In the ABC News Iowa Republican Presidential debate held last week candidate Mitt Romney was asked a question by moderator George Stephanopoulos:
Governor Romney, Speaker Gingrich crystallized his argument a couple of weeks ago. He said, and I quote, “I’m a lot more conservative than Mitt Romney, and a lot more electable than anyone else.”
Romney replied, in part (emphasis mine):
But really, this is more about— about us talking about what we believe. And w— and whether we can lead the country at a time when— when we need to restore the kind of values that make America the greatest nation on Earth.
We have in Washington a president who believes in a fundamental transformation of America into an entitlement society. Where the government takes for some from some and gives to everybody else. And the only people that do real well in that setting are the people in the government. This nation was founded on the principle of being a merit society, where education, hard work, risk taking, have lifted certain individual, and they have helped lift— lift the entire nation.
All credit to Romney for the clarity of this explanation; I like it when candidates talk in broad terms about their worldview rather than about the minutiae of their personal lives or their narrower interest-based policies.
Constrast Romney’s philosophy with that put forward by President Obama in an interview on Sunday with 60 Minutes:
If we make sure that everybody’s doing their fair share, to pay for things like infrastructure improvements in basic science and research and advanced manufacturing and innovation, we ask those who’ve benefited the most over the last three decades, we ask them to do a little bit more. And if we’ve got tough rules of the road — like the financial reform package that we passed into law last year — there’s no reason why over the next five, ten years, we cannot reposition ourselves so that every single American, no matter what they look like, no matter where they come from, they can succeed. And that’s my goal as President. That’s what I think about every day. And that’s what led me to run for president in the first place.
While on the surface they are saying the same thing — “work hard and you can succeed” — they approach this issue from completely different poles: Romney is saying, in essence, “there will always be a class of successful individuals who will, through their activities, provide a climate where others might thrive” whereas the President’s position is more akin to “together we can create a climate where everyone can thrive.” It’s a subtle but extremely important — and polarizing — difference in philosophy.
I wish that the American Presidential campaign could be about this, about competing political philosophies. And not about how many marriages someone has had, or what labels we should apply to various candidates, or whether a given candidate changed their mind about something.