This week the Des Moines Register surprised almost everyone by publishing its official Presidential endorsement for Mitt Romney. Prior to this race, the last time the Register endorsed a Republican was when they picked Nixon for re-election in 1972. And even then, they had picked the Democrats in the two cycles prior to that.
The actual endorsement is what I would call lukewarm. The paper rightly assessed that the election is primarily about fixing the economy, and finding bi-partisan support in Congress to take the needed steps toward robust recovery. “When the question is framed in those terms,” the paper said, “Mitt Romney emerges the stronger candidate.”
I don’t think “emerges” really convinces me that the paper stands fully behind its decision. It feels more like they’re saying, “We sifted the cat litter and this is the turd that was left in the slotted spoon when we were done.”
The Register also did its best to prop up its 2008 pick, Barack Obama. The Romney endorsement said, “Longer term, looming deficits driven by Social Security and Medicare pose the single greatest threats to the nation’s economic security” – thus completely ignoring the disastrous effect that Obama’s signature and namesake legislation (Obamacare) will have on our debt and deficit.
And they said, “Early in his administration, President Obama reached out to Republicans but was rebuffed. Since then, he has abandoned the effort, and the partisan divide has hardened.” I am not entirely sure what effort the President made to reach out to Republicans early in his administration. Perhaps it was the Apology Tour, or perhaps it was when he referred to Republicans as “our enemies.” Or maybe it was the way he shoved Obamacare down everyone’s throat, bi-partisanship be damned. Anyway, yes he very publicly abandoned the effort to “reach across the aisle” at an early juncture and the partisan divide has hardened because of him.
Finally, the Register takes the milquetoasty “It’s okay to admit you were wrong in 2008″ tack by stating, “The president’s best efforts to resuscitate the stumbling economy have fallen short. Nothing indicates it would change with a second term in the White House.” Yes, Obama gave his “best effort.” Yes, we all were fooled by his brilliant smile and soaring rhetoric in 2008. But it’s okay, we gave him a shot and now we can admit that he is a failure. Here the Register simply absolves itself of its prior endorsement – I can just see the editorial board shaking its collective head sadly and saying, “We’re sorry Readership, we have to do this for your own good.”
Bottom line: I don’t believe that the Register really believes in its own endorsement. And, while it may be true that newspaper endorsements overall have declined in their impact over the past few years, I wish we could have had the firm, forceful and enthusiastic sort of endorsement that Virginians got when the Richmond Times-Dispatch said:
“…it is difficult to recall a campaign less truthful than President Obama’s in 2012…”
“Obama has proven, in Americans’ real-world experience, that massive government spending, suffocating regulatory expansion, feckless diplomacy and exploding debt do not foster peace and prosperity. Quite the opposite. It is — with considerable urgency — time to change.”
“Mitt Romney has succeeded as a family man, governor, entrepreneur, Olympic leader. He is a man of character, a problem-solver, a turnaround specialist. He has earned our enthusiastic endorsement. America needs President Romney.”
Now that, people, is an endorsement. What we got here in Iowa was simply a heavy, defeated sigh. And I wanted so much more from the “newspaper Iowa depends upon.”
Footnote: Despite my disappointment in the tepid writings of the Register‘s editorial board, I am excited to point out that I actually predicted their choice. Now I don’t mean to say that at this time last year, I was gazing into my crystal ball and seeing something everyone else was missing. But, recently, there were a few clues swirling around that seemed to me to be pointing to a Romney nod. As I thought about them, and threw in a heaping helping of “maybe this paper still has a shred of intellectual honesty to it,” I decided to actually put my prediction out there. So on Friday morning I tweeted the following:
Then a bit later:
And again on Saturday morning:
At 7:01 p.m. on Saturday night, when the story appeared in the online Register, I was elated – not because I suddenly loved this ultra-liberal biased rag of a newspaper (which is quite honestly a shadow of its former self), but because my little nagging gut feeling was right on the money. Call it selfish if you must – I was right, and that made me happy.