Romney Versus Europe
The Wall Street Journal has an interview with Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate and former governor of Massachusetts. Says Mr. Romney:
I understand the shorthand distinction between and American free-market model and a European social-democrat type welfare state, but Mr. Romney, as he goes forward, may want to think carefully about using such a broad brush to condemn Europe. Who is he talking about, exactly? Margaret Thatcher, whose economic policies were as free-market oriented as Ronald Reagan's possibly more so? Vaclav Havel? Lech Walesa? John Paul II? What does it mean for the NATO alliance if candidate Romney or President Romney is going around declaring that a whole bunch of countries in Europe that America is treaty-bound to defend, countries that have been fighting alongside us in Afghanistan and, in the case of some but not all of them, also participated in Iraq, are "wrong," and that America should not follow their path?
If Mr. Romney becomes president, he may find that the real global divides these days are the West — including Europe and America — versus radical Islam and Communist China, and that America and Europe, as free democracies, have a lot more in common than he thought. I understand that America has a long history of trying to distance itself from Europe, starting with the American Revolution. But we also have a long history of cooperation with allies in Europe, including World War II, the Marshall Plan, and the American troop presence in West Germany through the Cold War. I understand, too, that Europe is going through a rough patch right now. It can be tempting to bash Europe, as Europe has made some mistakes. But America has made mistakes, too.
If I had to guess where Mr. Romney is getting this line from, I'd say it is probably from Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute. Mr. Brooks spent time living in Spain, so he knows a lot about this, and he's a smart and lucid guy who is right about a lot of things and has a lot of useful thoughts to contribute. But as one critical reviewer pointed out:
Back in July 2010 I actually sent Arthur Brooks a set of questions about this issue, prompted by his book The Battle. I wrote:
At the time, Mr. Brooks didn't respond.
The Wall Street Journal interview goes on:
Now there's a comparison!
I don't mean to be too harsh on Mr. Romney here. I think, and have written, that he's been strong in the debates. I think he's good at articulating the benefits of free markets and capitalism and opportunity and merit as opposed to entitlements and redistribution and socialism. But he's got to be careful in these interviews, or else the news out of them will be his Europe-bashing and his likening himself to the last Republican who lost a presidential election to Barack Obama, rather than whatever message he is trying to get out that will help his campaign and the country.
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