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Posted at 9:11 AM ET, 02/10/2011

No apology -- unless you'd like me to apologize for something, of course

By Ezra Klein

no-apology-cover.jpgThe paperback edition of "No Apology," Mitt Romney's second book, is being released, and Romney -- or his team -- has made a few changes. I'm sorry, did I say changes? I meant a few panders:

The first rewrite excises a relatively even-handed assessment of the 2009 economic-stimulus package. In the original, Romney wrote that it "will accelerate the timing of the start of the recovery, but not as much as it could have." The paperback pronounces the stimulus "a failure," and blasts Obama's "economic missteps" with conservative red-meat language -- for example: "This is the first time government has declared war on free enterprise."

The other major change comes in a chapter on health care. In the original hardcover, Romney tried to carefully distinguish between the Massachusetts law and the national version that was nearing passage as he wrote.

But the Massachusetts model has become Romney's bête noire among conservatives, who loathe the national reform they call "Obamacare." The rewritten paperback swings much harder, proclaiming that "Obamacare will not work and should be repealed," and "Obamacare is an unconstitutional federal incursion into the rights of states."

Other additions in that section blame the Massachusetts legislature for altering his plan, and the current Democratic administration of Governor Deval Patrick for botching the implementation.

Asked about the changes, Eric Fehrnstrom, spokesperson for Romney's Free and Strong America PAC, responded by e-mail: "The book was originally written in the months immediately following President Obama's inauguration. A lot has occurred over the last two years, and these updates reflect those happenings."

They also reflect the mood of the national GOP. The original edition of Romney's book suggested the former governor of Massachusetts thought the Republican Party might be looking for an even-tempered moderate to challenge Barack Obama in 2012. This edition assumes they're looking for a hard-charging partisan. It's probably the safer bet. But it's a bit of an odd strategy to take inside the two covers of a book titled "No Apology." I guess we should've paid more attention to the subtitle: "Unless You'd Like Me to Make One."

By Ezra Klein  | February 10, 2011; 9:11 AM ET
 
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Comments

The whole idea of "No Apology" still rankles me like crazy. Sure, the conservative strawman of always blaming America for problems in the world wouldn't be correct, if anyone actually did it. But the idea of refusing to apologize for mistakes that we've made over the years is just stupid, and anyone that makes the argument, even as a pander, is not worthy of having their opinions considered, let alone respected.

Posted by: MosBen | February 10, 2011 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Maybe he is just trying to at least win the Xtreme pandering event at the next X games.

Posted by: gregspolitics | February 10, 2011 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Tim Pawlenty will be the Republican nominee. Mitt will flame out as always, and Tim will quickly emerge as the last person left standing who every faction can live with.

Barring a "live boy or dead girl" type revelation, it's his to lose.

Posted by: theorajones1 | February 10, 2011 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Good ole bloodless, personalityless Mitt Romney, trying to find any way to make anyone pay attention to him. Should probably add "oily" and "raging hypocrite" to that list to. At least have the fortitude to actually stand up for your own words.

Posted by: EricS2 | February 10, 2011 10:20 AM | Report abuse

"This is the first time government has declared war on free enterprise."

Romney hasn't been paying attention. The war on free enterprise has been ongoing for generations.

Posted by: justin84 | February 10, 2011 10:25 AM | Report abuse

I honestly don't understand how Mr. Klein ever got this job. His resume is seriously unimpressive and provides no hint for why his political opinions deserve any more attention than say those of your average entertainment figure. I guess he must be related to someone with some pull.

Posted by: Guarapari | February 10, 2011 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Guarapari, Ezra's job is to write. He writes well and has done so in this format for almost a decade, starting back when most people didn't even know what blogging was. He's also had keen insights on a variety of issues and has amassed sizeable knowledge in several areas.

The short version is: He got (and keeps) this job because people read his stuff.

Posted by: MosBen | February 10, 2011 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Guarapari, perhaps one of the most qualified opinion columnists in America is Thomas Friedman. Well traveled, wrote a great book on the Middle East back in the 80s, and a well-regarded journalist in his day.

He managed to get just about everything wrong on the major questions of the day over the last 20 years, culminating with his mindless commentary on the Iraq war. What that basically demonstrates is that the added value of being "qualified" to write about policy from the traditional journalistic point of view is just about zero. And not only that, but writing about policy itself doesn't add any economic value: plenty of people are willing to do it for free.

Ezra's not ideal. I'd prefer that he were a former economics grad student doing regression analysis on the claims of various health care policy solutions, and his lack of background means that he tends to develop puppy-love crushes on people who "sound" like they like numbers (eg, Paul Ryan), but he does a pretty good job explaining things and getting it right. Much better than the William Safires and Thomas Friedmans had managed to in the 21st century.

Posted by: constans | February 10, 2011 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Thank you MosBen, enough said.

justin84, I know your comments are usually very substantive and I appreciate you insights, but I'm caught by your saying "The war on free enterprise has been ongoing for generations." I hope you're not saying that's necessarily a bad thing, and that it's just a figure of speech on your part.

