If conservatism = common sense, the Repubs will pick Romney
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If conservatism = common sense, the Repubs will pick Romney

Hate to jump the gun, as we have another several months to go. But unless heaven forbid there’s another terror attack and Americans again realize the need for Rudy Giuliani, the choice for the Republican presidential nomination is emerging -and seems clear. Some say that at its best, conservatism is common sense. If that’s true, and the Republicans are smart, they’ll pick Mitt Romney.

As I see it, Perry is a great friend of Israel and has many of the right instincts, but he’s just too much of a Bible thumper to win the general election. Also, there’s no way the country will be in the mood to elect another Texas governor so soon after George W. Bush (and Perry, it seems, is closer to being the person liberals believed Bush to be than who Bush actually was). I thought Michele Bachmann looked interesting and sounded intelligent, but her repeating of a mother’s comment that the HPV virus vaccine caused her child to develop mental retardation was dangerously misinformed, if well-intentioned (I think Bachmann probably felt sorry for this mother, but she should have known better than to repeat something that wild and unsubstantiated). No way she’s ready for the Presidency.

As I recently wrote in an opinion piece for this newspaper about the unfairness of casting aspersions against tea party activists, the country needs a unifier. Not just someone who spouts off about reaching across the aisle to work with others, but someone who has actually done so. A realist as opposed to an ideologue. A genuine moderate. Failing entry on the Democratic side of a star like Newark mayor Cory Booker (whom the Democrats would be smart to tap), it seems to me the candidate will need to come from the Republican side, and Romney comes closest.

I once heard someone say, “George W. Bush got elected because he seemed like the kind of guy you could get a beer with. Romney seems more like the guy who’d fire you.” In terms of image, Romney should loosen up a bit, get someone to muss his hair. On substance, he should make the case for digging ourselves out of the mess created in part by ideologues-as opposed to effective, realistic managers. He should also give Americans some straight talk about our economy-and the fact that it is cyclical, which means that there are no simple, instantaneous, total fixes (No hopey changey dreams that materialize just because we speak beautifully about it).

He should evoke the memories of other presidents who were strong and realistic leaders, who made tough decisions with a steady hand and who took the long view: Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, even JFK. He should cleave to sound, and well-established, conservative economic principles, and stress that cutting waste and encouraging self-reliance helps people to help themselves-and helps government become more effective at doing well what it can and must.

If I were Romney’s campaign manager, I would make American enterprise and efficient government the key phrases: let’s get back on track, let’s strengthen what made this country great in the first place. Otherwise, we will get the tax-and-spend liberals’ American Dream: a permanent state of semi-stagnation, nearly half the country unemployed or on strike – and demanding more benefits from poor over-strapped old Uncle Sam.

Romney should not hesitate to champion American exceptionalism, not in the arrogant and sometimes simplistic sense that some foreign policy conservatives have perhaps done, not expecting everyone to immediately embrace a democratic way of life. But by looking at what has made this such a great strong country: first, the individuals who comprise it-their drive, initiative, and decency. The American people are great; they have built this country; acknowledging this is true, and it inspires.

“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” should be adapted for our time-not just as a call to military service, but as a call to greater domestic participation and personal responsibility.

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