this wants to steal the idea, please do so!
 
 
+8 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 13, 2012
Do you ever wonder if maybe Romney isn't so much a candidate as he is a useful distraction? Maybe he's like the magician's right hand, getting people to focus their attention while the left hand does the actual trick.

I'll explain. Right now, inequality and the concentration of wealth are happening at an unprecedented degree and seemingly still rising. There are a lot of people, most easily seen in Occupy Wall Street, who have come to see not the government, but the banks and the wealthy corporations as the true enemy of society. And with that rise in attention for the evils of unchecked capitalism comes the real possibility that the rich themselves could become the target of mob violence.

How do you, if you're a super rich Wall Street type, help reduce the chance of being mobbed by angry poor people? Maybe you get them to focus their energy on politics instead, and away from what you're doing. Present them with someone who is practically a caricature of Wall Street greed, and convince them that to strike against the hated Wall Street, they should work within the system to prevent that caricature from winning an election. All the while, you give them an alternative whose speeches call to their primal populist need for justice against the rich, while proving through his policies that he'll do nothing that would hurt you, whether you've committed grand-scale fraud and tax evasion or not.

Obama is no threat. Mob violence and revolution against the banks is. Could it be that that's all Romney is? The magician's right hand? Our distraction to keep our energy completely locked up in a political system that the rich already control?

If you believe that the answer is no, then my question is this - why is Sheldon Adelson, a man who resembles a Bond supervillain and has multiple DoJ investigations surrounding him, giving to Romney so publicly? If he really wants Romney to win, there are so many ways he could give him cash without anyone knowing he was behind it. It sullies Romney tremendously, and I can't believe he wouldn't realize that. So why give it out in the open where it looks like Tammany-Hall level corruption, if not to get people angry about the super-rich buying an election?

That's what's been bouncing around in my head lately, and I'd be curious to hear what others think about it.
 
 
Sep 12, 2012
Sorry everybody, I meant to say "you're driving it."
 
 
Sep 12, 2012
Oh my. I decided to breeze right on past "racist," because I have very little to add - it's reprehensible if true/a silly statement if false.

But, [I think "fault" is the domain of non-thinkers.] and [Fairness isn't a real thing]? I don't know what to do with that... I guess I just hope if I ever rear-end somebody's car, your driving it.

(Not really, of course - I'm just trying to illustrate what an odd way of thinking those statements represent.)
 
 
Sep 12, 2012
fivethirtyeight.com is now giving Obama an 80 percent chance of winning.

Romney/Ryan might be getting desperate enough to start going VERY VERY negative with their ads. (I don't live in a swing state, maybe that's already happening?)

Just for fun, can anyone come up with an ad they could run the day before the election that would hand them a landslide victory?

 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 12, 2012
I think the main difference between the parties (today) and the candidates is big government vs small government. Sure there are stupid things on both sides (GOP taking a hard line on some social issues and Dem's being beholden to unions no matter how bad it is for the country), but the overarching principle is individualism vs government solutions.

Recall Reagan: "government is not the solution; government is the problem."
Then Bush Sr. was voted out for reneging on his promise not to raise taxes.
And Clinton proclaimed "the era of big government is over."
... ah, the good old days (of high employment, job growth, falling inflation, falling deficits, etc).

Then the Tom Delay congress under Bush II decided to grow fat and spend like drunken sailors on leave. So they were thrown out. But the Democrats proved that they could outspend even them. And they "took a shellacking" in 2010. And here we sit.

So, while it's understandable that the left wants the government to help people, those on the right, rather than being selfish, believe that the best way to help people is for the government to get out of the way and let the private economy grow, hire, and pay people.

It has been said that the best housing program, the best health care program, educational program, anti-poverty, social safety net that could ever exist is a growing economy with ample jobs. The government can't create this, but sure has proven adept at thwarting it lately.
 
 
Sep 12, 2012
@Raskolnikov

[The short answer on why Rolling Stone is often more credible than The Wall Street Journal or the New York Times is that they are not beholden to the same advertisers.]

I don't know that I would consider NYT or WSJ to do a good job at fairly and intelligently summarizing the candidates either. We need to set our sights higher.
 
 
Sep 12, 2012
@whtllnew:
...Rolling Stone?

The short answer on why Rolling Stone is often more credible than The Wall Street Journal or the New York Times is that they are not beholden to the same advertisers.

http://www.cringely.com/2011/05/13/jann-wenner-is-my-hero/

 
 
Sep 12, 2012
In simplistic terms, Obama & Democrats believe that helping the poor involves either propping them up or providing a safety net. Romney & Republicans believe that helping the poor involves enabling rich people to "pull" up the poor out of poverty. I am currently neither poor nor rich, but there are MANY things that could make me poor in the future and very few things that could make me rich. For example, I could get very sick and I cannot draw cartoons. From where I sit, the idea of having a safety net already in place is much more appealing than hoping that rich people decide to do the right thing and help me if (actually it's 'when' by the law of probability) I fall down. The basic principle behind all forms of insurance is hedging your bet. Why wouldn't I do this with my government too?

You say that you believe both men are genuinely motivated to help the country, but how they intend to do it matters. I don't want to vote for either one, since party pressure usually overrides personal beliefs and individual talents. It's too bad the most powerful country on earth can only choose between White Simms and Blue Simms.
 
 
-4 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 12, 2012
Whtllnew, I realize thinking isn't your forte, but regardless of the quality of the magazine, it makes factual claims that are easily verifiable. Is he, or isn't he, the co-founder of a company responsible for saddling up companies with debt and advising them on how to make lay-offs? Isn't the only motive for this "making money"? Has or hasn't he made extreme claims about the necessity of cutting to bring down the national deficit? Doesn't this fit with his career as a debt guy?
 
 
Sep 12, 2012
@ Scott

I'm saddened by your response to my note. You're extending the problem of the lack of intelligent discourse in this country by stamping "racism" on a comment that is simply a different perception of the Tea Party than your own. Have you read the scientific survey you cite? Do you really feel that it fairly labels "racist" to the answers it doesn't like on those questions? i.e., if you were a citizen of any race, who felt that this country currently offers essentially equal opportunity to anyone who lives here, who believes that the best person should be chosen (for a job, or college, etc) regardless of race, gender, or nationality, and who therefore saw no need for any anti-discriminatory laws, and answered those questions that way, you're branded racist by this study. That's not racism. It's an opinion. It's okay to disagree with the opinion, but not to cite this as a scientific study proving racism in the Tea Party.

[I'll grant you that I don't have data to back up the observation/opinion that racism is one of the main drivers of Tea Party behavior. Clearly some percentage of members believe they are in it to fight for irrational causes such as constitutional purity and balancing the budget by cutting taxes. My bias about human behavior is that all irrational behavior has a base cause, and racism is probably in the mix for some. Likewise, when liberals argue for income redistribution "fairness," all I hear is "Give me your money." You're right to call me out on my lack of data to support my opinion. -- Scott]
 
 
Sep 12, 2012
[Scott, I think it's gullible of you to believe that, because he is Mormon, Romney is motivated by trying to make the world a better place in general. I humbly submit to you that he seems to be motivated by trying to make the world better for rich people at the expense of everyone else. For example, check out this Rolling Stone article:]

...Rolling Stone? Thats what folks are turning to to keep them politically informed? Surely there are better places for that. And Ill grant you I have never actually read it but it doesn't strike me as the sort of magazine that would do a good job of profiling candidates fairly and intelligently. Am I alone in this opinion?
 
 
 
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