Romney Runs Against...Europe?

Posted by: Andy Reinhardt on January 12, 2012

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There’s no way the euro zone crisis was going to help Europe’s image in the rest of the world. But exactly how much reputational damage has occurred was highlighted in the victory speech given by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney after he won the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 10.

Romney used the opportunity of his speech (seen here on PBS via YouTube) to besmirch the Old World—and tie President Obama to its woes. Of course, some of this is standard Republican rhetoric: The GOP has played the patriotic and nativist cards for decades, appealing to the sense of American exceptionalism and love of the free market.

Thus, it was hardly out of character among right-wing politicians when Romney declared 6 minutes and 35 seconds into his speech:

He [Obama] wants to turn America into a European-style social-welfare state. We want to ensure that we remain a free and prosperous land of opportunity.

Nor when, 13 seconds later, he declared:

This president takes his inspiration from the capitals of Europe. We look to the cities and towns across America for our inspiration.

Being an admirer of anything European is anathema to red-blooded Americans, smelling as it does of effeteness and elitism. Truth is, Obama does not plan to turn the U.S. into a European-style social welfare state. And while the President might enjoy a nice dinner out in Paris with Michelle, he doesn’t appear to be taking his lead from Nicolas Sarkozy or Angela Merkel or David Cameron.

In any case, these oratorical flourishes from Romney—who served as a Mormon missionary in France as a youth—reflect the old view of Europe. The new one, courtesy of the sovereign debt crisis, crept in near the end of the speech when Romney urged his listeners,

I want you to remember when our White House reflected the best of who we are, not the worst of what Europe has become.

Ouch.

No question, the U.S. carries a huge burden of sovereign debt, equal to more than 94 percent of GDP, according to the IMF. Which occupant of the White House is responsible for getting America to that point is open to some debate, but the Republican one before Obama clearly bears part of the blame. As for what Europe “has become,” it’s worth noting that among the troubled peripheral nations (aka the “PIIGS”) only Greece and Italy have government debt burdens significantly higher than that of the U.S., while those of Ireland and Portugal are roughly comparable and Spain’s is far lower, at 60 percent.

A Jan. 11 Bloomberg View column by Clive Crook suggests a more nuanced mutual understanding. In “Europe Learns From U.S., So Why Not Vice Versa?,” Crook spells out some of the differences between the U.S. and Europe economic systems and asserts that Democrats “do want to move the U.S. in a European direction.” But, he adds, that’s not necessarily such a bad thing. “Europe has things to teach the U.S.—and the U.S. has plenty to teach Europe. Looking abroad for guidance is no cause for shame.”

Americans might not want to seize upon Greece as a model of fiscal rectitude or look to Spain for labor laws. But last summer’s near-disaster in Congress over extending the U.S. debt ceiling (a game of “political brinkmanship” in the words of Standard & Poor’s, as it cut the country’s AAA credit rating for the first time) demonstrates that neither Europe nor the U.S. has mastered the complex intersection between politics and budgets. Were Romney to be the next U.S. president, he’d no doubt find managing America’s fiscal problems as challenging as Obama has. In that regard, there’s nothing unique about America.

Photograph by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Reader Comments

Furious Voter

January 12, 2012 4:22 PM

No Andy. Romney is not "running against" _all_ of Europe. Only against the parts of Europe with failed, socialist policies - policies that parts of Europe have tried before we ever did. And they have proven them, over and over and over, to be hopelessly unable to work. He's running against That Europe, Andy. Successfully, also, btw.

Furious Voter is ignorant

January 12, 2012 4:37 PM

@Furious Voter:
You mention "failed, socialist policies" yet fail to mention extremely successful socialist countries such as Finland, Norway, and Sweden, all of whom are thriving.

phillip raney

January 12, 2012 4:41 PM

So America has pissed off the middle east, borrowed enough money from China to keep the government running, and now this guy wants to alienate the only country's left. BRAVO! Only a republican would think of this strategy.

B Rye

January 12, 2012 4:51 PM

Romney = copy cat liar. flip flop flip flop
Ron Paul= NO MORE LIES

sb

January 12, 2012 4:54 PM

Mr. Romney is one of the many wall street 'technicians' that have engineered the financial 'restructuring' of America, displacement of manufacturing to China and elimination of jobs enmasse! They have essentially created new hurdles and pathways (through the creation of exotic investment 'products' as well as lobbying congress to change the rules in their favor) where the money flow is directed through channels that do not add any value but literally just slice off a huge piece of the wealth into the pockets of a few. So if he is called "A Vulture Capitalist" it is very apropriate. Why would one want to vote for him ?

as

January 12, 2012 6:01 PM

that's the price to be paid by those who care more for numbers rather than European ideals

Richard Gottlieb

January 12, 2012 7:09 PM

Mitt Romney is exactly who he appears to be. That is someone who has never encountered an idea, both sides of which he did not like. Can't seem to make up his mind, except when it comes to profits. Then he is clear, fire the freeloaders, that is as long as he makes money on the deal.

Those out there who are thinking of voting for Romney remember this....You can forget social security as we know it, forget medicare as we know it and forget the many safety net programs designed to help those in need.
Ask Romney what he intends to do with 40 million uninsured folks who need health care. Forget about income disparity, you all can look forward to a society with healthy and the not healthy. Ask Romney what he would plan for the unhealthy.

Republicans in their hate for anything Obama will wreck the US.

