Learning to Like Mitt

Mitt Romney’s greatest appeal to his supporters at the outset of his campaign, to be perfectly honest, was that he was not Barack Obama. That remains Romney’s biggest selling point, to continue with the honesty shtick, but lately we’ve noticed that his supporters seem to like him because of who he is almost as much as because of who he is not.

There are polling data to bolster this impression, but mostly it has been formed by listening to alternative media and conversations with a variety of the regular folks we routinely encounter. Our own growing regard for Romney is part of it, too, as we were as skeptical as anyone at the start of his presidential quest.

We rabid right-wing sorts were initially put off largely because of that health care bill Romney championed while governor of Massachusetts, a government-heavy that bears an uncomfortable resemblance to the hated Obamacare bill, but also by the fact that he had once stooped so low as to serve as the governor of Massachusetts. Such failings would ordinarily disqualify a person from the Republican presidential nomination, but as it became clear over the course of an embarrassing primary campaign that the more consistently conservative alternatives were unlikely to survive the inevitable attack ads and media caricatures he was reluctantly chosen as standard-bearer. Not a single Republican of our acquaintance thought he was worse than the incumbent, not by a long shot, but neither was there any enthusiasm for the ticket.

Gradually, though, Romney seems to have won over his party’s base. The ivy-covered conservative media based on the east coast were on board all along, but eventually even the proudly disreputable voices of talk radio began to stop nit-picking and start praising their candidate. The hugely influential Rush Limbaugh is now an unabashed fan, and Mark Levin, the unbearably dour talker who is usually even more scathing toward anyone not 99 and 44/100ths percent pure than he is toward the actual enemies, has also lately been laying off the criticism. Numerous chats with bona fide grassroots types have revealed a similar growing approval, with our most reluctant right-wing friends now expressing a genuine admiration for Romney.

The transformation began with Romney’s bold choice of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, a clear signal that he understood the severity of the nation’s fiscal problems and the need for politically risky solutions, but we sense that the candidate’s forthright defense of capitalism, the Constitution, and an old-fashioned Americanism has been even more important. Most conservatives have a keen sense of a candidate’s sincerity, and Romney’s background in business makes his paeans to the free market utterly believable in a way that Obama’s recent praise of capitalism do not.

In a rather neat trick, Romney seems to have solidified his conservative support while simultaneously winning over those incomprehensible moderate types who are often thought to be scared silly by conservatism. Because the change appears to have occurred since the first debate, which drew an unusually large audience, we’ll attribute this to the dangerously uninformed getting a first-hand look at Romney and noticing that he bears little resemblance to the demonic figure portrayed in the Obama campaign’s over-the-top negative advertising. They might have also noticed that he’s a strikingly intelligent, competent type, qualities that have as much appeal to middle-of-the-roaders as to conservatives, and that he’s been remarkably pleasant even as he endures the obvious efforts of the media to suggest otherwise.

Romney obviously hasn’t endeared himself to the president’s most stubbornly loyal supporters, of course, and instead has begun to provoke the same sort of red-hot hatred that was once reserved for the likes of George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan. That’s a good sign, too, though, because it suggests that Romney’s rising popularity has them scared.

— Bud Norman

Where the Buck Stops

As the tragedy that occurred in Libya on Sept. 11 becomes an ever greater embarrassment for the Obama administration, the administration’s excuses become ever more desperate.

The latest official line was trotted out in last week’s vice presidential debate when Joe Biden, in between his constant snorts, sighs, and rude interruptions, attempted to deflect the blame onto the State Department for failing to inform the president of repeated requests from the ambassador for more security and onto the House Republicans for cutting for the State Department’s security budget. Obama’s remaining supporters should hope that he comes up with something better for tonight’s debate, because neither argument is convincing.

Even as Biden was pleading Republican-imposed poverty as the reason for the fiasco, we were wondering if the money allocated for security was insufficient or merely misspent according to naïve notions about the Middle East. There were already reports that the Marines were denied ammunition to guard the Egyptian embassy, which had been attacked and trashed by an Islamist mob the same day as the murderous assault in Libya, and it seemed unlikely that the budget was so niggardly that it couldn’t afford a few bullets. Since then the story has proved even more improbable, as we’ve learned that the State Department’s security budget is twice what it was a decade ago, and that there was an extra $2 billion sitting around in the agency coffers earmarked for embassy security. In another example of the administration’s questionable priorities, we’ve also learned that there was enough money in the State Department’s budget to purchase a $108,000 charging station for one embassy’s newly purchased Chevy Volt.

