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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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+3 Rank Up Rank Down
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:

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/greed-and-debt-the-true-story-of-mitt-romney-and-bain-capital-20120829

In someone as wealthy as Romney who is capable of such ruthless business practices, this is probably not an isolated incident. Rich people like you would very likely benefit from a Romney presidency, but I cringe to think how the rest of us would fare.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 12, 2012
"Reread my last post. Then respond to the point I was actually making, not the points you are hallucinating that I was making. "

You argue that a billionaire giving up a chunk of his wealth is a harship, and in support of this idea you do a comparison between me and medieval serfs and people in the third world. Clearly this is comparison is stupid, and I've already explained why. Giving up consumer goods would not be a trivial sacrifice, even from the perspective of a medieval serf, as it would mean that I would be completely isolated in the consumer society. To compare this with a billionaire giving up his third yacht is simply an outrage.
 
 
Sep 12, 2012
On pragmatism: <a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/septemberoctober_2012/ten_miles_square/party_animals039410.php">Romney's opportunities for pragmatism will be very limited.</a> You vote for a President, you get an administration.

On CEO accountability:

Average CEO tenure = 7-10 years
CEO turnover (better performing companies): 9.7%/yr
CEO turnover (poorer performing companies): 14%/yr
Percent of CEOs fired each year: 3% (<a href="http://www.conference-board.org/press/pressdetail.cfm?pressid=4453">source</a>)

For contrast, incumbent presidents are defeated <a href="http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/how-do-you-defeat-an-incumbent-president/">38% of the time</a> (10/26 elections). They're intensely scrutinized and the system is set up to keep them from entrenching themselves. CEOs have it much easier (and often seem to be the least likely to lose their job when the company underperforms).
 
 
Sep 12, 2012
Scott wrote - 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.
I agree. I have never been able to figure out what they were so mad about. Thanks.
It makes perfect sense now.
 
 
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 12, 2012
"I think the Tea Party is mostly an anti-Obama movement, i.e. largely racist."

Wow. ...just ... wow... I don't so much like the Tea Party, but to say it is primarily promoting racism is ..um.. surprising.

It is interesting to me you don't seem to consider much the platform/philosophy of the parties the presidential candidates represent. Yes, they might both govern toward the moderate, but they are more likely to favor actions based on their party's platform/philosophy.

For me, the choice is largely between a candidate who believes it is a good idea for the national government to control as much as they can get away with because they can be most effective (I disagree...), and a candidate who sees the national government's role more limited to things like national security, justice and inter-state cooperation.
 
 
Sep 12, 2012
Scott, I'm surprised the one thing in comparing the candidates and parties you didn't compare or discuss any of the social progress stuff, i.e. gay marriage, atheism, abortion, women's right, that sort of thing. Does none of that count?

The democrats *almost* pushed a change in their platform removing god from it before a panicky whitehouse added it back. Waffle or not, it shows how progressive liberals are more and more eager to abandon magic-based politics. Compare vs religious Romney and the right who seem to firmly entrench with the policies of the religious right.

In the months leading to now, a bunch of (crazy) republicans all came out with things like legitimate rape, rape child being a gift from god, etc etc. Not just one but a bunch and not as much distancing as you'd think. Republican platform says absolutely no abortion for any reason. That's a pretty big issue. I think a Romney presidenacy might involve him acting on this. That'd be a big deal.

Even given Obama's useless revised "Biden-forced-me-to" position on Gay marriage, he's now for it. The democrat platform officially supports it, so if they are in power I assume we'll see more inroads to have it. Republicans "this isn't the change I voted for ads" have re-affirmed their opposition.

Maybe you could do this column part two and explain how it'll be ok to have a slightly fixed economy and lose abortion, other religions, and gay marriage? Or at least address if you think none of the progressive rights stuff matters.
 
 
+13 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 12, 2012
You forgot the part about how we're not supposed to take advice on political strategy from a cartoonist.
 
 
Sep 12, 2012
@Allen

[While it might be true that "The vast majority of economists agree that cutting spending or raising taxes when the economy is in free fall would kill it," here's at least one well respected economist that would disagree with this statement, and frankly makes a pretty good case, based on history, against it: http://townhall.com/columnists/thomassowell/2012/09/11/an_economic_plan/page/full/

Choice bits:
For the first 150 years of this country's existence, the federal government felt no great need to "do something" when the economy turned down. Over that long span of time, the economic downturns were neither as deep nor as long lasting as they have been since the federal government decided that it had to "do something" in the wake of the stock market crash of 1929, which set a new precedent.

One of the last of the "do nothing" presidents was Warren G. Harding. In 1921, under President Harding, unemployment hit 11.7 percent -- higher than it has been under President Obama. Harding did nothing to get the economy stimulated.

Far from spending more money to try to "jump start" the economy, President Harding actually reduced government spending, as the tax revenues declined during the economic downturn.

