I love this country. I spent my life in the private sector, not in government. I only spent four years as a governor. I didn’t inhale.
—Mitt Romney, September 22nd, 2011
If there was a program or agency or department that needed cutting, I did it… That skill I learned in the private sector, and practiced for four years in Massachusetts, where by the way I served in government, but I didn’t inhale. I’m still a business guy.
Mitt Romney has repeatedly used this line. He’s still using it.
On this Memorial Day, it needs to be said. This is one of the most unpatriotic things we have ever heard from the mouth of a man who wants to be America’s Commander-in-Chief.
Make no mistake. Mitt Romney is comparing being a public servant to being a user of illegal drugs. It’s a slap in the face to all dedicated government workers. On this Memorial Day, it needs to be said. Mitt Romney’s laugh line is a direct insult to our men and women in uniform.
Just as bad, he is admitting he learned nothing from his years as Governor. Previous candidates for the President who are governors or ex-governors — particularly Republican ones — were proud of their experience as the chief executive of a state, claiming that it gave them valuable knowledge which would be useful as chief executive of the nation. That was G. W. Bush’s claim for President. Not Romney. He is straightforward in proclaiming that he took nothing from his experience as Governor of Massachusetts, absorbed nothing, changed not a bit.
Romney is standing the Republican argument of 2008 on its head. Rather than criticize President Obama for being inexperienced, Romney is insisting government experience is downright harmful for a would-be president.
This is a man who claims to want to be in charge of the very thing he denigrates — government. It’s akin to a mob boss running for police commissioner. Why should we elect a man to the highest position in government if that man detests government?
In modern politics, this meme began with President Ronald Reagan, who proclaimed, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” This is a challenge, a denial, a reversal of the very meaning of the U.S. Constitution, which begins with the declaration that “We the People” form and constitute the governing body of America. Following Reagan, nearly every nationally-known Republican since has insisted that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, is something to be feared rather than valued. The concepts embodied in the Constitution drove the reasons our country was created. Reaganism is a denial of America.
The problem here is that, prior to the rebellion of 1776, governments were not constituted of the people. The most powerful slogan of the Boston Tea Party — “No Taxation Without Representation” — had far more to do with representation than with taxation. The American revolutionaries recognized the need for taxation to fund the functions of government. That’s why the Constitution gives Congress the power to tax. “The functions of government” is a phrase that properly means “anything The People decide it means”. The purpose of America is to allow The People to chose their own fate.
Before America, governments were constructed from the cronies of conquerors, or religious zealots, or both. Kings ruled. Peasants obeyed. Nobles profited. The Ruling Class ruled by divine right.
The point of America, for better or worse, was that The People chose to rule themselves. Sometimes The People make mistakes. That may not be ideal, but no God…no King…no oligarchy should have the power to steal from The People the right of self-rule. That is the meaning of America.
Romney’s version of Reaganism is a reversal of that vision. It’s understandable in a way. Mitt Romney was raised as a wealthy and privileged son of immensely wealthy and successful parents. The theory of social Darwinism proclaims that those who are successful deserve to be successful — that is apparent in the fact that they succeeded. Those who fail and are needy deserve to starve — if they had worth, they would find a way to survive. The wealthy are chosen by God. The poor condemn themselves. America, in this view, should properly be ruled by God’s chosen.
We see this idea, more subtly expressed, in the condemnation of “welfare queens” who drive Cadillacs, and people who use food stamps or draw unemployment benefits, and even retired elders on Social Security. All of these freeloaders should have planned for themselves. Every human being is an island. In this way of thinking, “We the People” has no real meaning; rather, our nation is about “Me the Person”.
In his laugh line about declining to “inhale,” Mitt Romney is hearkening back to President Bill Clinton, who admitted that he smoked marijuana in college, but claimed he “didn’t inhale.” Romney wants to admit that he spent some time in government, but deny that this time had any effect on him. Romney is running against the whole idea of government, as if elected officials should really spend their time playing checkers rather than doing The People’s business.
Of all the pandering and lies and misrepresentations and Orwellian newspeak that Republicans commit, this is one that offends me most. Mitt Romney wants to convince America that, because he thinks government is evil, he should be the highest elected official in our government. In that position, I would rather have someone who cares about The People. But maybe that’s just me.
I want a President who thinks that governing our nation is about…governing our nation. I don’t particularly want a President who learned nothing from governing a state, who thinks that America’s purpose is providing profits to investors. That was the Bain Capital model. Romney proudly insists that he has not been pulled away from that. I will take him at his word.
We need a president who understands that governing has to do with governance, not profit. It’s time to inhale.