Nor are we impressed with Biden’s claim that the fault lies not with the president but rather with the woman that he appointed to oversee the State Department. Although Hillary Clinton has dutifully accepted responsibility for the failure to provide the necessary security, surely Obama deserves some blame for putting her in charge. Nor does Clinton’s soldierly mea culpa change the fact that she and Obama, as well as several other administration officials, continued to peddle the story that a virtually unknown low-budget video had caused the tragedy, a bald-faced lie that resulted in the imprisonment of a filmmaker and yet another blow to the invaluable tradition of free speech.

Perhaps Obama will be so bold as the reiterate that argument advanced by campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter, who has claimed that the death of an American ambassador and three of his brave countrymen in a terror attack by a group supposedly vanquished by the administration would be of no interest to anyone if not for the nitpicking of Mitt Romney. There might be something to that, but if so the country has bigger problems any presidential candidate can possibly remedy.

— Bud Norman

Taking Satire Seriously

These are hard times for the satire business, and not just because of the bad economy. The bigger problem for the modern satirist is that no parody can be so broad, so exaggerated, so obviously made-up that much of the public won’t take it seriously.

Yet another example of this phenomenon was recently provided by the many supposedly smart writers who regurgitated some obviously fabricated quotes attributed to Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan. The column had Ryan responding to some pol’s claim that he would have to wash off the “stench” of his association with Mitt Romney by saying such things as “If Stench calls, take a message” and “tell Stench I’m having finger sandwiches with Peggy Noonan and will text him later.” A casual reader could be forgiven for failing to notice the satirical intent because of its lack of humor, a usual indicator of satire, but the quotes are so at odds with the usual caricature of Ryan as bland and annoying wholesome that it should have tipped off anyone the slightest bit astute.

An even more frustrating example from recent days is Mitt Romney’s infamous statement that “I can relate to black people, my ancestors once owned slaves.” Romney never said any such thing, of course, and anyone who wants to trace this bizarre rumor to its source will eventually arrive at a little-known internet publication with the telling name of “Free Wood Post,” which bills itself as “news that’s almost reliable” and offers a disclaimer that flatly states all articles are fiction and “any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental.” Even this was insufficient to prevent the quote from appearing on countless blogs, tweets, and exceptionally gullible cable news networks such as MSNBC.

Similar mistakes are too numerous to mention. Cases of people falling for similarly obvious attempts at satire in the widely-read on-line satire publication The Onion are so common that a site called “Literally Unbelievable” has been created just to chronicle them.

This problem goes back at least as far as the era of Mark Twain, who noted that “To write a burlesque so wild that its pretended facts will not be accepted in perfect good faith by somebody is very nearly an impossible thing to do,” but we suspect that it’s far more in the post-Gutenberg era of sitcoms and Saturday Night Live-derived movies. As practitioners of a drier form of wit, we’ve discovered that too many people now require a comically contorted face or outstretched palms or some other form of ample warning that a joke is coming, with a howling laugh track to accompany both the set-up and the punch line, and then have it followed by a capitalized “LOL” in order to understand that a remark is not meant to be taken literally.

We suspect the polarized state of American politics probably has something to do with, too, as people are ever more eager to believe the very worst about their ideological opponents. At the “Literally Unbelievable” site there are several examples of Republicans falling for clearly satirical exaggerations, but the Democrats who truly believe that anyone to the right of Sen. Al Franken is plotting for environmental Armageddon and the restoration of slavery seem to be most susceptible to mistaking satire for journalism.

Alas, the fabricated quotes will undoubtedly cost Romney a few votes from the humor-challenged community. Given the skittishness that the supposedly brave and transgressive wags lately have about poking fun at the president, it’s unlikely that the lost votes will be offset from imaginary quotes attributed to Obama. Which is a shame, because Obama is the one who actually said that line about his ancestors owning slaves, and we write that with a straight face.

