Skip to comments.Medved: Mitt Romney Should Learn a Lesson from Teddy Kennedy (Assumes he's already GOP nominee)
Posted on 02/04/2012 5:15:33 AM PST by 2ndDivisionVet
As his formidable campaign marches inexorably toward the nomination, Mitt Romney should learn a vital lesson from the guy who beat him in his first race for public office: Sen. Ted Kennedy.
In 1980, Teddy lost his own bid for the presidency because he couldnt answer a simple question about why he wanted the job. Like Kennedy, Romney could undermine his confident drive to unseat a stumbling incumbent unless he prepares clear, concise, and forceful responses on what he means to do with the office he seeks.
Near the end of the disastrous Jimmy Carter administration, most analysts expected an easy win for the charismatic Kennedy if he chose to take on the sitting (duck) president of his own party. But on Nov. 4, 1979, CBS News ran a prime-time profile of the prospective candidate in which veteran newsman Roger Mudd asked the senator: Why do you want to be president?
The camera showed an intense closeup of Teddys long, awkward pause before he managed an incoherent reply. Well, Im, uh he clumsily began, and then lurched straight ahead. Were I to make the announcement to run, the reasons that I would run is because I have a great belief in this country, that it is theres more natural resources than any nation in the world. There's the greatest educated population in the world. It just seems to me that this nation can cope and deal with the problems in a way it has done in the past ... It brings a sense of restoration by its people. And I would basically feel that it's imperative for the country to either move forward, that it can't stand still or otherwise it moves backwards."
Following this stunningly inept performance, it was Teddy, and not the country, that moved backward: the anticipated Kennedy juggernaut quickly collapsed as it became instantly apparent that the youngest brother of a fabled family in no way replicated the ready wit or easy eloquence of Jack or Bobby. Above all, his failure to provide a logical argument on behalf of his candidacy meant that Democratic voters felt no inclination to seek reasons of their own. In the primaries that followed, President Carteran inept and flat-footed politico in his own rightdispatched his overrated rival with unexpected ease.
If Mitt Romney hopes to avoid Teddys fate and to close the deal with still-skeptical segments of the Republican base, then he should look long and hard at the appalling Roger Mudd video from 33 years ago. No, hell never resemble Kennedy as an inarticulate lug: the Mittster on his worst day, with his most embarrassing answer, still delivers more lucidity than Teddy offered CBS in the now notorious broadcast.
But the core problem that destroyed the Kennedy cause also threatens the Mitt machine and could become a serious drag unless the candidate faces it squarely. In both cases, telegenic younger sons of famous, powerful families seek the presidency with a sense of entitlement, rather than a discernible mission; they seem to pursue power because they deserve it, rather than planning to use it for a perceivable purpose.
No one doubts Romneys sincere love of country or questions his core competence, but a campaign that emphasizes executive ability and shies away from political principles will inevitably echo yet another failed presidential aspirant from Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis. In 1988, the governor who had presided over the heavily hyped Massachusetts Miracle promised a clean break from the partisan warfare of the Reagan era by asserting, This election is about competence, not ideology.
In November, the public strongly preferred George Herbert Walker Bush, who at least offered a clear indication of the direction he meant to lead the country as he campaigned on the unequivocal reaffirmation of Reaganism.
Romney cant win with a Dukakis-like technocratic appealor by echoing Ted Kennedys sense that he belongs in the White House through family tradition. Its not enough to repeat the mantra that hell fix the mess in Washington; he needs to explain the recipe for repair. He cant endlessly intone that hes worked 25 years in the private sector and he knows how to create jobs; its important that he explains to the public what he knows and outlines precisely what he plans to do with that knowledge.
Yes, his 59-point economic plan deserves respect as a serious, plausible, and soundly conservative document, but could even the most engaged observers remember 59 points? Rick Perry couldnt recall three.
Mitt needs a simpler, more down-to-earth blueprint with catchy and comprehensible elementssomething like his own 9-9-9 plan. When Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich come around to endorse his candidacy (as they probably will within weeks) he should use the occasion to endorse their populist marketing approaches, with an appealing plan for radical tax simplification and a brand new Contract with America.
Romney has already promised that within a week of taking office hell issue executive orders providing every state with a presidential waiver to escape the onerous burden of Obamacare. Thats a good beginning, but how about more sweeping pledges for the first seven days of the Romney era?
