Sunday, December 04, 2011

"Building A Better Mitt-Bot" 

The New York Times goes long in its Sunday Magazine on Mitt Romney and his 2012 campaign in what is, for that paper, a reasonably balanced effort. It is interesting, perhaps especially if you are in the reflexively anti-Mitt camp. Two clips, but read the whole thing:

Mitt Romney’s campaign has decided upon a rather novel approach to winning the presidency. It has taken a smart and highly qualified but largely colorless candidate and made him exquisitely one-dimensional: All-Business Man, the world’s most boring superhero. In the recent past, aspirants and their running mates have struggled to clear the regular-guy bar. Dan Quayle lacked a sense of struggle; Michael Dukakis couldn’t emote even when asked what he would do if his wife were raped and murdered; George H. W. Bush seemed befuddled by a grocery-store scanner; John Kerry was a windsurfer; John McCain couldn’t count all of his houses.

Romney, a socially awkward Mormon with squishy conservative credentials and a reported worth in the range of $190 million to $250 million, is betting that in 2012, recession-weary voters want a fixer, not a B.F.F. As the Romney campaign’s chief strategist, Stuart Stevens, told me: “The economy is overwhelmingly the issue. Our whole campaign is premised on the idea that this is a referendum on Obama, the economy is a disaster and Obama is uniquely blocked from being able to talk about jobs.”

We note that there is nothing "regular guy" about Newt Gingrich, either, who is very entertaining but at least seems like a fairly annoying person in person.

I also liked this passage, which is either appealing, or not, depending on one's own predilections. In particular, I like an executive who specifically challenges his own assumptions by engaging with people who will threaten them.
Those who at close range watched Romney’s failure to close the deal in 2008 did not witness a rejection per se. Instead, it appeared that Republican voters could not quite envision this decent, clever and socially uneasy fellow governing their country — as opposed to, say, managing their stock portfolios. Stories of Romney’s wooden people skills are legion. “The Mormon’s never going to win the who-do-you-want-to-have-a-beer-with contest,” concedes one adviser, while another acknowledges, “He’s never had the experience of sitting in a bar, and like, talking.”

To his admiring subordinates, Romney is the man who, while waiting in an aide’s garage during an advertising shoot, took it upon himself to sweep it spick-and-span. He is the boss who hosted a 2008 post-mortem at his house in Belmont, Mass., and instead of demanding answers or fixing blame, passed out photo albums of the campaign for each staff member to keep. One longtime aide maintains that Romney is, no matter how much of a corporate barracuda the Democrats make him out to be, “more Richie Cunningham of ‘Happy Days’ than Gordon Gekko” of “Wall Street.” And he possesses an almost otherworldly unflappability — seen, for example, on a public street in 2009, when a detractor who recognized Romney cursed at him.“Well!” remarked Romney to a companion. “I guess somebody’s having a bad day!”

Romney’s associates maintain that his genial and humble aspect masks a voracious intellect. A longtime friend of Romney’s explained to me that a desire to digest all available viewpoints was the thread that ran through the candidate’s entire professional life. At Bain Capital, said the friend, Romney “wanted hardworking people who would challenge him — he plays devil’s advocate, trying not only to understand what you think the answer is but what your depth of thinking is.” While turning around the troubled Winter Olympics in Utah, “he brought in a management team with divergent views.” As governor, Romney “wanted a cabinet that would argue different points of view.”

The friend then hastened to assure me that Romney was, beyond all that discursiveness, a decisive leader. But as a presidential candidate, he does not always display his intellectual rigor in his policy proposals. An adviser once told me about how in 2007 Romney reacted to the news that the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was planning on visiting ground zero during a United Nations convention. First, the candidate engaged in a debate with his foreign-policy aide, Dan Senor. Then the two men switched sides and argued opposite positions. Finally, Romney called for someone to bring him the United Nations Charter, which he read and discussed at length with Senor.

In fairness, Newt Gingrich also clearly considers and engages with ideas that do not automatically spring from his basic ideology. In this regard, both leading Republicans are more in the tradition of Bill Clinton than Barack Obama. With regard to domestic policy, our current president is big-government technocrat all the way, with so little regard for opposite views that his administration seemingly cannot anticipate obvious "unintended" consequences of its own policies.

Of course, your results may vary.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Dec 04, 09:28:00 AM:

You cannot imagine how irritating it is when the Times writes good articles. I like consistency, since it makes my blanket generalizations easier to swallow, and in the case of the NYT I expect biased poorly researched hit pieces. What the hell is going on over there, letting this thing get to print?  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sun Dec 04, 09:31:00 AM:

The Times does some excellent work, but usually when it does not threaten core beliefs/assumptions of its reporters and editors and, for that matter, main audience.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Dec 04, 10:48:00 AM:

So, if I can take your point a step further, perhaps the Times editors aren't yet too worried about the competitive threat Mitt might eventually present to the President, or else they believe a Romney presidency might have quite a bit in common with the Obama presidency. It's that latter point that most worries small government types in the Republican party.