And oh yes, he will reduce taxes on the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the middle class.

Vikingted

January 12, 2012 7:18 PM

Phillip, I like your drift, but your statement "now this guy wants to alienate the only country's left." is wrong. Europe really is not one country. Last I checked there was at least Norway and the European Union, a loose grouping most of the rest of the Europe (Germany, the Low countries, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, England, Spain, etc.) I single Norway out as they want nothing to do with the EU. That is due in part to their North Sea oil wealth.

anon

January 12, 2012 7:34 PM

Sounds funny coming from a party that brought about the second Great Depression. What's even more amusing is the hypocrisy of stale rhetoric from greedy capitalists. Widening the gap between wealth and poverty won't lower unemployment in the short term, no matter how hard Mr romney and his puppets try to push the view that it will. In fact, all it will succeed in accomplishing is to create an imperialist government similar to the one ruled by King Louis XV1.
There's no doubt Europe has its problems. Unlike the US however, at least they're trying hard to keep the situation from deteriorating even further.

Paul Stewart

January 12, 2012 7:51 PM

I find it amusing that people think that the problem with Europe is socialism. That is not the case. The problem is more to do with bad fiscal management. Plain and simple. The countries that are failing are doing so becaue of a malaise that has not to do with social policies in the way of things like minimum wage and unemployment. It has to do with cronyism, political and moral and business corruption. Just look at the leaders of Italy and Greece and at how their system works (or rather does not work). It is interesting because America is headed to where these countries are under the GOP. They espouse liberty and capitalism. What they mean is keep the rich wealthy and the proletariat poor. Yet everyone talks like it ain't so. It is. America is by no means exceptional. It had an exceptional system and exceptional motivation at one time when things were more fair - when it started most people had equally close to nothing. Now money, control, power, glamour, glory and the American Dream belong to the elite. Yes, the Romneys, the Senators, the Representatives, the Governors, etc. And the fight to win election is about just that to win election. To feed at the trough. There are precious few who do not go their for this in America today. Please look at the perks and benefits these people have - I don't see anyone arguing for no healthcare, pay reductions, etc.. for these people. Its easy for ignorance to breed this false sense of "exceptionalism". Perhaps this iw where America is exceptional - in the level to which a great deal of its population has inflated egos and a jaded view of the world and themselves as being less than equal. This is the kind of thinking that started Nazi Germany out on the path and we all know that did not go well...

Kathy

January 13, 2012 12:45 AM

Well, let me see. One of those socialist spendthrift Democrats, President Clinton, managed to reduce the deficit to zero under his watch and then came the next president, one of those fiscally prudent Republicans and he managed to balloon the deficit to over a trillion dollars. Let me see, President Bush's fiscally conservative policies got us into a huge war over weapons of mass destruction which didn't exist and then as if that didn't make the government broke enough he cut taxes. Boy, those Republicans sure know how to manage money, while those spendthrift Democrat's don't.

worldman

January 14, 2012 8:52 AM

Romney touting his Bain capital experience as the reason he is qualified to be president is totally wrong. Bain did not go into compoanies wanting to create jobs, they went in to make money , jobs was sometimes a by-product. If they could make a lot of money and not create any jobs or or create a lot of jobs and make less money, is it hard to imagine which way the private financier would go? Capitalism does not have a conscience ...making the most money possible legally is the entire focus of wall street. Who stands for the people of the US ? Only the US government (a creation OF the people , BY the people and most importantly FOR the pople) is the entity that is required to do whats best for the people. For America to remain strong , we absolutely need healthy capitalism, contained within boundaries of rules and ethics that only the people of the US can enact through the government that represents them. For me to consider Romney as a good presidential candidate, he must also talk about his contribution to universal healthcare in the same breath he talks about Bain, otherwise he is just another Capitalist trying to turn the US into one big company that is beholden to only making a profit.

worldman

January 14, 2012 8:53 AM

Romney touting his Bain capital experience as the reason he is qualified to be president is totally wrong. Bain did not go into compoanies wanting to create jobs, they went in to make money , jobs was sometimes a by-product. If they could make a lot of money and not create any jobs or or create a lot of jobs and make less money, is it hard to imagine which way the private financier would go? Capitalism does not have a conscience ...making the most money possible legally is the entire focus of wall street. Who stands for the people of the US ? Only the US government (a creation OF the people , BY the people and most importantly FOR the pople) is the entity that is required to do whats best for the people. For America to remain strong , we absolutely need healthy capitalism, contained within boundaries of rules and ethics that only the people of the US can enact through the government that represents them. For me to consider Romney as a good presidential candidate, he must also talk about his contribution to universal healthcare in the same breath he talks about Bain, otherwise he is just another Capitalist trying to turn the US into one big company that is beholden to only making a profit.

Miro

January 20, 2012 7:32 AM

Nobody in Europe will bother to meet and listen to the Mitt Romnys and Newt Gingriges of this world.

Adam

January 27, 2012 7:16 AM

We absolutely don't like him in Europe.
We see him as an extremist.
Parole de français who likes Obama !

md ratul

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About

Financial markets are on the edge as investors await a solution to the European debt crisis. This blog examines the banks that hold billions of euros worth of Greek, Italian, and other sovereign debt; the governments that must pay off or refinance that debt; and the implications for the worldwide financial system if they can't.

Analyses or commentary in this blog are the views of the author and or commentators, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloomberg News.

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