He could pick up Newts vow to fire all the White House czars and to abolish their offices, and then go beyond it to trim two thirds of the White House staff (yes, President Romney could survive with only 400 personal assistants). He could employ executive orders to clear appropriate energy projects (including the Keystone XL pipeline), unconscionably delayed by team Obama; how about authorizing 50 new energy efforts in his first 50 days?
The more detail Mitt provides as part of an ambitious and concrete agenda, the more effectively he answers the dreaded question, Why do you want to be president? His reply should never reference his personal preparation for handling the job, and should concentrate on the nations future rather than his professional past. Above all, he should define big goals that people understand and appreciate like:
Stopping the Obama spending spree and making real progress on shrinking government and growing liberty. Reforming the tax system, with an emphasis on radical simplicity and transparent fairness; the Steve Forbes flat tax or the Mike Huckabee Fair Tax could provide useful models. Rolling back regulation, eliminating federal favoritism, and crushing corporate welfare. Reducing overall spending to 20 percent or less of GDP from its current dangerous level of 25 percent, while pressing for balanced budgets and spending limits mandated by a constitutional amendment (if possible) or federal statute (if necessary).
Seizing specificity will animate his campaign, reassure worried conservatives, and provide a profound advantage over Barack Obama, who cant possibly run on a platform of sweeping change.
If the president promises a dramatic course correction, he thereby concedes that hes been driving down a dead endand damages his campaign. If, on the other hand, he offers America more of the same he defies the overwhelming majority who believe were headed in the wrong directionand once again damages his campaign. The only hope for team Obama involves the demonization of their enemieswarning that Republicans in power will do ugly, unspeakable things that only worsen our national pain.
The best answer to that attack is to remove all doubts about GOP intentions and to disclose, as precisely and passionately as possible, what empowered conservatives mean to achieve. The current calendar suggests a long interludeperhaps as long as five monthsbetween Romneys locking up the GOP nomination and his formal coronation at the Tampa convention. He should use that time to make and disclose detailed plans for his first week, his first month, and the rest of his first term.
This will not only give him a boost in the fall campaign but allow some overdue score-settling with an old opponent. Ted Kennedy may have bested Romney in the fiercely-fought Massachusetts Senate race of 1994, but with an unhesitating, energized, and even inspiring answer to the inevitable question of why he wants the presidency, Mitt can escape the ghost of his one-time rival while learning the lessons of his baleful example.
Speak for yourself, Michael.
Romney's Mormonism is first in his life...and, as president, he will be the most effective missionary in the history of the LDS. He knows that...and we should too.
"We don't intend to turn the Republican Party
over to the traitors in the battle just ended.
We will have no more of those candidates who are pledged
to the same goals as our opposition and who seek our support.
Turning the Party over to the so-called moderates
wouldn't make any sense at all.""
-- President Ronald Reagan
I was working from home a few weeks ago when we had the snow in the Seattle area and had the radio on while I was working - Rush 1st then Michael (who, BTW, lives in the Seattle area and is supposed to be at the Eastside Republicans meeting next Tues). I had to turn the radio off almost daily - Medved is totally in the tank for the Mittster.
I’m thinking of attending the meeting next Tues and will come with some talking points FOR Newt (not sure that I’ll get a chance to speak, but just in case).
Romney is running for another “also ran” He hasn’t got a chinamans chance of being President.
Just another RINO picked loser.
In a year when Republicans should have a walk-in, the RINO’s have turned a sure Victory into defeat.
Riiiight, Michael. The only reason Kennedy was rejected by the American people was a flub in an interview. It had NOTHING to do with a little episode in Chappaquiddick that had occurred a decade earlier.
Just keep telling yourself that.
I always thought Teddy couldn’t anwer the simple question”Can a woman trapped in a submerged car with an air pocket live long enough to be rescued if no one who escaped the car tips off police immediately”.
Romney’s been the nominee sincd 2008. The whole primary is a sham.
On the other hand, I did hear a news reporter (I’m really angry that I can’t remember who it was) say he asked Mitt 6 times why he wanted to be president and he couldn’t answer the question. Pretty telling, in my opinion. He’s a cipher.