Return to Reason with my Man Mitt

I am purposely jumping the gun and I may be eating dirt soon, but I am assuming that Romney will win in Iowa. This is something of a miracle. He has not spent much time campaigning there and all the liberal pundits have been telling us that Romney is too moderate to be nominated, that the “right” wouldn’t accept his religion and that Republicans would never accept “impure” conservative brand (i.e. flip-flop on abortion, support for health care etc.)

I have a little trouble believing it too, but this remarkable turn-around is the best hope for America. Romney has the experience & the intellect to be a great president. He also has something that is usually considered a fault: he is pragmatic. This is superficially similar to being a "flip-flopper" but it is not the same. A flip-flopper has no core values. A pragmatist looks to the practical effects of actions and is willing to flex on those things that do not have practical consequences.

Let's address the biggest one - abortion. All Republican candidates have to be against abortion and all Democratic candidates have to be for it. Most Americans are between the extremes. They believe that abortion should be legal, but with significant restriction. I suspect that most politicians agree, but articulating this position will kill any candidacy, be it Democrat or Republican.

Let's ask the pragmatic question. Does it matter if the President is for or against abortion? The President doesn't decide this issue. The most a President can do is to nominate Supreme Court Justices that agree with his position. These nominees have to get through Senate Confirmations. Then you have to believe they will never change their minds. You have to wait for the right case. It is a long and very uncertain process. So the pragmatic answer is that it really doesn't matter what the President really thinks about abortion.

In fact, the DETAILS of any presidential platform are not very important.Whatever he promises, no matter how sincere, will change as soon as he confronts real conditions. We should be smarter than to accept promises and pledges. If you want to know if someone will do a good job, take a look at what he has done in the past and how he has behaved in similar challenging situations.

My father used to tell me that you cannot build a reputation on what you are going to do. We made a mistake when we elected Barack Obama based on what he said he was going to do. Look at his experience. Why are we surprised when he failed? This time let's be smarter and NOT choose more Obama hope over real experience.

Below is something I wrote back in 2008. It still makes sense today. The part about Romney's ability in finances is even more important than it was back then. IMO, if we had elected Romney back in 2008, our financial system would be reformed much better and the recovery would be much stronger. This year, we can correct the mistake me made in 2008.

Is it possible to be TOO smart to be president? If we hired presidents based on resume and experience, Mitt Romney would get the job. No recent candidate has been more qualified for the office. But that is not how we pick presidents.

Leadership & Management

Romney has been an outstanding leader business and government. He built his own company and displayed special skill at turning around troubled operations. His skill in managing the Winter Olympics, outlined in his book "Turnaround: Crisis, Leadership, and the Olympic Games", is particularly relevant since it included extensive multilateral negotiations among international stakeholders and leading in a situation where he had limited formal leverage. He did under an elevated threat of terrorism. Romney is rare among politicians in that he has significant executive experience in private business, international organizations and elected office. No other candidate running is better and few are as good in this category.

Intellectual Abilities

Education alone is not proof of intellect, but when a man graduates in the top 5% of his JD/MBA class at Harvard, you give him the benefit of the doubt. After graduation, his ability to master arcane details of financial operations and clear grasp of complicated issues confirms our belief that he highly intelligent. During the 14 years he headed Bain Capital the average annual internal rate of return on realized investments was 113%. Maybe he was just really lucky for 14 years, but probably not.

Substantive Knowledge

See above. Romney is quick on his feet. During This Week with George Stephanopoulos he obviously could call on great reserves of knowledge. Stephanopoulos, a Clinton insider, wasn't throwing only softballs.

Communication Ability

Romney is no Ronald Reagan when it comes to communication. He is obviously on top of the issues and I bet he is wonderful with the give and take of small groups of experts, but like many smart people he lacks a bit of that ability to connect with people on a personal level. As I wrote, he is no Ronald Reagan.

Foreign Affairs

The Winter Olympics showcased Romney's ability to work with diverse international actors in a stressful and partisan environment. He also lived for more than two year overseas and speaks fluent French.

