Romney has nothing to apologize for in his new book, ‘No Apology’

As the latest example of that subset of political books designed to advance a politician’s presidential ambitions — see Barack Obama’s 2006 tome, The Audacity of Hope: Reclaiming the American Dream — Mitt Romney’s contribution to this genre is not without its redeeming qualities.

In fact, you could say the telegenic former Massachusetts governor need make no apologies for No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, in which he sets the stage for his all-but-announced quest for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, a prize he failed to achieve in 2008, just as his late father, Michigan Gov. George Romney, failed to do in 1968.

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Romney’s book qualifies as one of the better examples of an otherwiselargely forgettable category of campaign literature — see that of another presidential hopeful from Massachusetts, Democratic Sen. John Kerry’s A Call to Service: My Vision for a Better America (2003).

Indeed, Romney’s book may be worth reading for its thought-provoking analysis of the many challenges America faces at home and abroad as we struggle with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and confront a world reshaped by global competition, Islamic terrorism and the specter of global warming.

Romney states his purpose at the outset: “This is a book about what I believe should be our primary national objective: to keep America strong and to preserve its place as the world’s leading nation.”

Romney, who taps the expertise of more than two dozen former aides and public policy experts, draws not only on his two terms as governor but on his previous experience as a management consultant.

He writes that “a “nation’s strategy should be designed to propel it beyond its competitors and to increase the security and prosperity of its citizens.” To that end, he identifies four strategies “to achieve world leadership status — superpower status — and perhaps dominion of the global order.” They are:

• An “American” strategy as followed by the U.S. and most Western nations — one that is characterized by economic and political freedom.

• A “Chinese” strategy based on authoritarian rule and state-controlled free enterprise, but without the rule of law and regulation that shapes free enterprise elsewhere. “It is free enterprise on steroids — anything goes. China brazenly sells sensitive technologies to Iran and buys oil from genocidal Sudan, and it vigorously defends these nations against international sanction.”

• A post-Cold War “Russian” strategy based on authoritarian rule, exploiting its science and technology sectors and its vast energy resources (“Russia’s rediscovered ambition for superpower status is fueled by its massive energy reserves”).

• A strategy of violent jihadism, embraced by Iran and radical Islamic fundamentalist groups from Hamas to al Qaeda, all united in common purpose “to cause the collapse of all competing economies and systems of government, and thereby … become the world’s leading power.”

Romney doesn’t just focus on geopolitical threats to American’s superpower status, but deals in subsequent chapters with domestic issues like healthcare, Social Security, job creation and the economy, energy, education, the environment, etc.

However, many of his ideas for addressing these issues are recycled from his 2008 campaign and seldom depart from mainstream Republican orthodoxy — e.g., “Stop the trillion-dollar deficits, and spend only what we have,” “Protect the right of workers to vote by secret ballot,” “Reform medical malpractice.”

Not surprisingly, Romney defends the “Massachusetts model,” the pioneer public healthcare plan enacted while he was governor.

And even though it has run into major problems, he contends that it proved “that to get everyone insured, you don’t have to create a government-run healthcare system or government insurance.”

And he is unremittingly critical of President Barack Obama, especially his foreign policy approach, describing it as “a rupture with some of the key assumptions that have undergirded more than six decades of American foreign policy.”

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One area where Romney may have stumbled into a hornet’s nest is energy, as I discovered last week while interviewing Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens, who ridiculed Romney’s suggesting that we use our coal reserves, which are the largest in the world, as a substitute for foreign oil. Pickens, who is pushing his plan to use natural gas to reduce oil consumption, had Romney’s book on his desk. Opening it to page 241, where he had highlighted numerous passages, he ridiculed Romney for suggesting that coal can be liquefied and used as a transportation fuel, saying it would cause “a horrible emissions problem.”

Nevertheless, I found Romney’s book a useful guide to the many challenges America faces in the years ahead.

If his book serves its intended purpose, part of which is to win the support of conservatives who still have deep reservations about him, he could become the first Mormon president and achieve the office his late father failed to win in 1968.