— Bud Norman

The 47 Percent Problem

Mitt Romney has been caught red-handed saying something unpleasantly true that very much needed to be said, so of course we’re all supposed to be appalled and write off his chances of winning the upcoming presidential election.
Mother Jones Magazine, the hippie journal of record, has released a surreptitiously recorded tape of ,Romney telling a group of well-heeled potential donors that 47 percent of Americans will be inclined to vote for Barack Obama “no matter what.” He goes on to explain that these Americans aren’t likely to support a campaign based on tax cuts and personal responsibility because they don’t pay income taxes, are dependent to some degree on government largesse, and consider themselves “victims” who are “entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

None of Romney’s numerous critics can truthfully state that this any of this isn’t plainly true — and they’re unwilling to note that he actually understated the percentage of Americans who don’t pay income taxes, which is closer to 49 — so they settled for accusing him of being insensitive, out of touch, mean, merciless, plutocratic, cannibalistic, and generally having all the other moral failings they routinely attribute to Republicans. They also chortled that Romney had “disdainfully written off half the nation,” as the Obama campaign put it, and savored the possibility of winning a landslide based on the dependent-American vote.

Romney refused to back away from the comments during a Tuesday news conference, except to concede the “inelegant” phrasing, and we can hope that the argument he advanced in the remarks will now take its rightful place at the very forefront of the campaign. Having such a large segment of the country dependent on the labor of others is a recipe for economic decline, social disintegration, and is a bloody shame, no matter how much it flatters the moral vanity of the modern liberal. If giving a man a job is somehow less compassionate than giving him a handout, then compassion is much overrated.

We suspect that much of the slight majority paying for it all will be inclined to agree, and if the Democrats want to cast themselves as the party of welfare dependency, high taxes, and income redistribution they might also be writing off half the nation, and they should note that it’s the half that’s far more likely to actually get to the polls and vote. There are many in the income tax-paying class who work for the government, or feel guilty about their relative affluence, or have some other reason to vote for the ever-expanding welfare state, but one must hope that there are at least a similar number of people taking government assistance who would much prefer a job.

Romney should continue to press the argument before the number gets to 51 percent, which is a point of no return.

— Bud Norman

About Those Speeches

The art of political oratory has become so degraded in America that Barack Obama was able to pass himself off as a silver-tongued speaker just four years ago, but we still enjoy hearing what passes for speechifying these days. What we heard on the radio Tuesday from the Republican National Convention was mostly pretty good, at least by contemporary standards, and likely to compare well with next week’s efforts by the Democrats.

We missed most of the address by Mia Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, candidate for congress, and a rising star of the conservative movement, but saw that her address won plaudits from the right-wing commentators and by all accounts “electrified” the crowd. The portion we did hear was indeed rousing, stressing the traditional Republican values of self-reliance and personal responsibility with a convincingly personal touch, and we expect we’ll be hearing more from her in the comings months. Those watching the convention on MSNBC apparently missed all of the speech, as the left-wing network simply cut away from all of the black and Latino speakers lest their audience be confused about why a crowd full of racists were cheering so loudly for a black woman such as Love.

Former Pennsylvania senator and failed presidential contender Rick Santorum also spoke, and while he probably managed to get his many supporters enthused about the Romney candidacy we don’t expect the speech had much appeal beyond his fans. The speech was a strange extended metaphor about hands, starting with the gnarled but strong hands of his coal-mining father and running through the various sorts of hands he shook while campaigning, and although it had some kind words for traditional Judeo-Christian values it was light on the hellfire-and-brimstone stuff that scared the children and the secular reporters during the campaign.

Even the ABC reporters who kept interrupting the speakers on the radio were hard-pressed to find much fault with a rousing speech by the nominee’s wife, Ann Romney, who gave an endearingly personal account of her husband’s career. The main chore facing the Romney campaign, which has been besieged by the most extravagant sort of negative advertising, seems to be convincing the public that he’s not a top-hatted villain who ties damsels to railroad tracks for cackling laughs, and the speech was probably effective at countering that cartoonish image. By hearing it on the radio we missed out on the full effect of her classy good looks, but even so we found it very compelling and just the sort of thing that should have particular appeal to the kind of women who are susceptible to the Democrats’ most outrageous slanders.

Keynote speaker Chris Christie gave a good speech, but that was disappointing because we’d been expecting a great one. The famously burly governor of New Jersey has some heretical views typical of his region, especially on gun rights and radical Islamist jurists, but on the crucial issue of fiscal sanity he’s been heroic, and he’s achieved great things in a stubbornly liberal state by stating the cold, hard facts of life with his legendary bluntness, so it seemed certain that he’d lay it on with extra gusto in a prime time spot. Alas, although he talked about being blunt he failed to do so, and left us wanting more.