U.S. Economy

No presidential aspirant since Salmon P. Chase has had more relevant experience in finance. As governor, he took the State of Massachusetts from a $3 billion deficit to a surplus. I wrote more about his financial ability above.

Interpersonal skills

Romney is smart, well adjusted & good looking. Some people will dislike him for that reason alone. But a real consideration when dealing with people like that is that things come too easily. This impacts his communication ability as mentioned above. It is a little like the brainy kid who really cannot appreciate why you do not understand the differential equations the first time.

Special Considerations

Bigotry against Mormons still accepted by many otherwise tolerant people. A recent poll indicated that 88% say they would vote for a woman; 94% could support a black nominee, but only 72% would support a Mormon. Romney's challenge parallels the one faced by John Kennedy, an attractive candidate facing the threat of bigotry. Bigotry will be an undertow, although most people will be ashamed to admit it.

Posted by Christine & John at January 2, 2012 11:08 AM
Comments
Comment #333983

Governor Romney was a great guy. If Governor Romney ran for President, he’d probably get my vote. The problem is that the man running for President is Candidate Romney. Candidate Romney is beholden to the Tea Party and other far-right wing elements. Governor Romney understood how to reform our health care system, Candidate Romney does not. Governor Romney understood the threat posed by anthropogenic climate change, Candidate Romney does not. Also, Candidate Romney engages in conservative foolishness by blaming the financial crisis of ‘08 on Dodd/Frank/FNMA/FHLMC instead of unregulated traders on Wall Street.

Posted by: Warped Reality at January 3, 2012 1:38 PM
Comment #333989

Warped

The rotten traders were bad guys. But they were trading in a world made easier for them by Frank, Dodd and similar crooks.

The subprime collapse was the proximate cause of the more general collapse and the subprime collapse was largely a failure of programs and institutions protected by Frank, Dodd et al.

We need to reform regulation in finance. Obama talks powerfully but then failed to reform. Having Dodd and Frank doing legislation is really a cruel joke. The whole thing was messed up and needs to be done again, done right.

We don’t want to and cannot go back to the financial system of 2008. It no longer exists. Obama/Geitner/Dodd/Frank gave us a fire breathing chimera that looks mean but protects the same crooks who gave us the problem.

Posted by: C&J at January 3, 2012 5:35 PM
Comment #333996
the subprime collapse was largely a failure of programs and institutions protected by Frank, Dodd et al.

Another repetition of the Big Lie won’t make it true.

The whole thing was messed up and needs to be done again, done right.

We don’t want to and cannot go back to the financial system of 2008. It no longer exists. Obama/Geitner/Dodd/Frank gave us a fire breathing chimera that looks mean but protects the same crooks who gave us the problem.

You can argue that the Dodd/Frank Law was watered down, but that was the doing of conservative Senators, who threatened to filibuster the bill if it kept the stronger provisions. If the GOP is interested in fixing this problem, by all means pass a bill in the House that strengthens regulations, but don’t do this trapeze act where you bash the Dodd/Frank law for shortcomings that are the doing of conservatives.

Posted by: Warped Reality at January 3, 2012 7:25 PM
Comment #334001

Warped

I read a very interesting book called “Confidence Men”. The author was praised as a profound truth teller when he wrote a book like this about Bush. Now he is attacked by liberals. Anyway, he talks a lot about the selling out at the Obama administration. I recommend the book.

Posted by: C&J at January 3, 2012 9:44 PM
Comment #334008

C&J-
Well, your man Mitt won by eight votes (after getting only a quarter of the total!) against a man whose profile wasn’t anywhere near as high a week ago. Here is a man who only inspires panic at the thought that the other people they like may not be able to win the Presidency.

Mitt Romney, rather than being an out and proud moderate, rather than presenting a unifying vision that will segue well into a general election where there are non-Republicans to convince, has followed the path of ineffective deception. People tolerate his candidacy because he has a chance of winning, but his main chance of winning that nomination will require him to say a mountain of things that will be quoted back to him in the general election, and which have already contrasted so sharply with his previous positions as to make him a clear flip-flopper on many issues.

