Dunbar Loved Shooting Skeet: Boring Republican Edition

I know DougJ hates (most) process stories, and so do I, usually. Doug calls out one claim in particular, the suggestion that how a campaign operates offers much or any insight into how the candidate would govern.

Again, I think there is some force there.  Being President is not actually a managerial job; if that duty falls to anyone in the White House (as opposed to the departments and other units of the Executive Branch) that’s the job of a the chief of staff.  Bill Clinton couldn’t manage his way out of…well, I’m not going to supply a noun there, I think.  But the government he headed was remarkable effective.  Bush the younger headed (and did not run) a pretty damn good campaign in 2000 — and his administration was crap, leaving aside the policy differences I and pretty much everyone reading this may have.

But even so, at least some of the time the decisions a candidate takes during his campaign and the impact of those choices on how things run does provide some information that is of real use in imagining the presidency to emerge from one side’s victory or the others.  Tell me that Obama’s discipline vs. McCain’s flailing at the point of the Lehman collapse didn’t offer some real insight.  You can talk Palin all you want, and the fact that the electoral environment for McCain in the ruins of Bush’s presidency was incredibly hostile, but the crazed “suspension” of his campaign was a real blow to his chances.

So with all that as prelude, consider this NYT story on Mitt Romney’s VP search.

Amateur pundit fail disclaimer: Let me remind  you that the political navel gazing below is worth precisely what you paid for it.  It is exactly the kind of musing that DougJ rightfully sneers at.  You have been warned.

OK…back to your regularly scheduled programming:

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I read this as one of the most subtly devastating indictments of Romney as a potential president I can recall reading. Consider this, high in the piece:

Mr. Romney’s possible running mates, who have handed over reams of documents to the campaign, have probably opened themselves to  a greater level of scrutiny than the candidate himself, especially on the thorny question of taxes. Mr. Romney has said he will disclose federal tax returns covering two years by Election Day, far fewer than the 23 years’ worth that he handed over to Senator John McCain as a possible vice-presidential pick in 2008.

Heh indeed, one might say.

Then, there’s this:

Friends and advisers say that after assessing basic qualifications and personal chemistry, Mr. Romney has been guided by a simple principle: do no harm to the ticket.

It’s not so much that trying to avoid hiring the next Sarah Palin is a terrible idea (the context for that concluding sentence), but as a glimpse of the thought-process of a man who would lead, I read a clear hint of someone deciding out of fear, not confidence.

And how about this:

Determined to avoid the frustrations and tensions of the past, Mr. Romney’s team is taking steps to ensure that the eventual running mate — and his or her staff — functions as a true extension of the campaign, not as an autonomous political operation.

Again, on the face of it, this is an obvious thought.  But the choice is once more framed as a negative — “I don’t want no rogue, get me a lapdog.”  That’s a crap message to project to the American people about the person Romney’s campaign alleges has, if needed, the mettle to be the Leader of the Free World.

Then there’s the stuff that reinforces what is slowly becoming another theme in the coverage of this campaign, that Mitt Romney delegates poorly, micromanages, gets deep into the weeds of decisions in ways that constrain his organization’s ability to act swiftly, nimbly:

Many hands are involved, but the research is done by separate teams, so that only Ms. Myers and Mr. Romney have access to the full picture at all times.

Mr. Romney has taken a hands-on role. He checks in with Ms. Myers roughly every other day to discuss his thinking. And the candidate, a Harvard-trained lawyer, reviews some of the background information himself.

At the end of every day, confidential materials (tax returns, investment records and real estate documents) are returned to a vault at the Romney campaign headquarters in Boston.

Read those short grafs again.  Tell me what you see there.  For me, I get a picture of compartmentalization, organizational secrecy, no chance for anyone within the organization to cross-fertilize thinking, and, most important, one in which all the lines of information and power are absolutely retained by one man only.*

That may work in business (though it very often does not).  It may be easier to get away with in finance than in any actual operating enterprise. But one thing is for sure — this is a what the boss from hell looks like…

…which is to say it’s not a profile of a [successful] President.

Then there’s the Romney operation’s approach to the real job they have for the Veepster unit:

 Aides have begun discussing how to deploy Mr. Romney’s running mate on the trail and at fund-raisers. Campaign officials envision having the candidate headline a combination of $30,000-per-couple dinners in big cities and smaller events in second-tier locations, to gauge which proves more lucrative.

Ah, yes.  RomneyBot 2000 will assess the performance of its wholly-owned subsidiary, the better to assign an appropriate functional matrix to that operation.  Now it’s hardly a new thought that Vice Presidential candidates are supposed to take some of the fund-raising grind off the back of their headliner, but I have to think the NYT folks know exactly how unpresidential that sounds.  Good for them.

Finally, there’s the matter of where all this meticulous preparation and organizational engineering gets team RMoney:

In a recent interview with CBS News, his wife offered a slightly deeper insight into their thinking.

“I think it’s going to take someone else that’s going to be there with Mitt,” she said, “with the same personality type that, that will enjoy spending time with them and also competent, capable and willing to serve this country.”

