Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Romney on TIME’S Choice of Putin as "Person of the Year"

Romney’s instincts here are dead on. And what I like about it is that he seems to show a little righteous indignation that is almost endearing. He’s also quite right to argue that Petraeus ought to have been selected--though TIME is so thoroughly discredited in its judgment that no decent human being should really want its accolades. But what I don’t like about it is that instead of pursuing the theme of righteous disgust, he moved in the end toward a more or less obscure (I mean obscure from the point of view of Joe Public) list of Putin’s abuses. He ticked them off like a Rhodes scholar on an interview . . . making sure to cite as many as possible to impress his interlocutors with his knowledge of the facts.

I don’t want to be a nitpicker . . . I really don’t. And at this point, I am not sure I want to beat up on Mitt. I’m certainly with him over Huck. But this incident gets to the heart of my discomfort with Romney. This answer of his put me in mind of that silly habit presidential candidates have fallen into since Bush got "caught" not knowing the name of some foreign leader in 2000 . . . now they all try to drop the names of every possible foreign leader they can and in any context that can at all allow it. The trouble is that, as a voter, I’m not voting for the guy who can win a game of foreign policy trivial pursuit. Unless you are a complete buffoon, I am going to have to assume that you’ll have a decent command of the facts. And truth be told, I don’t really want to fill my own head with all of those facts. So stop it already with the listing! If you want to cite some facts, do it in a way that demonstrates your understanding of what is at stake. I want to know more about your judgment and less about your ability to memorize and recite a list of talking points. I repeat . . . all the candidates do this. But with Romney it’s always so darn obvious.

That said, make sure you check out the link and take a good, hard look at Putin’s picture there. Does he look like he’s a man worried about memorizing lists to look good?

Discussions - 24 Comments

Instead of psychoanalyzing Romney and getting creeped out over his piling up of facts, I would prefer to applaud the concreteness and specificity of his indictment of Putin, and therefore of Time. Seems to me this does something to educate the public. In addition, presidential candidates SHOULD be able to show a good factual command of the world around them. There is too little of this, not too much. Of course, if you'd really like the nominating process to be even shallower than it is, Julie, then I guess your attack on Romney's excessive braininess makes sense. Otherwise, I fear it doesn't.

I couldn't agree more, David--and that's not often that I get to say that with you.

The fact that Romney was able to fight back gut-feeling-uber-alles disease (in the presence of Glenn Beck, no less) is nothing short of amazing. I know the narrative is that Romney's all polish and focus groups, and it's much easier to just parrot or play off of that than care about what actually may have come out of his mouth. In this case, though HATS OFF TO ROMNEY for being informed or AT WORST merely appearing to be informed. When finally someone responds knowledgeably in this election cycle, we're supposed to groan that he's too factual?

Nothing should turn off people faster than those that appear to see the big picture while steadfastly refusing to offer public facts in their support. It's argument, no divination. I've had just about enough gut-feeling, just-trust-me stuff in the last 7 years.

If you want to cite some facts, do it in a way that demonstrates your understanding of what is at stake. I want to know more about your judgment and less about your ability to memorize and recite a list of talking points.

Isn't it clear from the context in which Romney drops his litany that he "understands" what's going on? He calls Putin a "good dictator" in an ironic fashion, says he's disgusted by Time's choice of Putin, lays out why Time's characterization of Putin's positive impact on his country and region is dubious at best, disingenuous at least, and utterly incorrect at worst, and then caps it all off with a MSM indictment. What more could you want? Just no lists, period? I count a mere 4 issues raised with Putin, hardly excessive. Besides if he wasn't mounting a critique, and a sweeping critique at that, why list facts? Why these facts? Why now? And if he is marshaling these facts for a critique here and now, it likely comes from an understanding, a judgment about what is going on, what is at stake. Surely, you're not trying to imply that Romney has no idea or no control of what he's saying?

I don’t really want to fill my own head with all of those facts.

Are you really saying this or was this an attempt to channel John Q. Public? In either case, to what end?

TIME's choice of Putin is marginally defensible. Remember that the criteria is not necessary a "good" man, just one who has been influential on a global scale.

I used the phrase "marginally defensible." In truth, Putin's influence on the world in 2007 was troublesome but not compelling. A better case for "evil influence" could be made for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.

But TIME's choices in recent years betrays the fact they have largely abandoned their historic selection criteria. Al Gore as runner-up tells the story well -- climate change may be a big story, but surely others in that space have played a larger role than Mr. Gore.