It's true enough (even literally so): Unbridled free enterprise was essentially master and slaves, so I'm glad we fought a literal war to help put an end to that. But, more generally, I see no negative connotations from government putting restraints on business run amok --- busting trusts and such, antidiscrimination laws, ending child labor, etc. I wouldn't refer to it as a "war on free enterprise," just unfortunately necessary checks and balances on would otherwise be a race to the bottom.

What's your beef? Taxes? Too many regs.? Hiring is still down, but business appears to be doing pretty well all things considered. Dow's over 12,000.

Posted by: pbasso_khan | February 10, 2011 1:05 PM | Report abuse

"The paperback pronounces the stimulus "a failure," and blasts Obama's "economic missteps" with conservative red-meat language..."

Well, baloney is sort of red-meatish...

Posted by: tomcammarata | February 10, 2011 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Romney writing a book blasting ‘an apology’ is ludicrous. Romney’s NEVER apologize for anything, even when they are seriously in the wrong – they go on the defensive, blast, call names and deceive. Romney is a flip flopper, disingenuous spoiled rich boy, who grew up pampered, entitled, and in an ivory tower.

There are some apologies which should be coming from the Romney’s

http://www.youtube.com/user/RichardTheEdwin


and we can start with why she was gone after to silence.

Posted by: LOL1 | February 10, 2011 1:58 PM | Report abuse

"but I'm caught by your saying "The war on free enterprise has been ongoing for generations." I hope you're not saying that's necessarily a bad thing, and that it's just a figure of speech on your part."

pbasso_khan,

No matter your ideological persuasion, I presume you'd agree with me that Obama isn't a radical departure from the past. All sorts of market interventions have taken place for generations.

As an example, the U.S. had a largely nationalized economy during the Second World War, chock full of price controls, rationing, etc. There are of course many other examples of state intervention throughout American history (various New Deal programs, Nixon's wage and price controls), but just one example demonstrates that Romney's claim is wrong. Either there has never been a war on free enterprise, or it has been ongoing.

To me, free enterprise is nothing more than voluntary interactions between free people. If you accept that definition, then the war has been ongoing - RomneyCare itself was one of the battles.

That said, I'm one of those wacky libertarians, and so I generally view it as a bad thing.

Posted by: justin84 | February 10, 2011 3:06 PM | Report abuse

As a conservative, I am very disappointed with the prospective candidates in 2012! Huckebee...yuck! Palin...DOUBLE YUCK!! Gindrich and Romney...unelectable! And, the list just gets worse! But, maybe someone will emerge the lead the GOP. Rubio...not much experience; but,neither did Obama! Cristie...electable; but, won't run! The GOP must come up with a candidate that can fog a mirror! Hopeful, but not holding my breath!

www.eclecticramblings.wordpress.com

Posted by: my4653 | February 10, 2011 3:15 PM | Report abuse

justin84, there isn't a "war" on free enterprise any more than there's a "war" on defecation. It's just society prefers both of those things to be done under the proper conditions and channeled accordingly so that everyone benefits.

Posted by: constans | February 10, 2011 3:20 PM | Report abuse

"Unbridled free enterprise was essentially master and slaves, so I'm glad we fought a literal war to help put an end to that."

pbasso_khan,

How do you see that as free enterprise? Not all of the participants were even "free".

"busting trusts and such"

I don't see this as necessarily beneficial. A private company has a very difficult time maintaining a monopoly. A decade ago, Microsoft was constantly being attacked as a monopolist. Recently, Ezra linked to an article by a guy who declared Microsoft to be roadkill (or something to that effect).

Barriers to entry are best established by governments which can use force to reduce competition (licensing requirements, patents, regulations).

In any case, even a monopolist has a right to operate its business without interference, as long as it respects the rights of others. No one is entitled to its products.

"antidiscrimination laws"

The principle of free association generally gives people the right to discriminate, though in the sense antidiscrimination laws apply to public institutions I see no problem with them.

Discrimination is, at its root, based upon collectivist thinking which I abhor.

In the present time, it is hard to argue that many antidiscrimination laws have little utility. It is socially awkward to even argue against antidiscrimination laws, suggesting little effect from the laws themselves. Ask yourself honestly - do you really think segregated lunch counters would be back tomorrow without the force of government?

In any case, discrimination still exists in many forms.

Universities can preferentially select for underrepresented groups in their incoming classes (a right I fully respect despite being part of a majority group).

We bar millions of people from moving to the United States to seek a better life, discriminating against foreigners. This discrimination I strongly oppose. Coincidentally, one of the best things a rich country can do to reduce global poverty is to open its borders - it would be far more effective than sending money to [insert charity here].

"ending child labor"

Child labor is a result of poverty. Free enterprise is the best way to eliminate extreme poverty, and as such the best way to end child labor.

Would millions of young children be working today if not for laws against child labor? Of course not. The employment to population ratio for 16-19 year olds is down to just 25% - we can't even get most high school kids into jobs.

Conversely, if we were a poor country, the laws against child labor would be violated as often as the laws against drugs.

