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No Apology

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One could argue that Governor Mitt Romney's rally to capture the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 rose from the ashes of his failed 2008 bid and the loss of his chief rival Senator John McCain to current president Barack Obama that November. In the interim, Romney has raised money prolifically for other Republican candidates, served as the voice of the party in media interviews, and offered terse criticism of the man who occupies the office he still covets. His new book, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, sets the stage for a second run, offering dense policy analysis in the 309-page volume.

In an era where politically-polarizing tomes pepper book stores and cater to partisans on both extremes, allowing them to feed their heads in self-perpetuating echo chambers, No Apology is a departure of sorts. While the title is crafted as a direct refutation of President Obama's perceived apologies for what Romney considers "American exceptionalism," the former Massachusetts Governor offers more than caricatures of his opponents, and his well-articulated national agenda checks the appropriate conservative boxes, yet offers a level of detail that transcends a political culture premised on talking points.

Whereas President Obama devoted a scant amount of verbiage to foreign policy in his recent State of the Union Address, No Apology leads with a call for a return to muscular national defense. Romney also delves into a number of domestic policy domains, defending the near-universal health care system he helped pass in Massachusetts, while at the same time rejecting comparisons to the Democratic bills currently circulating in Congress. His prescriptions move beyond the obstructionism of his fellow party members in Washington, but he does embrace their calls for tort reform and interstate competition among insurance companies.

Romney also writes about education policy and laments the relative decline in America's competitiveness, embracing standardized testing, merit pay, mechanisms to remove incompetent educators, charter schools, school choice (though he questions its political viability), and distance learning. He reserves terse words for teacher unions, bodies he considers detrimental to requisite educational reforms.

His energy policy relies on alternate energy sources including nuclear power, natural gas, clean coal, even hydrogen. He holds solar and wind power as promising complimentary energy sources, but doubts that either represent a panacea. In an early bid for support in the Iowa Caucuses, he touts his support for ethanol subsidies and production. Romney is highly critical of the cap and trade legislation passed by the House last year, and also dismisses the wisdom of a more direct carbon tax. However, he does tout the potential of a carbon tax coupled with reciprocal tax offsets in sales or payroll taxes.

No Apology is a serious work that departs from standard campaign biographies. Indeed, its closest parallel is arguably Obama's Audacity of Hope. Romney intersperses brief biographical footnotes throughout, but its policy-orientation reigns. While he shares anecdotes from his failed 2008 presidential run, he avoids ex post facto analysis, and also strays from foreshadowing a future run for the nation's highest office. This means there is no dissection of how his Mormon faith proved an obstacle among conservative Christian voters, or his repositioning on major social issues that led many to conclude that he was a "flip-flopper" of convenience. He does make several references to his faith, and reaffirms his opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.

The irony is that Romney's 2008 campaign largely trumpeted social and military issues, peripheral to his core competency as an economic turn-around agent. In No Apology, he takes the opportunity to press the reset button, recasts himself as a more centrist, pragmatic technocrat, and lays the groundwork for a repeat presidential run during the most devastating economic times since the Great Depression.

Governor Romney will make his only Chicago appearance on Wednesday March 24, 2010, at the Chase Auditorium (10 S Dearborn) in Chicago at 6pm in an event sponsored by the McCormick Freedom Project, in partnership with Chicago Young Republicans, the Illinois Policy Institute and WLS 890 AM Radio. Join us for an insightful discussion about our First Amendment freedoms, a re-emerging conservative movement, and Governor Romney's solutions for rebuilding industries, producing jobs, improving education, and restoring the military. General admission tickets are on sale here for $25. The price includes a signed copy of No Apology.