So, after all that, in the Romneyverse the first and most important criterion for a Vice Presidential candidate be that he (almost certainly “he”) be of the right sort (right height?) to hang with the fellow at the top of the ticket.

Which is why, as the Times reports, the campaign has ended up with TPaw and Portman at the top of the short list, Paul Ryan (oh please..) and Bobby Jindal as less likely choices, and Condi Rice still getting courtesy mentions because, the Times suggests, Ann Romney thinks well of her.

What a pallid set of options!  And worse — yet entirely predictably, given its nature:  look at how Romney’s process (appears) to have landed him with a selection universe that does not allow him to shore up any meaningful weakness in his own candidacy.

For example: not enough has yet been made of how incredibly weak are Romney’s foreign policy and national security chops.  I know that such concerns are way down the list for most of the electorate — but still, not for all, and not for a critical subset of elite “independents.”  Romney has zero experience in either of those areas, and we are, after all, still at war in Afghanistan, dealing with a truly dangerous conflict in Syria, concerned about Iran and so on — not to mention the tricky policy issues of how to deal with China’s emergence and so on.  Big stuff. Stuff that matters to both lives and the global (and American) economy.  And Romney has a resume in which the closest he comes to international affairs is outsourcing Olympic tailoring to Burma/Myanmar.

Obama, recall, was similarly poorly prepared for the international side of his job.  So who does he hire?  Joe Biden, long time head/ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Someone who could indeed have drawn invidious comparisons with the man who selected him — older, very experienced, all that.  But Obama had the confidence to pick someone who could enhance his candidacy, rather than merely echo it.

Romney’s pursuit of mini-me’s?  Makes him look cautious, predictable, small.

*Note yet further evidence of the absurdity of the idea that the sole stockholder, chairman of the board, president and CEO of Bain Capital was somehow utterly uninvolved with his firm’s decisions for three years.

 Images:  Francisco de Goya, They Sing for the Composer, 1796-97.

Diego Velasquez, Portrait of Philip IV, 1656.

112 replies
  1. 1

    I know, this is worth the paper it’s printed on, but somehow this tell-all from the Murdoch’s former nanny seems to fit the worldview people like Rupert Murdoch seem to want for all of us plebes:

    A former household staffer and tutor for Rupert Mudoch and Wendi Deng’s children is speaking out for the first time about the relentless nightmare that is working for the Murdochs: Screaming tantrums, nannies discarded by the side of the road on a whim, no benefits, unpaid overtime, young girls body-shamed by their mother—and near abandonment for workers injured on the job.
    __
    Ying-Shu Hsu spent more than year as a full-time Chinese tutor and nanny to Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng’s daughters, Chloe and Grace. Six years ago, while holding then 2-year-old Chloe in her arms, she tripped over a tricycle in the Murdochs’ Beverly Hills home and fractured her knee, causing permanent damage. Unable to work and cut off from workers’ compensation benefits owing to the Murdochs’ shoddy paperwork, Hsu was sent packing with a severance payment and told never to contact the family again. She sued the Murdochs unsuccessfully for damages in 2007 (the lawsuit has never been previously reported), and has never been able to work since. She lives off Social Security now.

  2. 2
    joel hanes says:

    Didn’t Dunbar have flies in his eyes?

    That’s the way I remember it …

  3. 3
    Violet says:

    Mr. Romney has taken a hands-on role. He checks in with Ms. Myers roughly every other day to discuss his thinking. And the candidate, a Harvard-trained lawyer, reviews some of the background information himself.

    Reminds me of Dilbert’s pointy-haired boss.

  4. 4
    Valdivia says:

    Fantastic analysis Tom. I particularly like the fact that you threaded all the different clues to that one final point: his smallness and insecurity. I think that coupled with an out-sized but extremely fragile ego makes him fairly dangerous.

  5. 5
    Gin & Tonic says:

    Hasn’t the entire trajectory of Willard’s career been the avoidance of personal risk?

  6. 6
    The Bobs says:

    Mr. Romney has said he will disclose federal tax returns covering two years by Election Day,

    I’m pretty sure he has never promised to release the 2011 return by election day. He has been very weasely about this.

    Carly Fiorina for VP! The CEO nation!

  7. 7
    ShadeTail says:

    I’m tempted to agree with your analysis, and yet, most of it reads like we’re just projecting our biases onto Romney. For example, being a top-down manager doesn’t necessarily mean that he hoards the information to himself, or that the individual departments are entirely isolated from each other. And do we really know his VP short-list, or was that just a load of speculation by the Times? And so on and so on.

    I have to go with DougJ here. This article really wasn’t useful at all.

  8. 8
    joes527 says:

    It is exactly the kind of musing that both DougJ rightfully sneers at.

    There are two of them??

  9. 9
    MattF says:

    It’s worth looking at this sort of thing. Remember, e.g.,– Bush selected Cheney, then thought to be the kind of ‘older and wiser’ advisor that Bush needed, to manage the process of making the VP choice in 2000. And… Cheney recommended himself. I don’t recall if that gave me the creeps at the time, but it should have.

