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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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Sep 11, 2012
[ So what you're saying is we should reward the Republicans for being obstructionist, uncompromising douchebags. ]

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"?

[ There's two real dangers the world faces right now:
(1) Global warming.
(2) Corporate-controlled dystopia ]
(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.
 
 
+17 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 11, 2012
[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.]

So what you're saying is we should reward the Republicans for being obstructionist, uncompromising douchebags. Sorry, but can't agree with you there.
 
 
Sep 11, 2012
Scott, for being "neither Republican nor Democrat" you sure do spout a lot of Democrat talking points. Can I rebut some of this?

"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."
To his credit, Obama did not raise taxes outright, though he threatened to several times, which has about the same dampening effect on long-term business planning. Plus, Obamacare is a huge tax increase. (If you want to argue with that, I defer to the Supreme Court decision.) Let's accept your argument that Romney would not have cut spending. Okay. What you don't mention is the flip side. Obama increased spending, by a lot. That sort of Keynesian activity is supposed to bring the economy back, it doesn't. Romney would have cut taxes, or at least explicitly preserved the current rates put in during Bush. This would have had an actual beneficial effect on the economy, as it did during Reagan's first term.

"just as Obama talked liberal and governed in the center."
No such thing occurred. Obama '08 campaigned in the center and spent his first term governing to the far left. Even Bill Clinton jumped to the center after his first mid-term election made it clear the voters didn't approve of his governing on the left. Obama heard the same message and ignored it.

"I think the Tea Party is mostly an anti-Obama movement, i.e. largely racist."
The tea party is an anti-left-government movement, not an anti-minority movement. You lose credibility to anybody but the most in-the-tank Obama supporters by saying such things. You started this post claiming objectivity, this isn't it.

"I don't think he's a secret socialist or trying to destroy America."
Obama isn't a secret socialist. There's nothing secret about it. And whether or not he's trying to destroy America, he's certainly doing a good job of it.

"My prediction is that President Obama will run the table during the debates and easily win reelection."
Just your personal opinion against mine now, but we will see about this. Compare their convention speeches. It's not looking good for Obama.

"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."
That is nowhere near a major national issue, Romney would get no benefit from this. This election is about three things: jobs, jobs, and jobs. Let me jump back to:

"I don't think a president has much impact on employment rates."
Technically, he shouldn't, but Obama and his party have led a lot of policy that is harmful to business, which leads to risk-averse and low-hiring business policy. Romney and a Republican-led congress would have the opposite effect, businesses would know it safe to expand again.
 
 
Sep 11, 2012
Unfortunately, Scott, your attempt at an objective analysis omits what is, arguably, the most important issue confronting our electorate: the opposing worldviews of the two principle candidates.

Whereas Romney is indeed a pragmatist (a good thing), Obama is a narcissistic ideologue of the socialistic persuasion (a very, very bad thing, indeed).

Whatever the biases a voter may bring to the voting booth, if they include the least concern for the welfare and longevity of our Nation and its glorious principles, I can't imagine a more stark contrast between the candidates.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 11, 2012
I've been watching for the medical marijuana flip-flop for months now. I think you're right, and it's right around the corner. And I also think it could be enough to tip the election.

But there's another possibility, ignoring the medical mj for a minute, and that's what could happen if Obama makes a sufficiently eloquent case against Republican obstruction that he wins over independent voters and can take back Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress.

There's historical precedent for this from the Truman years. Truman basically ran against the so-called "do nothing" Congress for his re-election and it paid off handsomely. He got super-majorities in both chambers and actually got quite a lot done in his second term. Most people only remember the Korean War, and so Truman left office as the least popular President in history until Bush managed to snag that title. But we shouldn't forget that by the end of his first term he had a terrible economy and an obstructionist Congress, yet he turned it into a huge victory. If Obama managed to do that this year, then your calculations about Romney being the only candidate who can get something done go out the window.

And more than that, it would be FAIR. I know fairness is a silly moist robot belief, but it's there nonetheless. Nothing would go against my sense of fairness more than the obstructionist party winning the White House after they sabotaged Obama's policies and deliberately hurt the economy for political advantage.

[Fairness isn't a real thing, but you're right that there's a non-zero chance Democrats could grab the reigns. -- Scott]
 
 
Sep 11, 2012
[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]

Would he be twisting the end of his handlebar mustache while he devised his dastardly schemes?

If people on the left want to make an argument that Republicans are insensitive to the plight of the poor, I may argue against it, but at least it is a reasoned opinion. When someone says that "the rich guy just wants to make his rich friends even richer", it immediately signals to me that their inquiry into the nature of human behavior was limited to watching villains on Saturday morning cartoons.
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 11, 2012
Scott Adams, are you still running, or have you dropped out of the race?

[In a prior post I appointed myself Emergency Backup Leader (EBL) in case the existing government collapses for one reason or another. -- Scott]
 
 
-13 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 11, 2012
There's two real dangers the world faces right now:

(1) Global warming.
(2) Corporate-controlled dystopia, where the business classes are Masters of the Universe and employees are slaves.

