When Republicans mention former presidents they admire, they usually pick guys like Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and maybe even Calvin Coolidge. But apparently, Mitt Romney wants to model himself after James K. Polk. Wait, you’re saying to yourself. Mitt Romney wants to own slaves, fight a war with Mexico, and only serve one term in office? That seems … not great. No! Well, not the slaves or the Mexico part. But the one-term thing … maybe? From Jon Ward in Huffington Post’s iPad magazine, via Politico’s Playbook:
“[W]hen I asked Rhoades … what Romney might do with the budget and entitlement reform plans Ryan had already outlined, Rhoades’ eyes lit up. He gave me a name: James Polk. … Rhoades and the rest of the members of Romney’s inner circle think a Romney presidency could look much like the White House tenure of the 11th U.S. president.
“Polk, who served from 1845 to 1849, presided over the expansion of the U.S. into a coast-to-coast nation, annexing Texas and winning the Mexican-American war for territories that also included New Mexico and California. He reduced trade barriers and strengthened the Treasury system. And he was a one-term president. Polk is an allegory for Rhoades: He did great things, and then exited the scene, and few remember him. That, Rhoades suggested, could be Romney’s legacy as well. … Multiple senior Romney advisers assured me that they had had conversations with the candidate in which he conveyed a depth of conviction about the need to try to enact something like Ryan’s controversial budget and entitlement reforms. Romney, they said, was willing to count the cost politically in order to achieve it.”
Despite that lengthy explanation, we’re still not really sure why Polk is Romney’s model. Because he did great things as president, only served one term, and 160 years later, few people know anything about him? Is that somehow better than doing great things, doing more great things in your second term, and having people remember you for it? If you ask us, Rhoades is simply trying to impress people with gratuitous references to relatively obscure presidents.