Romney D Finally Getting Respect

February 2, 2012

With a landslide primary victory in Florida, which along with New York is tied with the third most electoral college votes (29 each) in the nation, Mitt Romney is finally getting the due respect he needs to challenge President Obama in November.  It is said that money can’t buy one love, but it certainly helps in the quest for new opportunities, public respect, and acclaimed success.  Romney has been immensely successful in school, as a private equity officer, a big project organizer (Salt Lake City Olympics) and state governor.  In the campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination, he has out-hustled, out-spent, and out-organized all his opponents in substantial ways, but the road to selection has not been as smooth as one might have expected.  The knocks against Romney among rank-and-file voters are that he’s not consistently conservative enough, that he belongs to a religion that is not mainstream and arouses suspicion and, most recently, that he is too rich and got that way through ruthless business practices that hurt many people. 

I have a different concern.  The skill set required in the highly competitive arenas of education and business are different from those most needed by the President of the United States.  In fact, the very instincts that enabled Romney to climb such a high ladder already could lead him astray if president.  Up to now, Romney has been presented with a series of increasingly difficult competitive tasks.  Much of his work as president will be framed in cooperative game terms where only victory for many diverse groups can be defined as a mission well done.  The bottom line in business in profit.  The bottom line in public service certainly is partly profit, and with the labor and housing markets in a deep funk, it sounds sensible to give a turn to a consummate businessman to right America’s economic ship. 

However, it is incomplete to define the president’s mandate in terms of profit alone.  If elected, Romney will be asked to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," which in turn intends to establish justice, preserve peace, promote general welfare, and maintain freedom and the blessings thereof not just for the current generation but for all future citizens.   So in addition, the president is obliged to consider more than profit.  A triple bottom line of profit, people and planet better describes the scope of the presidency than the criteria upon which Romney has been measured in the past.

Harry Truman may have famously asserted that "the buck stops here," but increasingly it has been clear that the president of the United States, unlike the president of a large corporation, has shared ultimate authority with other branches of the government — the Congress, the Supreme Court, the states and even municipal governments.  Let’s not also forget the influence of rich interest groups that put all these pieces into play.  Many very successful people in the private sector did not succeed anywhere near as well after making the transition to public office at the national level:  William Miller, Donald Regan, Michael Blumenthal, Herbert Hoover and Silvio Berlusconi to name a few.  The last two each amassed huge fortunes.  Reported estimates put Berlusconi’s wealth some 25-30 times greater than Romney’s, yet after nine years of self-serving, awful, clueless and neglectful rule as Italy’s prime minister during three different stints between 1994 and last year, he bequeathed to the current prime minister, Mario Monti, an extremely fragile and indebted nation.  Italy’s economy regrettably stands as the final firewall of Euroland.  If Italy fails, chaos will envelop the region and even engulf the world.

One should not be fooled into thinking that Romney would be any less conservative in all respects of what conservatism has evolved to mean in America.  He will no doubt be a formidable candidate in November, appealing to independents because of that perception based on some moderate positions he endorsed in the past.  Although America’s is not a parliamentary system of governance, presidents are now highly constrained by their own parties.  George W. Bush ran as a compassionate conservative yet from the getgo promoted an extremely orthodox conservative agenda.  Barack Obama ran as a centrist but as president was pulled to the left by the more liberal corners of the Democratic Party.  Money greases politics, and the heaviest money resides at the ideological extremes.

Copyright 2012, Larry Greenberg.  All rights reserved.  No secondary distribution without express permission.

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