For some time now some liberal friends, and even my own daughters, have been pestering me with the same question. Why,
they ask, are you supporting Mitt Romney? Indeed, what propelled you, more than
a year ago, to give up the comforts of home and move to Boston to work day and
night for his campaign? And why, for that matter, are you a conservative? I
admit to being flummoxed by these questions.
For a complete and truthful
answer requires far more in the way of explanation than I usually care to give.
The strange fact of the matter is that my support for Mitt Romney, like my
conservatism generally, has something to do with a ship called the Serpa Pinto
and with an American Marxist revolutionary by the name of Max
The Serpa Pinto
was a Portuguese vessel that in 1943, as the
Battle of the Atlantic was raging, carried my mother, her younger sister (my
aunt), and her parents (my grandparents) from Lisbon to the United States. A
German Jew, my mother had spent three of her teenage years hiding from the Nazis
in occupied France until, in a harrowing journey, she and the rest of her family
crossed the Pyrenees on foot and escaped to Barcelona. From there they made
their way, thanks to a relative in New York, to the United States aboard the
My father was born in the Bronx into a desperately poor
Orthodox Jewish home.
By the time war came to Europe, he was in the
thrall of another brand of orthodoxy – Trotskyism. The particular sect to which
he adhered – the Shachtmanites – followers of the American Trotskyist leader Max
Shachtman – embraced the idea that Communist Russia, Fascist Germany and
Capitalist USA were three evils, some much worse than others, but all to be
resisted by the “third camp,” i.e., their tiny political party and the pure
proletarian brand of socialism that it represented. On the basis of this
preposterous ideological pipedream, my father and his fellow Shachtmanites
opposed American entrance to the war.
Thanks to the exertions of
Roosevelt and Churchill, the West prevailed against Nazism. Millions perished in
the struggle that they led. Many more millions would have perished, and many
more millions would have been enslaved – civilization itself would have come to
an end – had Roosevelt and Churchill chosen another course and listened to those
who, as the war clouds gathered in the 1930s, counseled appeasement of Adolf
Today, the shadows of the 1930s fall all around us. The great
conflagration that followed that decade continues to define the world in which I
live. That world is now full of weapons that can kill as many people in an
instant as Hitler managed to murder over a decade.
In the Middle East, a
state run by Islamic fanatics is racing to acquire such weapons.
our noses, they are enriching uranium at a feverish pace and designing the
implosion mechanisms for a nuclear warhead.
Like Hitler, they openly
threaten to annihilate the world’s largest collectivity of Jews, i.e., those
living in the State of Israel.
But Israel is not the only country at
risk. The devices the Iranians hope to build, mounted to the tips of long-range
missiles or slipped into hands of terrorists, could detonate anywhere, including
in Europe and the United States.
For almost four years, Barack Obama has
approached this challenge with visible incomprehension. He came into office
seeking “dialog” with the ayatollahs, hoping that his “outstretched hand” would
sway them from their purposes. He resisted imposing crippling sanctions until
Congress forced them upon him. He has leaned heavily on Israel to take no action
on its own. He is gutting America’s military strength at the very moment when
dangers are mounting. The spirit of appeasement inhabits his
Whatever strengths and weaknesses as a politician, Mitt Romney is
completely cleareyed about the perils before us. Every word he’s ever said or
written about Iran makes plain that he understands the need to check Iran’s
nuclear ambitions. And like Ronald Reagan, it is apparent that he knows in every
fiber of his being that American military strength is the essential ingredient
for preventing a ruinous war. He’s made the foundation of his policy plain:
“Only when the ayatollahs no longer have doubts about America’s resolve will
they abandon their nuclear ambitions.”
My father sought to atone for his
youthful political delusions all his life, becoming, by the time of his death in
1979, a fervent advocate of American principles and American power. My mother,
instead of perishing in Hitler’s gas chambers, lived to die a peaceful death in
Connecticut in 2009. Along the way, I learned some things from them, including
some things that have me hard at work at Mitt Romney’s campaign headquarters on
this very day.
The writer is a senior adviser to the Mitt Romney for