Perhaps we’ll get it when Romney and running mate Paul Ryan make their acceptance speeches. Both will probably attempt to be at their most likeable, but they’re genuinely likeable guys if you don’t happen to hate successful people, so the effort shouldn’t prevent them from laying out the difficult truths that Christie spoke of. We don’t anticipate anything along the lines of Patrick Henry’s “The War Inevitable” or Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, but it should be pretty good.

— Bud Norman

A Fluke Convention

The nation’s political discourse has been blissfully free of talk about abortion in recent years, one of the few benefits accrued from an avalanche of bad economic news, but the Democratic party seems eager to revive all the old arguments.

Emboldened by the widely publicized flap over Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin’s universally scorned misstatements about rape and abortion, and ever eager to talk about anything other than all that bad economic news, the Democrats are planning to turn their upcoming convention into a week-long abortion rights rally. The speakers chosen for the event are an all-star roster of abortion rights advocates, and the party’s web site is excitedly proclaiming that “Romney, Ryan, Akin and the GOP want to take women back to the dark ages,” which is apparently a reference to that medieval era of American history prior to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Among those taking the podium are Nancy Keenan, president of the National Abortion Rights Action League’s Pro-Choice America group, Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and Sandra Fluke, the celebrity law student who demanded that her Catholic university supply her contraceptives and became a feminist martyr of sorts when a radio host called her a “slut.” The lineup also includes Caroline Kennedy, one of the stars of the long-running Kennedy family reality show, the actress Eva Longoria, who is said to be very hot, and Barbara Mikulski, who is merely a senator from Maryland. All can be expected to wax indignant about the Republicans’ devious schemes to subjugate women in a “Handmaid’s Tale” dystopia just like 1972.

It should be a riveting spectacle for the handful of viewers who will be watching on cable, but we suspect that any women susceptible to this line of argument have probably already decided to vote for Obama. With abortion rights set in constitutional stone for the foreseeable future, and more pressing matters looming in the meantime, most are likely to cast their votes based on other issues. To the extent that the Republicans also seem more concerned with those other issues, they should benefit.

Nor should the Democrats be certain that they enjoy majority support on the social issues. Even many of the Americans who call themselves “pro-life” will sadly allow exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother, but even many of those who call themselves “pro-choice” are opposed to late term abortions or abortions without parental consent, are in favor of allowing medical professionals and religious institutions to act according their own consciences, and don’t share the same unabashed enthusiasm for the procedure as the average Democratic convention speaker, so both parties have staked out positions that potentially alienate much of the country.

The Democratic strategy is also hindered by the obvious fact that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan aren’t Todd Akin. The pair have been admirably consistent in pressing the economic arguments that are of more interest to Americans at the moment, and are unlikely to be lured into a pointless brouhaha of the Democrats’ choosing.

— Bud Norman

The Clothes Horse Race

Voluminous though it is, our daily regimen of news-reading is not so far-ranging that it routinely takes us to the fashion pages. The dress code is rather lax here in Kansas, and we’re not the foppish sort, so we normally don’t see any need to be au courant on haute couture.

A high-minded obsession with the presidential campaign recently led us to the style sections of The New York Times and The Washington Post, however, as writers for both of those august publications have weighed in on the sartorial sensibilities of the presumptive Republican nominee and his running mate. Bearing in mind the Bard’s admonition that “the apparel oft proclaims the man,” we thought it would be worthwhile to learn what a more studied eye might discern from the Republican ticket’s togs.

Katherine Boyle of The Post was more or less complimentary regarding Mitt Romney’s attire at a recent a campaign event, approvingly noting that with his “carefully rolled sleeves and an ice-blue tie,” Romney “looked polished, the way presidential candidates often do.” She spent the rest of the article considering the appearance of Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, and was considerably less generous in her appraisal.

“But Ryan (Wis.) appeared rumpled, slightly sloppy for a vice-presidential candidate,” Boyle wrote. “As if he’d flown in hours before and mistakenly picked up someone else’s suitcase. His starched, white shirt bunched at his stomach. His dark jacket drooped, better suited for a man of the cloth than a man on a presidential ticket.”