Interesting times.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Sun Dec 04, 12:10:00 PM:

Mitt is going to get his ass kicked. Now it's just a question of whether Gingrich does it or Obama.

I finally looked at the Fox News interview. Brett Baier was tough on Mitt but he only asked obvious questions. Mitt couldn't handle it.

"If you're a Mormon, went to an elite college or you're a corporate tool you may have a blind spot about Mitt", someone said here way back. That's Mitt's life experience. It's narrow. He could have used a few years whoring around with Falstaff. Hakuna Matata!, indeed. Even the Amish get a rumspringa.

Mitt's a great man. Seriously. So was Herbert Hoover.

The Republican Establishment seriously fucked up by clearing the field for this guy. He won't be able to connect to your typical American. He'll make Obama look warm and fuzzy and caring, even to the bitter huddled masses in PA still clinging to their guns and religion. He's even more of a Harvard mentat.

Thus, Mitt can lose an election the Republicans should kill. 60 seats in the Senate will be that much harder.

If elected Mitt won't be effective. Having a 59 point plan means you have no plan because you have no priorities. Being a great CEO doesn't necessarily translate to being a politician let alone President. Mitt was never really a CEO anyway, as Bain and Bain Capital aren't ordinary companies. Mitt won't be able to sell "bitter medicine".

There's a quote in The Times article from Mitt's campaign manager: “You’ve got to dig the ditch you’re going to die in” — or, less metaphorically, “You have to be willing to lose,” But that's exactly what Mitt won't do. Which is why he flip-flops. He needs to be "perfect" and no politician is.

This isn't being "reflexively anti-Mitt". Just calling it as I see it.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Dec 04, 12:10:00 PM:

The New York Times publishes NOTHING that does not support it's political agenda!
This article (which I won't read) either damns with faint praise or includes very specific falsehoods which will be overlooked in the context of current reviews but will be frequently quoted in the future.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Dec 04, 03:20:00 PM:

Our present President is not a big government Technocrat. He is an intellectually vapid and lazy hard left ideologue, who has been fed the leftist tripe all his life and now can only regurgitate it. He is surrounded by like-minded sycophants, unlike Dolores Kearns-Goodwin's fantasy of a cabinet of rivals. They all pretty much think and act like Obama, excepting Hillary, who still dreams of being her own Leftist power-sucking President.

Mitt's biggest problem is close to what Ignoramus indicates, but is slightly more subtle. Mitt is in this to get elected, and not necessarily to unite his party behind him in a cohesive effort to get the Federal Government under control. Which is the alleged idea of most of the Republican party at this time - some actually believe it and some don't - but that's what they are all trying to say.

The 59-point plan it the perfect example. There is nothing wrong with having a detailed idea of what is wrong, but compare this to Cain's " 9 -9 -9". There were and are problems with 9-9-9, but it was a clear and direct idea of what Cain wanted to accomplish.

Mitt needs to clarify and be declarative to win. Running "not to lose" will inspire no one. Whether or not the NY Times approves of him or not is moot, because they and their legions of readers will generally not be supporting or voting for Mitt Romney in either the primaries or the General Election.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sun Dec 04, 05:28:00 PM:

I hope, Ignoramus, that you are wrong. I worry you are right, although I think on this you may be wrong. It is early yet.

The problem, of course, is that the Republicans are so short on candidates who inspire actual confidence. Newt, the latest anti-Mitt, can blow up in many different ways, so many that the odds of him doing so are far greater than not. The rest of the actual field is tough to take for different reasons. The non-field -- Daniels, Christie, Rubio, and Jindal -- remains more interesting and impressive, but is largely unvetted. Jeb Bush might well be the best of that crowd, but he is a Bush.

I confess I do not understand why the GOP bench is so lame. It may be that running for president has become such a horrendous experience for most people who have been successful in life that they would rather not be bothered.  

By Anonymous SkepticalCynical, at Sun Dec 04, 07:22:00 PM:

TH, I thought your Kremlinology was better than that. Now is the time for NYT to publish flattering articles about Romney. The time to attack him will be 10 seconds after he secures the nomination.

Romney shows every sign of being completely unprepared for this 100% certain turnaround, just as McCain was in 2008.

Like you, I find the GOP candidates who aren't running to be more attractive than those who are. But I will say in Gingrich's defense that he is not naive about the forthcoming propaganda assault, and seems to have thought through possible counter strategies.  

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