Obama’s already pushing past the appearances and policies of Confidence Men. He’s not stood still like the GOP has, and expected that in the wake of the financial disaster on Wall Street that people will forgive the chicanery and fraud that led to the collapse.

Speaking of which, why do you keep on peddling that worthless narrative about Fannie and Freddie? They didn’t dominate the market. They didn’t take the greatest risks of any institution. Their subprime loans turned out to be better bets than average, as a matter of fact, which is a strange position from which to cause a bubble and a crash that all stemmed from excessive risk, and a ballooning market they were increasingly being left out of.

You can say they had some moral hand in it, by pushing low income loans, but again, the evidence shows that those loans, in Fannie and Freddie’s hands, did not constitute an inordinate risk. The reality was, it was private institutions, fueled by financing and derivatives trading that came from private institutions that dominated this crisis, and created most of its early and late casualties.

But admitting to that would be admitting your brand of conservative, laissez faire policy didn’t work, that people didn’t create long term economic growth, and a self-policing system, the more you left them to themselves.

The irony is, from what I’ve seen of the reviews, is that the point of Suskind’s book seems to be that if Obama had taken a stronger hand, both in policy and management of his economic team, he might have been better off. That is pretty much the opposite of any point you might make. You weren’t exactly cheering him on to take over a bank (hell, you lambasted him for what he did with General Motors! Imagine what you would have done with a whole bank), or to use the crisis to impose greater and more stringent policies.

No, your main point is to say Democrats should lose faith in Obama. Me? I don’t think so. The financial crisis could have gotten a lot worse, and Obama managed the situation better than any Republican would have.

Your criticisms are self-serving, not based on any wish to be helpful. You would have criticized him for doing what that book suggested he might want to do, take a stronger hand, etc, and more to the point, you and other Republicans ARE criticizing him now for doing exactly that.

So, I feel confident at this point, no pun intended, matching my likely nominee against yours. You’ve picked people who are either second choices to nearly everbody, or folks who won’t be Americas first choice in the general. You’ve succeeded in being obstructive, unconstructive abusers of the legislative system, in the aim of taking down Obama, only to create a party so dysfunctional that it cannot appeal to most Americans, even against a President you’ve worked so hard to tarnish. You might make your campaigns this year extra ugly, but you will not make your candidate truly popular. He will always remain the second choice, the candidate only became nominee by default.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 4, 2012 8:41 AM
Comment #334009
Education alone is not proof of intellect, but when a man graduates in the top 5% of his JD/MBA class at Harvard, you give him the benefit of the doubt. After graduation, his ability to master arcane details of financial operations and clear grasp of complicated issues confirms our belief that he highly intelligent. During the 14 years he headed Bain Capital the average annual internal rate of return on realized investments was 113%. Maybe he was just really lucky for 14 years, but probably not.

Bain Capital might not be your best bet for showing his capabilities, not unless you want to bring to light the fact that his company was bankrupting the companies it took over in order to get that high return on investment.

Oh, and really, Obama graduated in the top ten percent of his class at Harvard law. Of course, you’ll say that was affirmative action, since we can’t have Republicans admitting that their opponent isn’t scum of the earth and an empty suit.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 4, 2012 8:44 AM
Comment #334131


From 1980 through 2008, The share of income garnered by the top 10% increased from 34.6% to 48.2%

During the Bush Administration, middle class household income fell by $2600, the price of housing and energy nearly doubled and the ration of debt to income skyrocketed for the middle class.

This was the primary cause of the Great Recession and the reason why the middle class consumers haven’t been able to buy our way out of it.

Posted by: jlw at January 6, 2012 3:50 PM
Comment #334147

jlw

As I wrote in an earlier article, Obama has done a great job of lessening the gap. Economic problems do that. A few more years of the Obama doldrums and we will all be equally poor.

Posted by: C&J at January 6, 2012 9:35 PM
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