  10. 10
    joes527 says:

    @The Bobs:

    Carly Fiorina for VP! The CEO nation!

    California’s vote is already in on her.

  11. 11
    KG says:

    Here’s the thing I don’t get about the Veepstakes… Ultimately, you’re choosing the person who would be responsible for the government in the event that you die. The Vice-President basically has two jobs: cast a tie breaking vote (irrelevant since you need 60 for cloture and Republicans don’t believe in letting a majority govern anymore), and waking up each morning and calling the Oval Office to ask how the president is feeling.

    That’s it.

    Anything else he does is based entirely on the president’s prerogative. I remain of the position that it’s a shit job that no self-respecting politician with any sort of remaining ambition would ever want. Granted, from the sounds of it, Romney is looking for a politician with no self-respect and no ambition, which eliminates, what? 99.9999% of them today?

  12. 12
    Tom Levenson says:

    @joes527: DougJ and his evil troll-twin?

    Actually, just an artifact of an earlier, incomplete edit, now fix’s.

  13. 13
    Trakker says:

    Nice analysis. Now I’m even more freaked out at the thought of this guy running our country, but at the same time I understand why Obama has been smiling more lately. I can’t wait for the debates!

  14. 14
    ding dong says:

    What I wondr about ROMNEY is that he has known for at least six years about his presidential run. Why would one not bite the bullet and pay taxes like normal for the last four years. Its greed ofcourse but I don’t want a president who is not taking a long view but a short Wall Street next quarter vision. Keep in mind Romney if he was to win the presidency would quickly make back any taxes he paid at least ten times over,not to speak of the money his sons would make by being SOMs. The man has 250 million bucks so he was not going to see a change in lifestle.

  15. 15
    Jay in Oregon says:

    @Gin & Tonic:
    Which makes it all the more baffling why he wants to be President.

    There is no staying on the proverbial letterhead to keep potential investors happy when the economy shits itself again. You don’t get to “retroactively retire” from being POTUS when your pet shooting war with Iran kicks off World War III.

    I said it a couple of days ago; I think Romney really believes that the POTUS job is kind of a ceremonial thing. You make with the occasional speechifying at the State of the Union, make personal appearances here and there to shore up business deals, but for the most part his staff runs things while he plays with the grandkids.

  16. 16
    shortstop says:

    @The Bobs: Well, there’s this:

    Mitt Romney’s campaign said today that Romney is requesting an extension on his 2011 tax returns — the same day that President Barack Obama released his 2011 tax returns.

    Obama’s campaign also called on Romney to release more of his tax returns. In a statement, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said that Romney would do so “sometime within the next six months.”

    “Sometime in the next six months, and prior to the election, Gov. Romney will file and release the 2011 return when there is sufficient information to provide an accurate return,” Saul wrote, according to The Huffington Post. The HuffPo points out that six months would be Oct. 13, which would be just weeks before the election on Nov. 6.

  17. 17
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    Tip of the double national default to the Philip IV of Spain, author of “How to Destroy a World Super Power in Twenty Years or Less” reference Tom.

  18. 18
    KG says:

    @MattF: I thought Cheney actually recommended someone else, but Bush decided he really wanted Cheney. And Cheney, on paper at least, wasn’t a bad choice… he’d served in the House, he’d been Defense Secretary, and he’d served on the White House staff, that’s a pretty solid resume for a Vice President. It didn’t quite work out that way, so, maybe it’s just best to pull a name out of a hat and make a phone call.

  19. 19
    schrodinger's cat says:

    The Republican ticket for 2012 The Boring and the bland. I still think Romney is going to pick someone who can excite the base, Palin II, for example. Neither Pawlenty nor Portman seem capable of throwing red meat to the base.

  20. 20
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    I doubt Mitt would be the sort to give patronage to a modern day Velazuez.

  21. 21
    c u n d gulag says:

    Not that I was great, but I learned (mostly by myself) when I was a Training Manager in the corporate world, that when I hired other Trainers and support staff, I always, ALWAYS, hired to my weaknesses – which are technical knowledge and organization.

    I’m a thinker, a planner, a dreamer, and a good presenter – keeping track of sh*t is something I hate to do, and don’t do well.

    So, I hired people who would be good Trainers personally, but also who could help me comprehend technical things better, and who like to take care of the day-to-day tracking.

    I then praised them to others for their efforts and contributions.
    Nothing made me happier than when one of the staff got moved-up – even if it meant they left the company.

    Mitt sounds like he’s looking for a Mini-me.

    And, too often, that’s what happens in the corporate world. A bunch of like-minded little sharks, managed by a big shark, waiting for the big guy to get fired, move, leave, or die.

  22. 22
    Valdivia says:

    @Jay in Oregon:

    I think it’s much worse than that: I think he really thinks he can run the country like a company he just took over. Fire everyone, take out lots of debt to make his peeps rich and then see his creative destruction explode over the US. The people affected? Who cares?

  23. 23
    the Conster says:

    So, we’re supposed to read all that and then believe that for three years he was signing his name as CEO and Sole shareholder to documents that attach him to a ton of personal liability, but he didn’t know anything that was going on. Uh huh.

