Allan Powell: Kick the tires before buying into Mitt Romney

July 05, 2012|By ALLAN POWELL

What is newsworthy for mainline media must be a puzzle for those who depend on the media for vital information about public affairs.

How is it possible for so many trained and equipped analysts and reporters to give such minimal attention to the serious flaws of a candidate for the presidency, while emphasizing his youthful pranks that took place over 40 years ago? All candidates for our highest political office need to be fairly and critically examined to assess their qualifications for office.

This open process brought about the elimination of several candidates in Republican primaries and the winner is now preparing for a general election.

It is the view of this writer that candidate Mitt Romney has been given a free pass on a serious, indeed vital, issue which disqualifies him for the office he seeks.

Several months ago it was made public that Romney had used the service of banks in the Cayman Islands clearly known to be tax havens for those dodging taxation on domestic earnings. Here is a person who already has been granted special tax benefits because his occupation is that of an investment banker. This is not enough, so he cheats by taking an end run around the tax collector. We cannot permit the old joke to become serious: steal a dollar and go to jail — steal a million and go to Congress (or the presidency).

For whatever reason, the furor over this revelation has subsided and the subject has disappeared from the news. Why should this be the case? Candidate Romney sang patriotic songs and claimed to be a firm lover of America. Is it a mark of patriotism to avoid paying one’s fair share of taxes by using secret tax havens? If he were to become president, could he honestly convince others to pay their taxes to support our government? In a nutshell, this alone disqualifies this candidate for office.

While the following flaws in character are worthy of attention, they are not of the same weight as the forgoing issue. They have been raised by various critics in an anecdotal style. For example, these analysts recognize the tendency to “flip-flop,” alter or reverse former convictions according to audience. The most obvious was his successful creation of a government managed healthcare system in Massachusetts. Now, with his need to oppose “ObamaCare,” he rejects government managed health care. The conflict is apparent and his verbal defense is weak.

There is also the issue of his making a statement to the effect that he had no problem letting General Motors go down the drain by withholding government financial support.

Fact Check, a group that checks the accuracy of statements (spoken or written) for authenticity, can verify that this opinion was, in fact, made by candidate Romney. This is important, because now that General Motors has recovered and the support proved to be wise and successful, it will be more difficult for him to claim that he can excel in job creation.

The media has given ample coverage of candidate Romney’s claim that he should be elected due to his special experience in venture capitalism. However, any such claim deserves analytic unpacking. Uniqueness per se may only prove uniqueness with no other merit included.

A president needs a cluster of good qualities and skills that are verifiable before being considered for public office. Indeed, a complete study of venture capitalists’ activities might disclose the experience to be an undesirable background for public office.

It is not too late for all types of media to give a more complete and reliable account of Mr. Romney’s adult life which has a bearing on his qualifications for the presidency. Certainly the voter will be served to know enough about each party’s candidate and what they propose as a program to be convinced of the desirability of trusting them in office.

Talk show hosts, columnists, editors and independent writers could help raise public awareness on this concern by a more concerted effort. A character issue of such significance needs a public airing. Caveat emptor is not only a bit of wisdom for buying merchandise; it now can apply to the possibility of buying a president.

Allan Powell is professor emeritus of philosophy at Hagerstown Community College.

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