The non-review: Romney’s ‘No Apologies’

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This column is not a review of Mitt Romney’s new book, “No Apology: the Case for American Greatness.” I wanted to write a review, but decided in all candor that I shouldn’t. I chaired Gov. Romney’s Domestic Policy Task Force during the ’08 campaign and am still a very strong supporter; more to the point, I read and commented on the initial drafts of the book when Mr. Romney was writing it. I would be seen, quite accurately, as too closely involved with both the book and the author to write anything approaching an impartial review.

But, having disclosed my bias, I can offer an observation about “No Apology” that may be useful to its readers.

Gov. Romney wrote the book himself. To be sure, he solicited suggestions, advice, and edits from a range of advisors and friends (“No Apology” has two pages of acknowledgments) but the book says what Romney wanted to say in the way he wanted to say it.

More than most politicians, Mitt Romney cares about ideas and how they are communicated. He’s also an intellectually and emotionally secure human being. He enjoys debate, welcomes challenges to his positions, and is constantly reaching out for new information. If Governor Romney should reach the White House, no one in his Administration will be discouraged from telling the President to his face that he is wrong. But anyone who does that had better be thoroughly prepared, because Romney has thought about what he believes, and he understands a broad range of issues at a depth that is unusual for someone who has spent most of his life outside of politics.

In short, “No Apology” is Mitt Romney’s personal statement. The book is intended to, and does, tell us a lot about the man who wrote it, and not just about his ideas. Over the last two years, a number of people have told me that they liked Gov. Romney as a candidate but wondered what really makes him tick. “No Apology” is the answer. Anyone who reads the book—whether they agree or disagree with its positions—will see the motives that make Romney “tick”: the entrepreneur’s desire to fix what is broken, the lawyer’s passion for organizing information and arguing ideas, the proud husband’s devotion to wife and family, and the unshakeable American exceptionalism of a man whose father taught him to love his country.

During the presidential campaign, Gov. Romney often said that America was reaching a crossroads, or an “inflection point” as he calls it. He foresaw the period of national trial that we have now entered. Romney believes that in certain respects America took it too easy for too long, and that to recover our national fortunes we have to recommit ourselves to national greatness.

He also believes that Americans will rise to the challenge, without government, or perhaps despite government. The Obama administration sees the current troubles as proof of national decline, and wants ever greater Federal control to manage America’s disappearance from history. Romney sees them as an imperative reason to get government under control and reassert vital elements of the American character: strength, innovation, faith in the power of freedom, and willingness to sacrifice for the future.

That is the theme of “No Apology.” It will also be the theme of Gov. Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012—provided that there is a Romney presidential campaign. Not even Romney’s closest advisers know what he is going to do. But they do know that writing the book was a necessary catharsis for Romney—a chance to think about his life, his beliefs, and his place on the national stage.

Yes, I am biased. But “No Apology” is an important book, and the author is a good man with powerful ideas and a clear sense of purpose. He intends to play a part of some kind on the national stage. If he should decide to run for President, he will be very formidable.

Jim Talent represented Missouri in the U.S. House of Representatives (1993-2001) and the U.S. Senate (2002-2007). He serves as the honorary chair of the American Freedom and Enterprise Foundation—FreedomSoultions.org.