Let me start off by saying that I am a fan of former President George H.W. Bush, and I truly respect his opinion on a host of political issues. The elder Bush was a great chief executive, and Americans would be fortunate to have him sitting in the White House today. But his recent appearance on Larry King Live left me scratching my head, and pondering the fate of a prominent Alaska resident.
In his interview with Mr. King, Bush 41 gave an unofficial endorsement of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential bid, claiming that Mr. Romney would make “a very good president.” Unfortunately I could not disagree more.
Is Mr. Romney better suited for the Oval Office than President Obama? Yes, but that is not exactly a high standard to overcome. My issue with Romney stems from his time as the Bay State’s governor.
In an effort to make a name for himself on the national stage while simultaneously pandering to the nation’s most liberal state legislature, then-Governor Romney signed into law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts what has come to be known as “RomneyCare,” a far-reaching state-based health care initiative that at its heart is very similar to “ObamaCare.” And like President Obama’s self-proclaimed signature legislative achievement, RomneyCare, with its fiscally irrational mandates, should also be viewed as a colossal failure.
The health care debate is far from over, and Mr. Romney has not exactly done himself any favors, particularly with conservative tea partiers who consider ObamaCare and its Massachusetts counterpart to be fiscal sins. Aside from jobs and the economy, health care was a prominent issue in 2010, and all signs indicate that it will again be a front-line issue in 2012.
As Quinnipiac University’s Peter Brown observes, for the first time since Ronald Reagan in 1980, there exists no clear frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination. The battle for the Republican nomination is likely to include a smorgasbord of lesser-known candidates who, along with Romney and Palin, will be trading paint and rubbing each other into the wall as if they were vying for the checkered flag at Daytona. Yes, the right to represent the Republican Party in 2012 will be like a good old-fashioned NASCAR race complete with the high-speed drama and crashes usually reserved for Sunday afternoons. And like in NASCAR, the key for candidates will not be who leads after the first lap, but who wins the final lap. Knowing this, the elder Bush should have tempered his praise for Mr. Romney.
The GOP nomination for 2012 looks to be wide open right now, but the public musings of respected politicos like Bush 41 could wield undue influence and skew the playing field. If the GOP is going to take a positive step forward and effectively clean up the mess created by the Obama administration, respected Republican opinion-makers like President George H.W. Bush should withhold their input until the GOP field has been fully realized and the contenders have made their cases to rank-and-file Republicans, not just party elders. This is not only important for the Republican Party in its quest to connect with voters across the national landscape, but it is vital for our country if we are to truly progress beyond partisan bickering and put the country back on the right track.