The 11.7 percent unemployment rate in 1921 fell to 6.7 percent in 1922, and then to 2.4 percent in 1923. It is hard to think of any government intervention in the economy that produced such a sharp and swift reduction in unemployment as was produced by just staying out of the way and letting the economy rebound on its own. ]

That approach worked admirably for a largely agrarian country where the unemployed could leave the city and usually find hard, low pay but still livable (by third world standards) jobs. Unfortunately, that approach didn't work in the 30s as Hoover demonstrated. Create a situation where the unemployed can find SOMETHING, even if its not what they want, and maybe such an approach/way of thinking might work.
 
 
Sep 12, 2012
Simplest way to pick who to vote for: like the way the country is going and you and your kids are better off, vote obama, don't like the way the country is going and you and your kids are worse off, vote Romney.




One more thing:
Scott said [When the !$%* 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.]

The court's pragmatist, Kennedy was strongly against Obamacare and lobbied Roberts hard to vote against it. Robert's brainfart decision was just that, a brainfart that is another red mark on Bush's legacy. He punked out and chose decorum over making the right decision. BTW, I'm sure there were a ton of people who called dredd scott a pragmatic decision at the time. Doesn't mean it was the right one.
 
 
Sep 12, 2012
@Therion

Reread my last post. Then respond to the point I was actually making, not the points you are hallucinating that I was making.
 
 
Sep 12, 2012
"I agree that given the choice between making a billionaire suffer a reduced living standard and making a thousand workers suffer a reduced living standard we should burden the billionaire, but lets not get carried away here... Or better yet compare your life to that of a real Chinese industrial slave or an African villager. Im sure those guys don't think of us as struggling to make ends meet."

A fatuous analogy, lacking in the most elementary probing and intellectual curiosity. You almost seem* happy* to side with the billionaire and against the cubicle worker. Few points:

(1) There's nothing we can do directly to be sure of reducing the poverty of the African continent. Throwing all our money at this continent would not build the necessary infrastructure, or limit the population growth, or change the wheels of government. The Chinese we probably *would* help by giving them all our money, and I agree with the principle that we should be conscious of the wealth disparity between nations. However, before you get to that point, the first priority for a democracy is to clean your own shop.

(2) In the capitalist West, you have *no choice* but buy expensive-on-the-absolute-scale consumer items...unless you'd like to live as a hermit and be deprived of all social contact for the rest of your life. If you don't go out to cinemas or restaurants, then you don't get a date. If you don't consume anything, then you have nothing to talk about and you have no friends. This is part of the cleverness of the culture of "manufactured needs". If enough of us stopped going to see third-rate contemporary movies and made the most of the classics, then we'd be just as happy as we were before. But it's not going to happen unless you reach a "critical mass" of people prepared to do that.

(3) The billionaire would suffer a drop in *quality of life*? Are you serious? That could only possibly be true if his goal in life is something unworthy, like collecting as much expensive stuff as he can or trying to dominate as many people as he can. All of these goals should be resisted by a democracy, where public good must come before the indulgences of a few, and unaccountable power over the voters should be kept to a minimum.
 
 
+20 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 12, 2012
While it might be true that "The vast majority of economists agree that cutting spending or raising taxes when the economy is in free fall would kill it," here's at least one well respected economist that would disagree with this statement, and frankly makes a pretty good case, based on history, against it: http://townhall.com/columnists/thomassowell/2012/09/11/an_economic_plan/page/full/

Choice bits:
For the first 150 years of this country's existence, the federal government felt no great need to "do something" when the economy turned down. Over that long span of time, the economic downturns were neither as deep nor as long lasting as they have been since the federal government decided that it had to "do something" in the wake of the stock market crash of 1929, which set a new precedent.

One of the last of the "do nothing" presidents was Warren G. Harding. In 1921, under President Harding, unemployment hit 11.7 percent -- higher than it has been under President Obama. Harding did nothing to get the economy stimulated.

Far from spending more money to try to "jump start" the economy, President Harding actually reduced government spending, as the tax revenues declined during the economic downturn.

The 11.7 percent unemployment rate in 1921 fell to 6.7 percent in 1922, and then to 2.4 percent in 1923. It is hard to think of any government intervention in the economy that produced such a sharp and swift reduction in unemployment as was produced by just staying out of the way and letting the economy rebound on its own.

 
 
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 12, 2012
"It's a good system for everyone but the CEO..."

You mean the guys/gals who walk away with the 10s of millions of dollars in compensation while the company still goes into the toilet?

 
 
Sep 12, 2012
@Therion

[You're the one who's stupid and dishonest. The "math" is that buying your fourth Rolls Royce is an indulgence, whereas somebody on an average salary is living the life of a industrial slave and is struggling to make ends meet. This is an elementary principle and has nothing to do with whether a billionaire pays more in raw dollars than a cubicle worker. OF COURSE the billionaire pays more in raw dollars; he can afford to. The question we face is whether the billionaire can afford to give more with no noticeable dip in his capacity to enjoy life (or rather, life as a person who isn't an avaricious, utterly contemptible douchebag).]

I agree that given the choice between making a billionaire suffer a reduced living standard and making a thousand workers suffer a reduced living standard we should burden the billionaire, but lets not get carried away here. A reduced living standard is a hardship whether you're a billionaire or a cubicle worker, and even rich folks have trouble making ends meet. If you don't believe me compare your life to a real, medieval serf as opposed to the industrial slaves you imagine us to be. Or better yet compare your life to that of a real Chinese industrial slave or an African villager. Im sure those guys don't think of us as struggling to make ends meet.
 