  24. 24
    Amir Khalid says:

    Philip IV (I pronounce it Philip eye vee) looks uncannily like Herman Munster with a fancy hairdo.

    Tell me that Obama’s discipline vs. McCain’s flailing at the point of the Lehman collapse didn’t offer some real insight.

    Colin Powell specifically cited this comparison when he announced his endorsement of Obama. He called it “a kind of final exam” for the candidates.

  25. 25
    feebog says:

    So it comes down to T-Paw, Portman, Ryan or Jindal. I think T-Paw will be left at the altar once again. For the Romneybot 2.0 loyalty is a one way concept. Portman carries the baggage of being Bush the Lesser’s finance guy. Good luck selling that to the American public again. Ryan would seem to be a good match. Until he has to start explaining that whole “lets eliminate Medicare and go to vouchers thingy. Which leaves Jindal. One of the least appealing and photogenic politicians ever. He is the right color, but once the Romneybot 2.0 discovers that not all brown people come from Mexico, it may not work out so well.

  26. 26
    MattF says:

    @KG: Quick search confirms that’s what Cheney says in his book. I stand corrected, supposing Evil Dick was telling the truth.

  27. 27
    General Stuck says:

    It is exactly the kind of musing that DougJ rightfully sneers at. You have been warned.

    DougJ don’t surf. Everyone muses something. Sometimes it is about nothing more than the shape of a given pundits navel.

  28. 28
    liberal says:

    @KG:

    I remain of the position that it’s a shit job that no self-respecting politician with any sort of remaining ambition would ever want.

    Mostly agree, but my impression is that it’s a potential springboard to the presidency (Bush 41, Al Gore’s attempt, …)

  29. 29
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    Personally I think Bain Gate is a bit of a test to. Shows how Mittens responds in to a threat, which seems to be whine a lot while people poke him with sticks for the fun of it and then throw a tantrum.

    I am inspired.

  30. 30

    Good luck with that!

    (Reuters) – As Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney faces a withering attack over outsourcing and layoffs by his former firm, Bain Capital, employees at a Bain-owned company are appealing to Romney to stop their jobs being shipped overseas.

    Must be a bunch of overpaid union workers – slash – Obama campaign hires.

  31. 31
    shortstop says:

    @feebog: Will it matter so much that Portman was Bush’s finance guy? He wasn’t exactly a high-profile figure in the administration, known well to the public. I still think it will be he.

  32. 32
    JGabriel says:

    __
    __
    Tom Levenson @ Top:

    I get a picture of compartmentalization, organizational secrecy, no chance for anyone within the organization to cross-fertilize thinking, and, most important, one in which all the lines of information and power are absolutely retained by one man only. That may work in business (though it very often does not).

    One could argue that it didn’t work that well for Romney despite his millions, at least in comparison to his financial peers.

    Think about it. If RMoney were as successful as his peers, then, after 25 years (1977-2002) leading a finance company, he should be worth billions, not millions. Of 67 deals while RMoney was in charge of Bain, 70% of the profits came from just 10. This is not a man with the golden touch.

    .

  33. 33
    scav says:

    If he nominates his wife as VP, then he can legitimately claim to be the VP spouse and thus technically above having to release those pesky little tax forms.

  34. 34
    Bob2 says:

    I disagree with DougJ here. Sometimes you can glean pieces of a puzzle from process stories. The only trick is to not make too much of them, but from a collected body of evidence.
    What can we tell about Romney’s character? Quite a bit honestly if it corroborates with other information we learn about him via personal stories (picking on gays in school, dressing up as a police officer as a prank, Ann claiming to be poor and having to sell stock to survive, etc.)

    Like if you read through all the stories about George W. Bush, you’d find he was a notoriously thin-skinned person who was not very introspective but who also flamed out badly in business and was bailed out by Daddy’s connections.
    Or McCain’s general irresponsibility when it came to flying airplanes (badly) and other stories, you came to find out that the man has a horrible temperament when things don’t go his way.

    On an oddly related note:
    http://www.grantland.com/blog/.....lan-theory
    Fuck the Knicks.

  35. 35
    The Moar You Know says:

    Which leaves Jindal. One of the least appealing and photogenic politicians ever. He is the right color, but once the Romneybot 2.0 discovers that not all brown people come from Mexico, it may not work out so well.

    @feebog: My money, if I had any, would be on Pirush as well. His voice alone is going to cost them a few votes, though. He sounds like the weasel I suspect he is.

  36. 36
    KG says:

    @liberal: it’s a strange sort of thing. Two term VPs tend to have an easy walk to the nomination (Nixon in 60, Bush in 88, Gore in 2000), but two of those three lost. If you lose re-election, your chance of getting the nomination drops (Mondale is the only recent example I can think of). And if you don’t win the first time, you’re pretty much screwed.

  37. 37
    Keith G says:

    One should not be too concerned with what DougJ hates, since he does so with such extraordinary ease.

  38. 38
    shortstop says:

    @The Moar You Know: If you insist on using the name Jindal doesn’t use, it’s Piyush. But I think calling people things they don’t call themselves is pretty much a GOP trick. Just ask Hussein Obama.