Having likened Ryan to a man of the cloth, perhaps the most damning insult a Washington Post fashion writer can sling at a person, Boyle continued for several paragraphs in a similarly snarky vein. She sneered that Ryan “seemed oddly unconcerned about the clothes he wore,” quoted the president of a “Washington-based media and image-consultant company” saying that Ryan looked like “a rumpled, think-tank policy wonk sort of guy,” and twice complained that Ryan’s suit seemed oversized.

The author also speculated that Ryan’s gauche wardrobe was a “strategic choice,” ingeniously calculated to endear him to the similarly fashion-challenged rubes out there in flyover country who might suckered into voting against Obama. Being rubes from flyover country ourselves we took a long look at the photograph of Ryan accompanying the article and found no fault with his suit, which looked very much like the same one that politicians have been wearing for the past several decades, so she might be on to something. Then again, we are also “oddly unconcerned” about the clothes Ryan wears, and are far more impressed by the evidence that he actually is a think-tank policy wonk sort of guy.

Meanwhile, back at The New York Times, fashion writer Cathy Horyn seemed more concerned with what lies beneath Ryan’s baggy clothes. Describing the ticket as “cute Republican dudes,” Horyn quoted Politico’s description of Ryan’s “dreamy bedroom eyes” and “buff” body, noted the TMZ web site’s frantic quest for a shirtless photograph of his famously chiseled physique, and predicted that Ryan would figure in the “sex dreams of Republicans, who apparently, unlike Democrats, need this kind of thing.”

We were surprised to learn that Democrats have no need of sex dreams, especially after Horyn’s own newspaper ran a famously lurid opinion piece by a Democrat who explicitly describing her recurring dream of the president emerging from a hot shower, but the remainder of the article suggests that Horyn has many odd opinions regarding the two parties. She also disparaged the bagginess of the vice presidential candidate’s clothes, enlisting a colleague to speculate that Ryan was trying to compensate for an insecurity about his masculinity by choosing a roomier outfit, and found him too sloppy to “bring youth and vigor and a kind of Ayn Rand boldness to the G.O.P.” In a rare nod toward bipartisanship Horyn complained that “the tightfitting ideology of politicians nowadays is reflected in their narrow clothing choices, Democrats and Republicans alike,” but she ends with a gushing tribute to the fashion sense of Hillary Clinton, and one gets the distinct impression she considers being a Republican the most appalling fashion faux pas of them all.

Of course, we wouldn’t vote for Obama even if Romney and Ryan hit the campaign trail dressed like Ron O’Neal in “Superfly.” We’re not fashion writers, but when looking at Obama the most important point is that the emperor has no clothes.

— Bud Norman

The Word is Way Out There

The new rules of politics, according to Sen. Harry Reid, permit making even the most slanderous accusations against an opponent without a shred of evidence.

This was demonstrated by the Senate Majority Leader during a recent interview with an internet publication called The Huffington Post, in which he said that a person he would only identify as an investor in the Bain Capital group had told him that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney went 10 years without paying taxes. Although he admitted that he had no way of knowing if the charge was true, Reid later took to the Senate floor to repeat the slander, this time adding that “the word’s out that he hasn’t paid any taxes for 10 years” and challenging Romney to disprove it.

Reid was technically correct to note that “the word’s out,” if only because he’s put it there, and he’s no doubt quite confident that he’s made a shrewd political move. The charge forces Romney to either release many more years of tax returns, which will almost certainly disprove the accusation but just as surely reveal something that the Democrats can nitpick for a few weeks of news that would otherwise be filled with stories about the lousy economy, or be presumed guilty in the court of public opinion. The latter possibility is by no means far-fetched, as numerous pundits are already speculating about the dark secrets of the tax returns and the more excitable Democrats will soon be swearing to a drinking buddy that they know for a fact that Romney guy didn’t pay a dime in taxes his whole life because of a Mormon exemption or something.

The new rules could prove troublesome for Reid’s party, though, as even such reliable allies as leftist court jester Jon Stewart and the political scientists quoted in daily newspapers are feeling a bit uncomfortable with them. Besides, given all the things that have been said about Barack Obama, the lowered standard of discourse could prove counterproductive. Somebody, in fact several somebodies, have told us that this Obama guy is a Muslim, a communist, a racist, a Manchurian candidate intent on the destruction of our constitutional republic, the anti-Christ, and that he cheats at golf. We always eschewed such wild charges, being content to grouse about the many ways that he’s a lousy president, but we notice that Obama has not yet disproved any of the claims and we don’t see why Reid should have all the fun.

