I have long wondered if Mitt Romney has the smarts to be a good president of the United States.
For awhile, I thought that he just had a habit of saying unfortunate things while speaking off the cuff in unscripted moments. After two or three such slips, I began to suspect that there may be something else going on, but I was not sure what that was.
A few weeks ago, I was startled by his statement that, if elected, he would be in favor of keeping two of the most popular aspects of Obamacare, while vowing to repeal most of the rest.
He certainly would repeal the requirement that everyone must purchase health insurance or pay a penalty (a tax). The two aspects he would keep are prohibiting health insurance companies from using pre-existing conditions as a reason to not sell an applicant a policy at an affordable price or at any price and allowing adult children through the age of 25 to remain covered on their parents' policy.
Why would he say that? Does he not realize that if health insurance companies must cover all who apply, but the pool of purchasers is not mandatorily expanded to everyone, the health insurance companies will all go broke or out of business?
The insurance industry could not live with a system where people could wait to purchase a policy until after they got sick.
Mitt Romney is an experienced businessman. He understands that unless everyone must buy insurance, thus spreading the risk throughout the entire population including the healthy ones, the two provisions he now says he favors could not stand. After all, the mandatory requirement was part of the Massachusetts plan when he was governor.
Yet he said what he said. But this only confirmed my belief that this is a man who will say anything to get elected, including things that I suspect he does not really believe. One wonders what he does, in fact, believe.
However, being a person who inadvertently says unfortunate things or who says things he does not mean just to get elected is different from saying incorrect things that are harmful to the country.
That is what happened after our embassy was attacked in Cairo and our consulate was attacked and four Americans, including our ambassador, were killed in Libya.
A video mocking Mohammed and Islam that Muslims and others would find disgusting was made by someone in California and put on the Web. It drew anger from Muslims, and the embassy in Cairo learned of a strong possibility that it would be attacked by a mob, probably spurred on by extremists.
Trying to calm hurt feelings and blunt hateful invective (not to mention violence) against the United States and its embassy, the embassy staff put out a statement that the views expressed in the video were not those of the U.S. government or a majority of its citizens. Thereafter, the mob attacked the embassy in Cairo and did a great deal of damage.
Then another mob attacked and burned the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, murdering the four Americans.
Mitt Romney then put out a statement blasting the Cairo embassy staff (and the Obama administration) for apologizing to the very people who attacked our embassy and consulate and killed our ambassador. Rather, he says, they should have condemned them.
When it was pointed out to Gov. Romney that the statement was made before the attacks, he did not back down but renewed his attack, blaming our brave embassy personnel for issuing what he said was an apologetic statement. He continued to condemn them for saying that the United States government and the majority of its people do not support a video mocking anyone's religion, including Muslims'.
This continuing condemnation by Gov. Romney has at least two unfortunate implications:
• A presidential candidate appears to condemn a statement that denies that the United States supports a disgusting video.
• Our brave embassy personnel, who are risking their lives and trying to do the best they can in the face of danger, are being criticized by a presidential candidate for making a statement supported by American values.
It appears they are being thrown under the bus for political purposes. This does nothing for their morale. Nor does it help the situation.
Does Mitt Romney really believe these things he has continued to say? Does he mean what they imply? Does he say these things solely for what he incorrectly perceives to be political gain?
Whatever he really believes, his continued attack provides grist for the mill of the Islamic extremists that can be exploited by them to the detriment of the United States.
Based on what Gov. Romney has said so far in this campaign, I am not sure that any of us know what he really believes or that any of us can believe what he says or that any of us can trust him not to make a bad situation worse.
The world is a dangerous place. As my grandfather used to say: "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't." I'm voting for Obama.
Keith Spero is a retired attorney who lives in Edwards.