  39. 39
    Anya says:

    @joes527: And a BJ conspiracy theory is born.

  40. 40
    shortstop says:

    @Anya: Please, Doug is half the trolls with whom BJ regulars earnestly argue all day long.

  41. 41
    liberal says:

    @KG:
    Yeah, those odds aren’t anything like 80%, but for some people it’s still worth it. Then again, in many ways it really much be a shitty job etc as you point out.

  42. 42
    Maude says:

    @Jay in Oregon:
    Romney wants to have an awesome time and be powerful.

    I hope John is okay.
    My concern is his Dad, Rosie with the ear and if he has power.
    Haven’t seen any tweets.

  43. 43
    JGabriel says:

    @The Bobs:

    I’m pretty sure he has never promised to release the 2011 return by election day. He has been very weasely about this.

    Yep. As far as I can recall, Romney has only promised to release his 2011 returns when they were “ready”.

    .

  44. 44
    liberal says:

    @Keith G:
    Doesn’t hate the banksters enough for my tastes.

  45. 45
    liberal says:

    @JGabriel:
    I read an analysis on some blog somewhere in light of all the recent Bain/tax stuff that he might be worth much more than we think he is.

  46. 46
    Culture of Truth says:

    Most of these stories made think more positively about Romney, not less.

    This is his VP, it’s not micromanaging to be highly involved, and sure it’s a secret, since a surprise announcement is catnip to media and will take a week of election-cycle coverage.

    And it’s arguably to Romney’s credit that he’s not thinking of shoring up his weaknesses, to “balance” to ticket to win, but first ensuring he doesn’t foist an incompetent dumbass on the the nation, his party and his own candidacy, and yes, in the event he actually wins, it should be someone he trusts and gets along with.

    Sounds like Portman to me, but who knows?

  47. 47
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Jay in Oregon:
    I think you’re on to something here: that Mitt only wants the President’s title, not the job. Well, there are countries with that kind of ceremonial presidency — Germany, Italy, Singapore. Mitt might try emigrating to one of those places.

  48. 48
    catclub says:

    John Thune, bland.

    no faults like Pawlenty or Jindal
    no links to Bush like Portman
    not a brighter star like Ryan

  49. 49
    Violet says:

    @Maude: I hope he’s okay too. It does seem to be eerily quiet from him.

  50. 50

    One thing I am not seeing addressed in all this speculation about why Romney would bother with trying to buy the Presidency, with all its headaches and vulnerabilities, when he could go on being a multibillionaire with no such troubles, is the prophetic angle. Romney may well believe he is the fulfillment of prophecy, the “man on a white horse” who will arrive at the Republic’s darkest moment (no pun intended, I’m sure) to salvage the U.S. for the One True Faith. Even if Mr. Dead Fetus Disposal doesn’t personally buy the hype (and that remains unproven) Anyone who believes that religious motivation is not a factor here is fooling herself.

  51. 51
    Punchy says:

    Why does Rombot’s veep have to “fundraise” when Adelson and Wynn and Koch have all pledged billions regardless?

    Shorter: who gives a fuck about a $30K plate when the Kochs will just hand you a check for $1 bill straight up?

    Wouldn’t they be better off giving out FREE dinners to middle class Americans in the hope of buying their votes, instead of sucking the junk of semi-rich nobodies to get pocket change compared to what the mega-rich have promised?

  52. 52
    shortstop says:

    @JGabriel: See this. Can he get another extension? I’ve never known anyone who tried for more than one, so don’t know if they’re available.

  53. 53
    Culture of Truth says:

    adding, a VP choice is not the time for risk-taking

  54. 54
    Calouste says:

    competent, capable and willing to serve this country.”

    I have said this before, but I don’t think Romney will be able to find a Democrat willing to share his ticket.

  55. 55
    liberal says:

    @Bob2:
    It’s not clear to me Bush’s evil was apparent from his flaws at the outset. (NB: at the time I thought he’d be at least as bad as some of us predicted.)

    First, my impression is that Bush’s actual native IQ was higher than most people give him credit for, insofar as I’ve heard he had appeared to be much smarter…his decline perhaps due to long-term neurological effects of his substance abuse.

    Second, I don’t think his particular combination of narcissism and sociopathy was entirely evident.

  56. 56
    Violet says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    I think you’re on to something here: that Mitt only wants the President’s title, not the job.

    So it’s Mitt who’s the male Palin (the Malin), instead of Paul Ryan? Or is just-wanting-the-title-not-the-job a Republican trait?

  57. 57
    Culture of Truth says:

    He had the President’s title at Bain. Didn’t do anything with back then, either.

  58. 58
    Culture of Truth says:

    Romney / Thune 2012
    “Head and Shoulders”

  59. 59
    Steeplejack says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Hasn’t the entire trajectory of Willard’s career been the avoidance of personal risk?

    This, exactly. Apparently everything has been calibrated not to threaten his run at the ultimate prize–the presidency. But now that he’s at the big show and he has to roll the dice, he can’t do it, because the ingrained habits of a lifetime have calcified and paralyzed him. All he can do is continue to defer and put off the risk. For what?! There is no “after” after this.

