It doesn’t matter all that much what Romney really believes, or whether he believes much of anything. Romney will be a very conservative president because that’s the only kind of president a Republican can be these days. Once upon a time, there was a species in Washington called the moderate Republican. Such creatures served in the administrations of Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. A few hung on long enough to serve under George H.W. Bush. They backed abortion rights and environmental regulation. They thought government spending on infrastructure was good for business. They believed labor unions were a legitimate part of America’s capitalist system. They supported raising taxes if that’s what balanced budgets required. If you look hard, you can still find such beings. They’re like typewriters, fun to look at, but too antiquated to be of much use. Even if Mitt Romney wanted to stock his government with moderate Republicans who believe in seriously regulating the industries that their agencies oversee, he wouldn’t be able to find them.
To the contrary, within weeks of Romney’s election, his chief of staff would be culling through lists of potential deputy secretaries of the interior. The list would be generated by places like the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute and Chamber of Commerce. It would consist largely of people who served in the Bush administration, with perhaps a few entrants who stood out at the state level—which is to say, were particularly zealous in serving corporate interests—thrown in. This list would have been approved, if not actually assembled, by the very industries that the Interior Department regulates. It would be similar to the list that would have been assembled for President Perry or President Cain, and it would include no pro-regulation Republicans, because the people who produce such lists are in the anti-regulation business. Once Romney wins the presidency, all this would happen automatically. He wouldn’t have to do a thing.