"restraints on business run amok"

Businesses generally don't run amok. No one is required to do business with them. Businesses can only succeed by satifying consumer wants and needs - and if a business is constantly violating individual rights, then government involvement may be appropriate.

And what about government run amok?

Posted by: justin84 | February 10, 2011 4:09 PM | Report abuse

"It's just society prefers both of those things to be done under the proper conditions and channeled accordingly so that everyone benefits."

Constans,

Not a great analogy but I'll give you that the "war" metaphor may be a bit much. Most American politicians aren't motivated by a desire to destroy free enterprise - they are motivated by other goals. At any rate, the U.S. isn't really a free enterprise economy at the present time, so take that as you will.

Posted by: justin84 | February 10, 2011 4:27 PM | Report abuse

justin84, thank you for engaging me. I don't have much time to answer all your points, but I'll venture a few responses in no particular order.

"What about government run amok?" Well, constitutional checks and balances , different branches of government, elections, etc. Our democracy's far from perfect, but it's a system. I happen to support the health care law, but for those who don't there's a larger GOP margin in Congress and a Presidential election coming up and cases making their way through the judiciary, etc.

You also say, "Businesses generally don't run amok. No one is required to do business with them. Businesses can only succeed by satifying consumer wants and needs."

I think underlying this point and your response on trust busting ("even a monopolist has a right to operate its business without interference, as long as it respects the rights of others. No one is entitled to its products") is an assumption that markets and market actors are rational. If there was ever any proof that they're not, one need look at the history of the last couple years. Information and power dynamics between business and consumers (and employers and employees) is typically assymetical. Bubbles burst. Financial crises happen once or twice a decade. Then comes the Enron-type scandals. Corporations are a sum of their people, both the good eggs and the rotten apples.

Last point for now re: master/slavery. Obviously the master and slave relationship itself isn't free enterprise. My point was that in a system of unregulated "free enterprise" masters (e.g. 18th century plantation owners) were benefiting from free labor. Sure, they were acting "rationally" within a political system that permitted slavery, but as the political system changed the "war" on free enterprise barred the practice in the private sector as well.

Posted by: pbasso_khan | February 10, 2011 5:00 PM | Report abuse

"What's your beef? Taxes? Too many regs.? Hiring is still down, but business appears to be doing pretty well all things considered. Dow's over 12,000."

I'm not a utilitarian - it wouldn't matter to me if the Dow was at 50,000 today.

Posted by: justin84 | February 10, 2011 5:10 PM | Report abuse

The dozen of so who want the Republican nomination will have a picnic pointing out Romney's opportunistic flip-flops, as John McCain did in 2008. No, Mr. Romney, your guile is too tranparent for you to win, again.

Posted by: DWSouthern | February 10, 2011 5:25 PM | Report abuse

*Most American politicians aren't motivated by a desire to destroy free enterprise - they are motivated by other goals. At any rate, the U.S. isn't really a free enterprise economy at the present time, so take that as you will.*

I don't think most PEOPLE are motivated by a desire to destroy or support free enterprise-- they want to put in an honest day's work, having their own living space, working out their personal lives/lifestyles and personal goals as they see fit, and have a peaceful, dignified retirement. The question is how to harness and channel free enterprise to support these desires.

A dedication to "free enterprise" as an end in itself is ultimately self-defeating, because accepting the mindset you offer them naturally leads the people to the next question, "what's in it for me?" You yourself seem to pretty much agree that the United States doesn't really want much to do with your vision, so what exactly are you trying to argue?

Posted by: constans | February 10, 2011 5:29 PM | Report abuse

The name for this legislation is the Affordable Health Care for America Act.
The term "Obamacare" is a code word used by racists when they can't use the word they want to use, which is "N***erCare". Anyone that refers to the Affordable Health Care for America Act as "Obamacare" has no credibility or standing among intelligent people in a decent society, and those that insist on calling The Affordable Health Care for America Act "Obamacare" should be shunned for the vile, disgusting and dishonest racist monsters that they are.
Starting with you, Mitt Romney.

Posted by: FriendofKeyserSoze | February 10, 2011 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Really hard to trust Christian nutters, and especially their leadership. They lie.

Posted by: 5inchtaint | February 10, 2011 9:37 PM | Report abuse

The entire premise of Romney's career is dramatically altering his ideology while pretending that he's never changed a word.

Republishing a book with major edits and pretending that nothing has changed is exactly what you are supposed to do with Mitt Romney as a politician. In 1994, he claimed he was almost as liberal as Ted Kennedy. In 2002, he favored gay rights and abortion. In 2003, he signed a bill that was the model for "Obamacare". Now he hates gays, hates abortion, and pretends that Romneycare, including the vilified mandate, are COMPLETELY different than Obamacare.

The theme of Mitt Romney's campaign is "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"

Posted by: AxelDC | February 11, 2011 7:53 AM | Report abuse

Being Republican means never having to say you're sorry.

Posted by: AxelDC | February 11, 2011 7:57 AM | Report abuse

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