  60. 60
    shortstop says:

    @The Very Reverend Crimson Fire of compassion: Maybe. Seems more likely it’s just plain old secular ego.

  61. 61
    Violet says:

    @Calouste: Can you imagine the teabagger meltdown if Mittens picked a Democrat for the VP spot? It would almost make it worth it.

  62. 62
    catclub says:

    @scav: No can do. Cheney had to re-establish residency in Wyoming to run as VP.

    Cannot have Prez and VP from same state. Its constitushul
    and biblical.

  63. 63
    MikeJ says:

    Bill Clinton couldn’t manage his way out of…well, I’m not going to supply a noun there, I think

    He was a very good governor in Arkansas, which is a much more hands on job than president. I think a lot of people underestimate Clinton and think he was nothing but charisma. He really was a very hard worker, and a very smart guy too.

    Which doesn’t mean I don’t wish he’d handled many things differently, but I’d guess he’s also a very able manager.

  64. 64
    Culture of Truth says:

    what’s over/under on the Romney campaign somehow screwing up the annoucement of his VP choice?

  65. 65
    shortstop says:

    @Steeplejack:

    Apparently everything has been calibrated not to threaten his run at the ultimate prize—the presidency

    How so? Every financial decision he’s made for the last 30 years–from specific Bain deals to choice of investments to types of tax shelters–has threatened his run at the ultimate prize. Yet he refused to delay gratification or any percentage of profit to improve the optics and make that run safer.

  66. 66
    Maude says:

    @Violet:
    I am not a worrier.
    I am concerned about him.
    This is the second day I have posted about John.
    It’s 100 here and I’m hot.
    And a whiner.

  67. 67
    scav says:

    At a certain level, one does seem to start collections things. So, maybe he’s going with titles instead of stamps. He’s up for Olympian contender and President this year: ticking off the knighthood box might take a little more planning on his part and a different govt in England. Some Honorary PhDs would be easier to get but don’t have the panache.

  68. 68
    Jay C says:

    @Jay in Oregon:

    Yep, kinda like a 21st-Century Eisenhower: though with, I think, a major difference which I’ll FTFY here:

    I said it a couple of days ago; I think Romney really believes that the POTUS job is kind of a ceremonial thing. You make with the occasional speechifying at the State of the Union, make personal appearances here and there to shore up business deals, but for the most part his staff Congressional Republicans and GOP governors run things while he plays with the grandkids.

    Which I find the most truly frightening aspect of a potential Romney Presidency…

  69. 69
    The Moar You Know says:

    If you insist on using the name Jindal doesn’t use, it’s Piyush. But I think calling people things they don’t call themselves is pretty much a GOP trick. Just ask Hussein Obama.

    @shortstop: Exactly my goal, and thank you for the correction. Piyush.

  70. 70
    scav says:

    @catclub: With all their houses? And, look at the tricky SEC things they did with UT and MA. Easily within their reach.
    (/snark)

  71. 71
    JGabriel says:

    @liberal:

    I read an analysis on some blog somewhere in light of all the recent Bain/tax stuff that he might be worth much more than we think he is.

    That would make sense. But he would have to be worth 10 to 20 times his claimed worth to match his peers in the finance industry.

    .

  72. 72
    Nemesis says:

    Withering attacks regarding Bain? Ive yet to witness a withering attack. The WH has simply asked questions in a polite manner. No yelling. No CT bullshit. Just this: do what all politicians do when running for higher office by releasing at least 20 years of tax info and explain your relationship to Bain in the years 1999-2002. That aint asking much.

    If this is withering attacks, we must be using Dem spinlesness as a calibration standard. No. These beatings will continue with surgical precision. Message discipline.

    The VP pick will be Portman. He was gwb’s #1 guy on budget AND for trade. The gop will convince themselves that Portman can deliver Ohio. With some help from voter disenfranchisement, he just might pull it off.

    Furthermore, look forward to the presidential debates. Obama will come across as smooth and informed. Im expecting mittbot to appear more rigid, while failing to connect with voters cause they are smelly and dirty and just gross.

  73. 73
    Martin says:

    @shortstop:

    How so? Every financial decision he’s made for the last 30 years—from specific Bain deals to choice of investments to types of tax shelters—has threatened his run at the ultimate prize. Yet he refused to delay gratification or any percentage of profit to improve the optics and make that run safer.

    The alternative thesis is that Romney didn’t anticipate Citizens United, and believed he would need to self-finance his run, which he might well be able to do.

    Looking at Romney in a 2008 fundraising frame, he’d have a lot of problems as he can’t easily get the usual GOP donors to pony up, and the guys with the really deep pockets were capped. He’s not going to get there through small dollar donors. The big financial runup might have been done to maximize his competitive chances once he got here, but CU rendered it moot, and leaves him instead with a liability.

  74. 74
    JGabriel says:

    @Jay in Oregon:

    I think Romney really believes that the POTUS job is kind of a ceremonial thing. You make with the occasional speechifying at the State of the Union, make personal appearances here and there to shore up business deals, but for the most part his staff runs things while he plays with the grandkids.

