Archive for January 16th, 2008

Huck vs. Mitt, in the World Series of Love

January 16, 2008

So Matthew Yglesias and others on the Left find Mitt Romney the least objectionable GOP candidate in this year’s field. Huckabee, meanwhile, is in a tight race with Giuliani for most objectionable.

I don’t get it.

Yglesias’s argument is that regardless of what Mitt might be saying on the campaign trail, however extreme (like doubling Guantanamo, or his answers to the Boston Globe survey on executive power), he’s such a pandering phony that you just can’t take that stuff too seriously. On Mitt’s record as governor, the argument goes, he’d probably operate as a competent, center-right technocrat once in office. Huck, on the other hand, is a True Believer; so all the nutty things he says on the campaign trail (like the one linked to above), he’ll probably really do.

I have two problems with that argument.

First, if Mitt wins after running on his Bush-and-then-some theory of executive power, the country loses even if he doesn’t behave that way in office. Simply running on it and winning legitimizes that ridiculous position. If he does it, he will have made that a legitimate, reasonable position to take, for every candidate for public office for at least the next several decades. We’ll be re-arguing this in every election cycle, as if it really is a perfectly reasonable constitutional theory. That alone would be a historic loss for the country, regardless of whether Mitt moderated his position once in office.

My second problem with Yglesias’s argument is that most of the really damaging things Mitt is running on, he could implement without needing much buy-in from Congress or anybody else. They’re executive functions. In fact, given the Bush precedent, he could implement them and not even bother to tell anybody he did it. Huck’s nuttier ideas, however, are generally of the kind requiring some pretty serious buy-in from Congress, the states, and/or thousands of career civil servants. He can’t just implement them by fiat from the Oval Office.

So to the Yglesias’s of the world, I say: feh. You couldn’t be more wrong.  Mitt, along with Giuliani, is the most objectionable GOP candidate. The least objectionable is John McCain, who at least has a reasonable, legally and historically justifiable definition of executive power.

This Mittmentum from the left — it’s gotta stop.*

[* Some others on the Left are rooting for Mitt because they think he’d be easy to beat in the general election. This is a different thing, though still too hazardous for my liking.]