General Petraeus would have been a perfectly justifiable choice. But to everyone's point -- that would have given credit and approval to America's military, and by extension Bush, and TIME just can't bring itself to do that.

I find it hard to believe that Romney didn't know TIME's selection before Glen Beck asked him the question. It was a nice bit of play-acting to feign astonishment. A minor fault against Romney.

I'm sure Romney feigned astonishment and didn't quite get away with it. Needs to work on his feigning. And Julie's reaction reminds us that the way Mitt does things more than what he does keeps us from feeling the love.

The Time Magazine Man of the Year is not a moral endorsement. So there can be nothing to be "indignant" about. It is either a pick you agree with or disagree with. Although Time has decreased their credibility somewhat on this account by some of their recent politicized and flashy choices.

Putin is an autocrat. He has done some autocratic things. But if you think Russia is going to have an American style democracy any time soon, you are mistaken. There is nothing in their history to support it. They went from a Tsar to Stalin to chaos.

American and neocon mindless hostility to Russia is silly. Part of that just needing an enemy thing. We should be trying to befriend them and increase trade with them as a (somewhat) Western Country rich in natural resources, not antagonizing them.

Putin is also, perhaps cynically, trying to revive the Orthodox Church's place in Russian. He may not be a man of faith, but I think he understands that Russian malaise is partially (primarily?) due to loss of faith.

He's also staging huge youth movements similar to the Hitler Youth indoctrination where the young people are incouraged to procreate for Mother Russia.

Andrew, the Russians desperately need to procreate. Is there something sinister about that?

I didn't see any evidence of "excessive braniness" in this exchange, David. Initially, I got excited because I thought I might see some evidence of human-beingness . . . but then he blew it. What Romney displayed was not command of facts but an ability to recite an agreed upon set of talking points hashed out with handlers. I almost believed his feigned astonishment until he followed it up with his robot list. It was as if someone punched a button on his screen that read, "For Russia, press here."

You're dismayed that there's a certain amount of synthetic emotion in politics? Happens all the time, and that's not about to change. The larger point is that Romney's claim to be shocked is a symbolic identification with simpler folks who really find the liberals latest depredations surprising -- and there are many of them. I'm getting bloodly sick and tired of the circular firing squad among conservatives and Republicans, which so many NLT posts in their small way facilitate. "Time" made a horrendously bad judgment in three respects: One, by making Petraeus not even a close runner-up; two, by lumping him in with trivial contenders; three, by in fact praising Putin as a leader in its essay about him. let's focus on that and praise ouf Republican leaders to calling them on it, instead of nitpicking them for not responding in precisely the way we would have. By citing facts about Putin, Romney challenged the liberal establishment on its own ground, effectively: Their arrogant belief that they're smarter and better-informed than the rest of us. It is an especially effective response to liberal journalists, who are supposed to be in the business of facts.

I mean, "bloody sick and tired." Bloody. And "praise our Republican leaders for calling them on it."

As Thomas DiLorenzo pointed out at Lew Rock, the "how dare they name Putin, they should have named Petraeus" memo obviously went out.

Did you see that my man Ron Paul was named a "Person that Mattered?"

Paleocons heart Putin? I guess if the neocons are against him, he must be a good guy ...

"Person that Mattered"?!?!??!?!? Red, you disappoint me. I understand the impulse to take so-called good news from any quarters . . . but does any serious person really aspire to the title of "Person that Mattered" . . . what, as opposed to all of the rest of us schmucks who--presumably--don't matter? What kind of a title is that? Who comes up with this stuff at TIME? Does he know he's an idiot?

David, I am well aware of Putin's flaws. Some paleo freinds of mine like him more than I do. But I think paleos are more likely to view Russia as a natural ally. Someone we should be working hard to get along with.

Neocons', who I think still long for the Cold War, hatred of Russia is unnatural. It ranks up there with their irrational Islamophobia and Germanophobia. It all part of this irrational need for an Enemy with a capital E. We must all be afraid. Be very afraid.

I am afraid, Red. Putin scares me, not Russia, per se. He looks like returning Russia to something frightening, threatening and as ugly as it was when I was young. Does conservatism demand a lack of liberty? Then you must be right and I am no conservative.

We HAVE worked hard to get along with Russia. The type of governing that suits Putin cannot be friendly with the US, as he needs the enemy with an E to keep himself in power.

Well, Red, tell your friends to go ahead and "work hard to get along with" Putin. Why don't you get back to us when they've made some progress ... There is ample reason for suspicion of Russia under Putin. There is also ample reason for suspicion of a country in which an anti-Western thug like Putin rose to power, will apparently continue in power, and is very popular. Yet the neocons seem to bother you a great deal more. You are a strange case, sir.

