Here’s the Republican dream: A successful businessman – make him a full partner – with a passion for streamlining all organizations following the Efficiency Movement model, including government, is successful in his bid for the presidency. Hallelujah! Or not? Welcome to the Herbert Hoover administration.
Okay, you probably saw that one coming. There’s a picture of President Hoover posted here for a reason. Let’s try again. I’m sure Republicans would be happy to re-live the presidency of Jimmy Carter, who built a multi-million dollar peanut business. Well, maybe not! Harry Truman is generally favorably remembered by history despite the trying times of his presidency. He ran a clothing store into bankruptcy. One more try? Franklin Roosevelt, the so-called ‘father of American Socialism,’ who Republicans loath founded the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation.
There is no evidence in our history books a successful businessman makes a great or even good president. Will Mitt Romney rewrite history?
Mitt Romney is trying to leverage his business experience to pose as a job creator. The affective narrative he promotes is Bain Capital’s investment in Staples. To his credit, Romney took a chance on the business plan put together by founder Thomas Stemberg. The result is an affective campaign ad. However, Mitt Romney didn’t manage Staples day to day. He invested in it and sat on its board of directors. Maybe Thomas Stemberg should be running for president instead.
This isn’t the only reason Romney’s Bain Capital narrative conspires to take away hope of a successful presidency. The other side of the Bain Capital story is the Staples model is only a small bit of the firm’s picture. Picking start-up winners is high risk so Bain Capital evolved into the classic leverage buy-out model. It’s less risky because you pile debt onto the companies you take over to cover your acquisition costs. Then you pile on huge fees to virtually guarantee a profit. If you can spin off the company fine. If you can’t, gut the company for its assets. The only thing separating Bain Capital from fictional Gordan Gekko is, to their credit, they didn’t do hostile takeovers.
Which leads us to the latest Democrats versus Republicans tug of war over when Mitt Romney left Bain Capital and why it is so critical. The paper trail indicates Romney continued a leadership role even after he headed the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games Organizing Committee. Bain’s new strategy during this period led to a series of business carcasses and the loss of thousands of jobs. At this juncture, Romney’s Bain Capital story turns sour.
There is no doubt Mitt Romney is a smart guy. You don’t become a Baker Scholar by being a dummy. Nor does one quickly reorganize a failing Bain Capital back into success by being an incompetent business manager. However, his Bain Capital turn-around story is inside baseball business stuff not easily transfered to government. Stuff like restructuring employee stock plans or real estate deals isn’t going to help a Romney administration create jobs.
The hard truth is Bain Capital didn’t really care whether it created jobs or even saved jobs. The path leading to greatest profits, including completely gutting companies, is the one they chose. Shed no tears.
Romney is a salesman. He’s a pleaser. He’s cautious. He’s lived a life of privilege few can identify with nor is there any evidence to suggest he relates to the American working class. These critical personal attributes work against him being an affective president. There’s no solid core to Mitt, aside from his Morman faith. You can see it in his Etch A Sketch political career. He was liberal Mitt to succeed as governor in Massachusetts. Contemporary Republican national politics is much farther to the right so he now declares himself a “severe conservative,” whatever that means.
Which is the point. What does businessman Mitt Romney bring to the table? He’s a great organizer. He may make the White House run like a Swiss watch. However, he succeeded at Bain Capital largely because of his ability to get along with partners. Judging from his campaign he’s going to simply bend to the whims of the Republican Party and public opinion polls. There’s no personal touch to his platform. It’s just a fuzzy rehash of current Republican platform planks. This might make partisan Republicans happy as long as they can continue to steer voters towards the GOP. They’d be happy to let a Tea Party infused Congress call the shots with Romney providing the rubber stamp of approval. However, I don’t think this radical Libertarian inspired vision of America is mainstream nor is it healthy.
To Mitt’s credit he’s no ideologue but his demise is he’s just the opposite: Play-Doh.