Romney’s wartime sacrifice

By Dan Streib

Although I knew Mitt Romney had some principle and character, I didn’t expect to find it coming through so strongly on Iraq when Romney endorsed McCain last Thursday. Who honestly knew that Mitt Romney cared so much about the conflict in the Middle East?

Granted, he remarked upon it at debates. But he spoke no more about Iraq (and perhaps less) than he did on any other issue. And when he spoke about it, I assumed that he was just riling up his audience (I had thought about the “timetable” comments long before McCain mentioned them).

And yes, he has repeatedly expressed his understanding that the combination of Sayyid Qutb’s ideas and power envy is what motivates al-Qaida the most – not our controversial policies in the Middle East.

But given his recent act of sacrifice toward the anti-jihadist cause, it is apparent that he cares more about that issue than many of the others he has emphasized on the campaign trail.

To fully understand the importance of his recent decisions to suspend his campaign and endorse McCain, one has to understand the context.

The conservative wing of the conservative party was deeply upset about two of the remaining Super Tuesday candidates: John McCain and Mike Huckabee. This was due to McCain’s tendency to cross the aisle on issues important to conservatives and Huckabee’s status as a social conservative and nothing more.

The influential conservative journal National Review had endorsed Mitt Romney earlier, since he best represented all wings of conservatism (security, economic and social). Those who represent the conservative coalition as a whole (and emphasize its importance) eventually became afraid of being marginalized by a nomination of the senator from Arizona as his victories rolled in.

To express their clout in the party, many of these particular conservatives wished for Mitt to snag enough delegates to block a McCain nomination – that way, Romney could raise a ruckus at the convention.

At his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, where he revealed his campaign suspension, he got his audience all emotional by saying, “You’re with me all the way to the convention – fight on, just like Ronald Reagan did in 1976 (against President Ford).” As you probably could have guessed, this made the crowd go wild.

But then, after Mitt built up the argument to stay in the race, he made the most powerful conservative argument he could to exit the race. He said, “But there is an important difference between today and 1976. Today, we are a nation at war.”

He went on to accurately state that his continuing candidacy would delay the launch of a national campaign. In doing this when the Republicans are trailing the Democrats, he would heighten the chances that a liberal would gain the presidency and pull the troops out of Iraq. He could not aid a Democrat in that quest, because of the war’s importance.

As I hope you can now see, Mitt Romney gave up the chance to be the leader of the conservative movement – the new Ronald Reagan clashing against the tides of moderation that threatened to dilute the party. I’m truly glad he did this, and it’s not just because I’m a McCainiac. It’s because there is so much at stake in this war.

To understand that this war isn’t just some mess after a misguided invasion, hear this from yours truly, a critic of taking out Saddam: Deposing Mr. Hussein was not the right move, but he’s gone and this is a new war. This new war is now connected to Sept. 11, even though the old one wasn’t. I suggest that you view the next attack on Baghdadis by al-Qaida in Iraq as a mini Sept. 11 – because that’s precisely what it is.

And Mitt Romney understood this. For that and his sacrifice of personal glory, I have all the respect in the world for the former Massachusetts governor. He’ll make a fine president some day.

Dan is a sophomore in political science who can’t figure out how to balance homework with sleep.