    I think Romney views the Presidency as a way to help Bain, and his wealthy friends, the way Cheney helped Halliburton.

    But even more so … because P > VP!

    .

  75. 75
    Calouste says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    In Germany, the President is cermonial, but he (it has never been a she AFAIK) is also considered the moral conscience of the nation, which is why the previous German President resigned this year after allegations of corruption surfaced. Romney is far too dodgy to even be remotely considered as German President.

  76. 76
    Martin says:

    @shortstop:

    But I think calling people things they don’t call themselves is pretty much a GOP trick. Just ask Hussein Obama.

    Or Willard Romney.

  77. 77
    shortstop says:

    @Martin: Could be, but even so, it was naive as hell for them to think the oppo wouldn’t make hay with all this stuff. And apart from all the other ways CU sucks, it’s a source of great sadness to me that Romney isn’t draining the animatronic sons’ inheritance to pay for this campaign.

  78. 78
    shortstop says:

    @Martin: But I don’t call him that (though I did laugh when he insisted that Mitt is his “real first name” — is there nothing he won’t lie about?). Kind of a pet peeve of mine that people use other people’s discarded names as weapons. Especially–especially–when they’re highlighting the other person’s supposed foreignness/un-Americanness, as people who say “Hussein” and “Piyush” are attempting to do.

  79. 79
    Mudge says:

    An aspect of all this that is undermused upon is the role a vice president would play for a man most of the Republican Party dislikes. It has always been assumed that Cheney was VP to keep Bush in line for the bosses. Romney seems to be scared of his base, his base dislikes him, thus the best choice for VP is someone the base loves who will be able to control Romney. The choice may not actually be up to Romney.

  80. 80
    rlrr says:

    @Mudge:

    From what I’ve heard, it wasn’t up to McCain 2008.

  81. 81
    Redshift says:

    @liberal:

    First, my impression is that Bush’s actual native IQ was higher than most people give him credit for, insofar as I’ve heard he had appeared to be much smarter…his decline perhaps due to long-term neurological effects of his substance abuse.

    I never thought Bush was stupid — you can’t be that good a campaigner if you’re stupid. I agree with Molly Ivins assessment “not stupid, but willfully ignorant and proud of it.”

  82. 82
    Yutsano says:

    @shortstop: Nope. Everybody can get one. But only one.

  83. 83
    shortstop says:

    @Yutsano: Thanks. So his tax tail is really in a crack.

  84. 84
    SatanicPanic says:

    @The Moar You Know: There’s plenty of reasons to make fun of Bobby without getting into his furrinner name. The problem with doing that is that plenty of people on our side have those kinds of names and they may not be amused.

  85. 85
    Hoodie says:

    Mitt is an acquirer, and he views the White House as just another acquisition. He could give a shit what happens afterward. Like he did at Bain, the current attempt to acquire the White House involves incurring debt, this time in the form of mortgaging your credibility by lying out your ass. Who cares if it leaves you completely unable to do the job once you win? He did the same in his other attempts at public office. Mitt really doesn’t know how to run anything and, or importantly, he really doesn’t care about running anything, because he has no vision other than acquiring. For example, after acquiring it, he ran the MA governorship into the ground, abandoning a milestone health care plan rather than capitalizing on it.

  86. 86
    Mudge says:

    @rlrr: That may be true, but not because Palin could control McCain. I find it impossible (and happily so) to put myself in the mindset that would see Palin as a choice, much less the best choice.

  87. 87
    Steeplejack says:

    @shortstop:

    I think he saw those as “private” decisions that would never have to be revealed, separate from his political calculations. Short-sighted, even idiotic, yes, and I agree with you that he couldn’t help himself.

  88. 88
    JoyfulA says:

    @Redshift: In considering GW’s IQ, recall that he didn’t make the cut at the University of Texas law school (and LSATs were mostly a verbal IQ test) and had to get a legacy MBA.

  89. 89
    Steeplejack says:

    @Martin:

    Good point.

  90. 90
    Roger Moore says:

    @c u n d gulag:

    I then praised them to others for their efforts and contributions.

    I think this is a key. I think you can tell a lot about an organization by how managers are treated when they praise their employees. In a well run organization, the job of managers is to find good people and turn them loose to do the real work. When you praise the people who work for you for doing a good job, you’re indirectly tooting your own horn for hiring and supporting such good subordinates. If you try to steal their thunder, you’re not just denying them credit, you’re also implying that you’re a bad manager who’s trying to do too much by yourself. If you’re in the kind of organization where managers praise their employees, you know there’s a functional management culture; if managers hog credit, it’s a sign of disfunctional management.

  91. 91
    shortstop says:

    @Steeplejack: I’ve spent way too much time lately trying to get into the mindset that allows someone to think all this wouldn’t have to come out. It’s a level of entitlement, insularity and privilege we haven’t seen before, even in a parade of entitled candidates. Just mind blowing.