Vote for the deregulation guy who's agnostic on global warming if you're okay with millions of people suffering and possibly the end of life on Earth.

[All we know for sure about Romney is that he's pragmatic. Anything he says to get elected is part of that pragmatism. -- Scott]
 
 
Sep 11, 2012
I think your analysis is generally fine, though I'd echo sdreksler on the Tea Party. I'm in a sales job where I work with people across many companies. Over the last six years, I've heard the conversation change so much - a solid majority of people I work with now have little use for either party; are sick of the overspending and corruption and name-calling; and are tired of the government involvement in their lives - they just want to live and let live. That disconnected silent majority could have been easily co-opted by either party. The Tea Party bubbled out of that, had to pick a side and when to the closest fit, and now has had a few fairly out'there right wing politicians join their fray for the votes, along side the core of home-grown tired-of-two-party-politics people that started the whole thing. The media has really missed the basis of the thing and has branded it kooky very innacurately. The votes that are there are numerous and from people who just want to see sanity restored to the system.

Past that, thanks for another valid opinion to consider. Personally, I don't think there's much difference between the two candidates position-wise and that in a non-partisan world, would govern similarly. The difference is in which party will be in power, and you've got that right. If Obama wins, expect more stalemate with the Republican Congress. If Romney wins, and Congress goes all Republican, well, they've got their clean shot at fixing things. Bush blew his chance; Obama blew his; perhaps we'll get luckier with Romney. I do feel that we need to give someone the chance, and since Romney's the only one I pragmatically see that could get it out of this election, I'd lean his way.

[Did you just say the Tea Party wants to restore sanity to the system? I think that requires arguing with the use of data, not hats. On racism and the Tea Party, here's some data: http://depts.washington.edu/uwiser/racepolitics.html -- Scott]
 
 
Sep 11, 2012
My hat is off to you sir, for delivering the 1st reasoned discussion we have seen this political season.

Maybe not enough has been said about what is at stake for Mormons and Blacks. A Mormon president would bring legitimacy to the Mormon faith, which is huge. Maybe a Mormon president would ultimately help the cause of atheism, since Scientology and Mormonism are now the best counter-examples to Reason. It sure would be a shame to have Obama reelected and miss out on 4 years of Mormon bashing.

Likewise, I've been shocked these last 4 years to see the levels of racism still festering in this country. Friends I've known for years have turned out to be sleeper cells of racist birtherism, and 2 of them have PhDs. IMO, a one-term Black president would be more damaging than Congressional constipation. Obama should be given one more term.

P.S. I like your kamikaze imagery on 9-11

 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 11, 2012
I always knew you were a poor thinker, Scott, and this post is no exception. I think my favorite line was:

"I think the Tea Party is mostly an anti-Obama movement, i.e. largely racist."

Right... because the Tea Party, which started BEFORE Obama was elected (or was even the Dem candidate), somehow retroactively made themselves all about "racism". Good call.

Anyone who assumes that opposition to a candidate must be based solely (or even mostly) on "race", despite the fact that those in opposition have numerous spelled-out policy disagreements, shouldn't be taken seriously.

I also particularly liked:

"Democrats in Congress are less Kamikaze-like and more willing to compromise"

It must be a fascinating world that you live in. :^D


WATYF
 
 
Sep 11, 2012
Hey Scott, I managed to read your entire comment today without thinking you're a Democrat blow-hard or a Republican douche-bag. So I guess you actually are objective! Congratulations!

I keep hearing from both Republicans and Democrats that we are about to go off a fiscal cliff, and it we elect the other guy we will definitely go off the cliff. Maybe they're both right.

I'm starting to think: maybe that's not such a bad idea. Let's drive off this cliff at top speed. Crash this thing and start over.
 
 
Sep 11, 2012
Gay marriage, drug policy, and even abortion rights (if Ryan is to be believed) could easily make it to the Supreme court in the next 20 years and would have a direct and important effect on society.
 
 
Sep 11, 2012
The racist ones are the Birthers, for sure.

Today's blog touched on the economy, civil rights, and taxes -- wish it also had energy, environment, and science woven in. Maybe a little immigration. Scott makes an interesting argument on what could be a more sure-bet president, but when I couple it with environmental deregulation, increased military spending, medicare vouchers, and drilling on the coasts -- the choice gets hazier.
 
 
+19 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 11, 2012
Sorry to say you are so wrong about the Tea Party. Tea Party is a loose group of individuals who care strictly about Financial issues. If Romney is elected and doesn't address the financial issues of larger Govt and Large Debt then the Tea Party will leave the Republican Party and spin off. Nearly all Tea Party people I know (excluding Politicians who are trying to co-opt the name) only care about getting the country's finances in order. The Racial issue is purely a media fabrication that too many people buy into, it is easier than actually going to Tea Party meetings and talking to those people who are involved. For 5 years anyone that disagrees with Obama on anything is a Racist by definition of the Media and this included Bill and Hillary Clinton back in the Spring of 2008.
 
 
 
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