 
Sep 12, 2012
OK, I'm willing to concede there is a decent chance a Romney Presidency will be "successful" given his past track record. But what does a successful Romney Presidency look like? Is it accomplishing the things he's saying on the campaign trail? Is it the kinds of things he accomplished as Governor? I literally have no idea, and the more I study his positions the less I'm sure.

Obviously I'm all for success, but not if it's contrary to everything I believe to be progress. I just don't see how anybody on either side can have any faith Romney will anything they consider productive.
 
 
-8 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 11, 2012
Douchebag1967
:
"(3) Hysterically overblown predictions of doom that lead to poor policy decisions by lawmakers more interested in placating their constituency's fears than doing the right thing. "

Hysterically overblown? What exactly is hysterically overblown? Global warming and the resultant suffering of millions of people? Even though Greenland's ice sheet melted this year in four days? Even though some scientists believe that global warming has the capacity to cause Earth to become like Venus? "Corporate controlled dystopia", predicted by any number of social commentators for decades now? Which one of my claims is hysterically overblown?
 
 
-10 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 11, 2012
@decius1967:

"Those millionaires and billionaires already account for a huge percentage of the tax receipts gathered (the top 1% pay, on average, about 65 times as much tax as the 99%), so I'm curious to know what Obama considers to be their "fair" share. Democrats are fond of statements like this, meaning they are either (a) stupid because they don't understand basic math, or (b) dishonest because they do but are counting on others to not see through it, apparently successfully."

You're the one who's stupid and dishonest. The "math" is that buying your fourth Rolls Royce is an indulgence, whereas somebody on an average salary is living the life of a industrial slave and is struggling to make ends meet. This is an elementary principle and has nothing to do with whether a billionaire pays more in raw dollars than a cubicle worker. OF COURSE the billionaire pays more in raw dollars; he can afford to. The question we face is whether the billionaire can afford to give more with no noticeable dip in his capacity to enjoy life (or rather, life as a person who isn't an avaricious, utterly contemptible douchebag).
 
 
Sep 11, 2012
"Plus, Obamacare is a huge tax increase. (If you want to argue with that, I defer to the Supreme Court decision.)"

The only people whose taxes will increase are those who pay the penalty for not having healthcare, which is limited to $95 or 1% of their income, whichever is greater.

Do you know what fuzzy logic they used to claim Obamacare is the biggest tax hike in history? Since Obamacare was declared valid as a tax by the supreme court, the GOP decided that meant that EVERY healthcare premium paid was a tax. In this, they included premiums paid to private insurances. In essence, they are claiming that the same premium you pain this year that is not a tax will suddenly be COUNTED as a tax when Obamacare kicks in even though the NONE of that money will go to the government.

It's akin to putting a tax toothpaste, then claiming that every cent you spend at the grocery store is now a tax. It is a complete faulty logic.

Most non-partisan groups agree that Obamacare will actually cost less than our current system. Does that mean it is perfect? Far from it. There will need to be adjustments and changes to Obamacare, but let's please live in reality and not engage in hyperbole and grandstanding.
 
 
Sep 11, 2012
[So what YOUR are saying is we should punish them for not agreeing to disastrous fiscal and social proposals that are clearly contrary to their basic tenets of how government should operate, just in the name of "getting along"?]

Obviously I have a different view of the Democrats agenda as well as the meaning of compromise, but aside from that yes. Our ability to compromise is one of the big reasons we've managed to get as far as we have so we should punish politicians who refuse to do so.
 
 
Sep 11, 2012
Given that it is impossible to predict what anyone is going to do in office based on what they say to get elected, I'm not sure what value there is in arguing "the facts". So I'll ignore them and go on feelings.

Romney, as with most Republican leaders, gives me the heebie-jeebies. I fundamentally distrust someone who is so openly religious, because they are either (a) a hypocrite, a character flaw I hate more than almost any other, or (b) a nutcase who genuinely believes, despite all evidence to the contrary, that there is a supernatural being out there who cares about us. Slimy, or crazy, that's your choice when it comes to Republicans.

Obama, on the other hand, has this on his website as part of his "plan" (really just a list of bullet points that could be condensed into "y Obama roolz n Romney sux!"): "President Obama is calling on millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share." I'm so sick of hearing this and variations on it. It is meaningless pandering to people who think it is "unfair" that others have more money than they do and want to see them punished for it. Those millionaires and billionaires already account for a huge percentage of the tax receipts gathered (the top 1% pay, on average, about 65 times as much tax as the 99%), so I'm curious to know what Obama considers to be their "fair" share. Democrats are fond of statements like this, meaning they are either (a) stupid because they don't understand basic math, or (b) dishonest because they do but are counting on others to not see through it, apparently successfully.

So, our choice is slimy, crazy, stupid or dishonest. Personally, I'd take slimy. Unfortunately, I think Romney is the second, and Obama is the fourth.
 
 
 
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