Several internet wags have already noted that Reid has not disproved claims that he is a pederast, which seems to be only charge that one can expect will be met with anything close to universal condemnation, but we would also note that neither has he disproved the charge that he performed a human sacrifice in a satanic ritual at a San Francisco bathhouse last Halloween. The word’s out there, as of now, so feel free to pass it along until Reid provides the necessary evidence to the contrary.

Of course, the new rules will only apply to Reid and other Democrats. That’s one old rule that will never be repealed. Should any Republicans avail themselves of the newly lowered standards they will be denounced as mean-spirited, unprincipled McCarthyites, with the standard accusations of racism, sexism, and homophobia thrown in as well.

So remember — you didn’t hear about that satanic ritual human sacrifice thing here.

— Bud Norman

Romney Reconsidered

The outcome has been all but certain for so long now that it seems anticlimactic, but Mitt Romney clinched the Republican nomination Tuesday night with a win in the Texas primary. Congratulations are hereby offered.

Although we started out with the same qualms about Romney as the rest of our conservative brethren, especially that darned Massachusetts health care bill and a certain technocratic instinct that it indicates, over the course of the long race we’ve come to rather like him. He offers a convincing critique of the status quo, sensible alternatives, long and successful experience in both the public and private sectors, and he seems to be a good guy.

There’s no use denying that Romney won the nomination simply by lacking the glaring flaws and avoiding the embarrassing missteps that caused each of his opponents to self-destruct, but there’s reason to believe the same strategy will work just as well in the general election, and the slow, steady, reassuringly boring competence of the Romney campaign bespeaks the very qualities needed in the next president. Romney did not mark the occasion in his victory speech by proclaiming that it marked the moment when the earth began to heal and the oceans the started to recede, but rather said that “I have no illusions about the difficulties of the task before us,” and that is another good sign.

Romney isn’t the ideal candidate that we and the rest of the party faithful had yearned for, but we really can’t think of anyone who is, and it now seems clear to us that the Republicans have made the best available choice. We expect that he would be a better president than Barack Obama, and perhaps even a very good one.

— Bud Norman

Romney Goes to School

The most compelling argument for Mitt Romney’s candidacy is still Barack Obama, but we’re also liking the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s recent comments on education.

Speaking Wednesday in Washington, D.C., to an Hispanic small-business group called the Latino Coalition, Romney said that as president he would expand the capital’s voucher program and use federal funding to bring more school choice everywhere, but otherwise “reduce federal micromanagement” of local schools. He also named the teachers’ unions as the main impediment to education reform, and argued that Obama “has been unable to stand up to union bosses and unwilling to stand up for our kids.”

One paper speculated that the speech was intended to bolster Romney’s standing with Hispanics, while another characterized it as an appeal to women, but we expect the proposals will have a more universal appeal. We’re neither Hispanic nor female, but we’re nonetheless eager to see radical changes occur in the schools.

There are plenty of test scores and statistics proving the sorry state of American education, but just a brief chat with a randomly selected young person will likely provide more vivid proof. We’re frequently astonished to discover what our young acquaintances don’t know, and often even more alarmed to hear what they seem to truly believe they do know. Old folks have always grumbled similar complaints about the youngsters, of course, but they’ve been quite right about it for at least the past several decades, and we currently have no reason to believe that the dumbing-down of America won’t continue.

Fixing the problem will require cultural changes that are largely beyond the power of any president to affect, but allowing good teachers and good schools to succeed while forcing bad teachers and bad schools to go away would bring about a significant improvement. Romney is correct in saying that the teachers’ unions will mightily resist any reforms along those lines, because they’re reliably supportive of even their most incompetent members, and he’s also right about Obama and pretty much any other Democratic candidate assisting them in the effort.

We’d love to credit Romney with political courage for daring to take on the mighty teachers’ unions, but honesty compels us to concede that they were going to fight him furiously in any case. He’s probably also noticed that several governors, including such stalwarts as Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and New Jersey’s Chris Christie, have lately taken on the once-invincible lobby and fared rather well. Teachers still enjoy a rather saintly reputation, which we attribute to many years of propaganda by Hollywood and popular fiction, but their unions don’t enjoy the same public affection.

Still, it’s nice to hear Romney picking the fight

— Bud Norman