It’s understandable why the Republican field is jumping on every opportunity to attack Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts Governor has been the odds on favorite to be the Republican nominee since the beginning of his campaign, and with his narrow victory in Iowa and his impressive poll numbers in New Hampshire and South Carolina, the other candidates are desperate for anything that could kill his momentum. However, that’s no excuse for the blatantly disingenuous attacks that Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman and others are now making regarding a Romney’s assertion that he “like[s] to be able to fire people.”
It’s expected that quotes such as these will be taken out of their proper context to score political points—that’s how politics works, but in this case the attacks come from supposed champions of the ideas Romney was trying to explain. Perry and Huntsman repeatedly assert that they are consistent, principled conservatives, so what message does it send when they embrace an attack against free market capitalism that would sound more natural coming from a member of the Occupy Wall Street movement?
Everyone knows that Romney wasn’t saying that he enjoys the act of firing people. He was merely repeating the sound economic principle that the market should be allowed to weed out that which doesn’t work in favor of that which does. The only people who believe that employment is a right, regardless of ability or value added, are members of the far left.
What then, are we to make of candidates who lambaste Romney for not being conservative enough, and in the same breath implicitly attack the very principles of conservatism? Personally, I do not believe that these comments are a reflection of the candidates’ true ideologies. I do not think they are opposed to capitalism, or indeed to firing people if necessary. I do, however, think it is a mark of poor character to temporarily abandon one’s principles in order to score a political point out of desperation.
Additionally, it may be unwise for conservatives, many of whom state that their top priority in 2012 is to defeat President Obama, to deliver ammunition to the Democrats for use in the general election. If, in fact, Romney does turn out to be the nominee, how do the other candidates then respond when Democrats make the same anti-capitalist attacks in the Fall?
For Republicans to make a stink about Romney’s statement is as short-sighted as it is dishonest, and the party would be wise to keep their eye on the prize in November, rather than sabotaging each other today.