And so it begins: Trump v. Romney

Today’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley saw the start of the showdown we’ve been waiting ag….well, weeks for: the GOP’s moderate-cum-conservative businessman with a thin political resume (Romney) versus the the GOP’s more moderate-cum-even more conservative businessman with a even thinner political resume (Trump). Granted, it was Ms. Crowley who started the action, but the Donald took up the challenge with his usual gusto.

Highlights include Trump calling Romney “essentially a small businessman.” I consider myself a small businessman, and I need to check my accounts to be sure, but I’m not sure that its all that close to Romney’s estimated $200 million in net worth. However, when you get to Trump’s heights, perspectives change, so really I suppose I’m arguing over semantics here…..

Also amusing: Trump responding to Crowley’s question if he considers himself a “better” businessman, he replied that he’s a “much bigger businessman.” Of course, as we all know, bigger does not always equal better. Wikipedia has a pretty good overview of Trump’s various legal and business woes throughout the course of his career. I admire business success, but I also admire consistency and good judgment. The fact that Trump decided first to go after Romney on the scale of business activities highlights the tone we’ve seen throughout Trump’s nascent campaign so far: rather than go after Romney’s political positions, Trump went for style. That’s, ultimately, my biggest fear of a Trump candidacy: Style trumping (God save me) Substance.

Of course, I really shouldn’t be troubled by Trump’s views on Romney. In fact, Trump, so far, really hasn’t made his business experience the centerpiece of his campaign–he’s far more focused on the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate. That’s all well and good, and I suppose one way to unseat the President, but in the event that strategy just doesn’t work, shouldn’t we want a candidate talking about their ability to lead in a more substantive way than just saying they’re “bigger”?

I will say, though, that Trump had some good points near the end of the interview about America’s current “backseat” view of foreign policy, taking orders from other countries on when to take moral action. But then I’m reminded of Trump’s views on China and Iran, vowing pretty drastic unilateral action. I agree we need to be strong, but I also understand that we’re dealing with two sides here, and even if we’re going to make a stand, we have to understand that foreign policy actions have consequences for both sides. Overall, when Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter, not exactly noted moderates, are doubting the man’s tactics, well……I think we may have a problem.

All this said, this should not be read as an endorsement of Romney. I remain skeptical of Romney for the same reasons as I did in 2008 (guns, abortion, health care), and on probably the biggest issue so far in the campaign, health care, Romney just keeps digging himself a bigger and bigger hole. However, I’m still waiting for a candidate that matches my views on the direction the Republican party needs to take and yet shows they have the leadership to turn politics into policy. I’m looking for a candidate of principle, not opportunity.

Romney’s switches on the issues trouble me on that front. He couldn’t escape it in 2008, and it may be even harder to escape in 2012 given that Democrats passed a federal law largely based on one he passed in the state he led (and indeed, trumpeted by some of the very same people that advised on his). Even more troubling, though, is that Trump has already flirted with running once….in a different party, has already said he’d be willing to exploit sore loser laws to run as an independent if he doesn’t get the nod, and has not even donated to a plurality of Republicans in federal elections. In fact, only 23% of the federal candidates he’s backed have been Republicans. I understand the desire for a new face, but….does loyalty have no virtue these days?

But that could be a whole other series of posts, or even a book, on the virtue of parties in American democracy. Perhaps a simpler way to frame Trump’s integrity. The nearly billion dollars in debt he ran up in the 1990s.

UPDATE:

Looks like the Donald may have a healthcare problem of his own. From Political Wire:

Dave Weigel digs up this quote from Trump’s 2000 book, The America We Deserve: “We must have universal healthcare. I’m a conservative on most issues but a liberal on this one. We should not hear so many stories of families ruined by healthcare expenses.”

Trump added that the goal of health care reform should be a system that looks a lot like Canada. “Doctors might be paid less than they are now, as is the case in Canada, but they would be able to treat more patients because of the reduction in their paperwork.”

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