How is Russia a threat to America? Are they going to nuke us? Are they going to cross the Bering Straight and retake Alaska?

The problem with neocons and interventionists of all stripes is that they think every foreign country’s interests are entirely in sink with ours? This is hubristic if not downright delusional. Witness all the whining because the French wouldn't play along the way we wanted them to about the War. Well why should they? France should do what they think is in the best interest of France, not the US. And vice versa. We should do what we think is in the best interest of America.

Part of the issue with Russia is that they perceive US unipolarity in the world as not in their best interests. So Putin acts to reassert Russia's interests. This is human nature.

Here is a link to a good article at paleo leaning Taki Mag along with a quote.

Romney and McCain are in a fuss about Putin not because he’s a dictator (Washington gets along with other autocrats just fine) but because the Russian president pursues what he sees as good for his country no matter whether Washington likes it or not. If the post-9/11 GOP continues to reject the very notion that other countries’ national interests might be different than America’s, they will continue to fail in the arena of foreign affairs—but at least they’ll have plenty more opportunities to be publicly outraged.

Sink above should be sync. Spell check let me down.

They don't have to nuke us. They can support someone else to do that for them. Putin acts to reassert Russia's interests. which was lovely when such interests included selling us oil at a good price when we needed it. I see no direct threat to us now, but worry at the fascist impulse in Russian politics. I mean fascist in the original sense, as a political/economic system, not the silly way the left uses it to mean, "something I don't like."

Look at America now; in confronting terror we are restricting simple liberties of Americans to keep safe. A safer world means the opportunity to keep our liberties. Is it silly to hope that Russia's interests might coincide with ours? If so, isn't it more likely that Russia sans dictator would have similar interests to ours? In that the world will be a nastier place and that the world comes to seem smaller all the time, Putin is a threat to America.

Red, your simplistic crap is very tiresome. I think, as so often, you are just out of your league.

David, why is non-intervention more "simplistic" than the knee-jerk support of intervention and some primordial need to be in fear? You are dealing in lizard brain territory. The fact is that I don't share your baseline interventionist (big-government) assumptions.

Look at the Iraq War from the beginning. Who has been right? The "cakewalk" neocons or the paleos?

Out of my league indeed.

I'm not a knee-jerk supporter of intervention. Now, be honest: Are you a knee-jerk supporter of non-intervention? You do seem to be. My objection, in either case, wasn't to reflexive anti-interventionism, foolish though that is. It was to your failure to see Putin as a serious problem. That is what makes me think you're "out of your league."

So how is he a serious problem to America? Why should I not be able to sleep well tonight worrying about Putin? Is Putin a serious problem for Switzerland? Is he a serious problem for Canada? Mexico? Sweden?

You start from internationalist, globalist, interventionist baseline assumptions. Conservatives are supposed to be localist and parochial, not universalists.

I like Mitt Romney. Of course eh thought Putin was the wrong choice as Time's Man of the Year! it is ano brainer, but more than that he was willing to proudly state his objection and how he favored General David Petreaus.

Even his good looks and perfect hair dont bother me. He is a man of ideals and moral character and for me that is enough.

He didnt dump his wife (like McCain did for a trophy wife) of how many years? and seek out a younger woman of means.

He has stayed the course and delivered as a gentleman, as a thoughtful husband, business leader, and now as a highly respectable presidential candidate.

I understand how people can change their views on a personal issue like abortion and that doesnt offend me either.

But more than that Romney has been time tested and he hasnt allowed his religious faith to enter into his managment of governmental affairs for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Instead he choose his objectives and was successful in almost everything he did: health insurance is one example.

Mitt is well educated and intellectually curious and well read.
He speaks the King's English and I like that too.

Where he hasnt wavered like others have (namely John McCain) is on the subject of immigration and trying to as a Governor to enforce the laws. John McCain wants Amnesty and Ted Kennedy was his accomplice. Mitt also understands the ned to build a wall - NOW!

Moreover, Mitt Rmney also understands the Iraq war and he uncompromisingly supported its inception and the surge. Likewise, he believes in the Bush Tax cuts and so do I. Talk about a economic stimulus package - that surely is one good example.

For me there can be no other candidate who can lead this country with conviction and a strong moral base - Mitt Romney's life's example is honorable and should he and Anne be chosen to represent America they will make us very proud not only here at home, but in the eyes of the international arena. Thank you.

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