In case you didn’t notice, Harry Reid endorsed his fellow Mormon John Huntsman yesterday for the Republican nomination for the Presidency. The former Governor of Utah – who, in announcing his candidacy for the Presidency, could not find a thing to criticize in Barack Obama – is the very model of what Democrats consider “a responsible Republican.” If you go back to the 1930s, when the New Deal was riding high, the Democrats emphasized the need for a “responsible” opposition. What they had in mind was an opposition that did not oppose the direction in which they were leading the country but that got on board and helped with constructive criticism so that the programs underpinning the administrative entitlements state then emerging could be tweaked where they were incoherent and counter-productive.
For the most part, the Democrats have gotten exactly what they wanted. They could not afford to say so at the time, but Herbert Hoover – who laid the foundations for the New Deal with full support from a Republican Congress – was just the sort of Republican that they had in mind. The Republican nominees in 1936, 1940, 1944, and 1948 — Alf Landon, Wendell Wilkie, and Thomas E. Dewey (twice) – were cut from the same cloth as Hoover, and the same can be said of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, George Bush père and George Bush fils. Nixon was the perfect me-too Republican. He was the man – not Lyndon Baines Johnson – who brought us affirmative action, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Huntsman would be a worthy successor to these men, and his nomination would end any possibility that the Republican Party might re-emerge, as it did briefly under Ronald Reagan, as a genuine opposition – “irresponsible,” from the perspective of Progressives, because it is intent on rolling back the administrative entitlements state and not on merely making the machinery hum.
Reid, who is a Mormon, was critical yesterday of the other Mormon in the Republican race. Of Mitt Romney, he said, “I think the frontrunner in the Republican stakes now, here is a man who doesn’t know who he is. . . . We modeled our [healthcare] bill to a large degree about what he did in Massachusetts. Now he is trying to run from that. If someone doesn’t know who they are they shouldn’t be president of the United States.”
The reason that I regard Reid as a natural treasure is that he is apt to say what is on his mind, and what he does say (once you work your way through his syntax) is almost always revealing. I suspect, however, that it isn’t so much that Romney does not know who he is. It is that he is pretending to be someone other than the RINO he really is.
Do you remember the Romney of 2008? He was the man who staked his claim to the Republican nomination on his achievement with regard to health care in Massachusetts. He did not say, then, that a national program modeled on his great achievement would be unconstitutional. That claim – however true it may be – was invented in 2011 for the purpose of allowing him to tout Romneycare as a wonder while repudiating Obamacare. The real difference between Huntsman and Romney is that Huntsman really is the man he pretends to be.