  92. 92
    Bob2 says:

    @liberal:

    All you have to do is sift through all the pieces from the era and reports about Bush’s management and governing style. The media was largely in the tank though at that point against Gore from using Drudge as their go-to page every morning (Gore invented the Internet!) and character stories about Bush barely got any play. His thin-skinned nature was pretty well known then and that never translates well to good governance.

    I never made any claims about his IQ, but rather about his lack of character.

    The thing is that you can find information about McCain, Bush etc. whatever and come to a judgement, but the election media is too interested in horserace news to focus long on pieces that tell you exactly who a person is and how they will govern.

    Also, Krugman from that era on the extraordinary Bush campaign lies. http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.c.....elections/

  93. 93
    Kathy in St. Louis says:

    What I really, really don’t like here is that all the characteristics of personality that you list here could lead to a disatrous foreign policy. This would seem to be a man who would want to prove how tough he is at the first possible opportunity, which could lead to a confrontation with Iran, interference in Syria, duke out with Pakistan, or some other disaster. He would seem to be the type of guy who would be ripe for a behind the scenes ear whisperer like Cheney, whose new heart could keep him around to screw things up for easily 8 more years. I know this sounds like a lot of reading into, but insecure people with no real sense of self do lots of harm in this world in an attempt to prove themselves.

  94. 94
    Steeplejack says:

    @shortstop:

    I don’t disagree. Another set of calcified, paralyzing structures in which Romney is trapped.

  95. 95
    liberal says:

    @Redshift:
    Yeah, certainly even w/o early onset dementia, Bush is a canonical example of someone whose knowledge and curiosity is less than his IQ merits.

  96. 96
    gene108 says:

    @feebog:

    Which leaves Jindal.

    I’m not sure Jindal would want to hitch his wagon to Romney.

    Jindal is still fairly popular as governor and could probably leverage his statewide popularity to a long career in the Senate.

    Then, if things open up, he can take his shot at being President.

  97. 97
    liberal says:

    @Bob2:

    The thing is that you can find information about McCain, Bush etc. whatever and come to a judgement, but the election media is too interested in horserace news to focus long on pieces that tell you exactly who a person is and how they will govern.

    I think you have to be pretty careful with the character stuff. IMHO if you look at the top politicians/business people/etc anywhere, anytime, most of them (even ones we approve of) probably have personality issues which if we could dig deep enough would make them very unlikeable people at a personal level—I don’t see how you can be that successful in those positions w/o that (most of the time).

    Of course, what we care about is character, insofar as it affects policy preferences and tactical leadership that we care about.

    With Bush, like I say I was pretty aghast at an early date, but the criminality (*) and sheer sociopathy of the Iraq invasion and the way the occupation was conducted still (IMHO) went beyond what I think most of us would have predicted. Not to say the invasion at all surprised me, but the degree of carelessness was beyond what I did expect.

    Also, Krugman from that era on the extraordinary Bush campaign lies.

    Yeah, I know—I spent hours making a very detailed and what I had hoped would be useful summary of Krugman’s book on that.

    The really scary thing is that while I do think Mittens is much smarter than Bush, at this point I’d predict he could be roughly as awful a president.

    As for McCain, I’m not sure how much of it was policy stuff or character issues, but I really think we ran a non-trivial risk (i.e., low, but not nearly as low as it should be considering the stakes) of a shooting war with Russia, given his position on the Georgia mess.

    ——

    (*) I go well beyond those who are sqeamish about impeaching Bush for the Iraq invasion and think (literally) that he should be hanged for war crimes (for waging an aggressive war). But that’s just me.

  98. 98
    Roger Moore says:

    @catclub:

    Cannot have Prez and VP from same state. Its constitushul
    and biblical.

    Technically not true. It’s that the electors in the Electoral College can’t vote for both a President and VP from their state. In practice, most candidates make a serious run for their home state, so they want to pick a VP from a different state so the electors from their home state can vote for the same VP candidate as the rest of the country. If Romney is willing to blow off Massachusetts- and let’s face it, if he wins there, he’s winning in a national landslide- he could pick his wife as his VP candidate.

  99. 99
    Martin says:

    @shortstop:

    Could be, but even so, it was naive as hell for them to think the oppo wouldn’t make hay with all this stuff.

    Maybe not naive. That may have been a conscious tradeoff – I’ll have this liability, but I’ll also have this greater benefit to deal with the liability. Nothing EVER happens in politics that doesn’t have that tradeoff.

    Keep in mind that Romney’s biggest challenge wasn’t going to be winning the general – it was going to be winning the nomination, where the party bosses and insiders were going to be pulling for not-Romney. We’ve all noted his liabilities with the GOP. Campaign fund independence is an important way to get through the primaries when the party doesn’t want you in them. See Ron Paul. See Barack Obama. You can’t win the gold medal if you don’t make the team (as Romney learned in 2008), and in the context of the primaries, these liabilities are relatively small. Not many people will care.

    Yeah, once you get to the general, it all comes out and it all looks like shit, but at least you got there. You can deal with those other problems once you’ve arrived, once the party is stuck with you. But that’s the nature of politics as well and Mitt would have learned these lessons from his dad – you reach a point where the candidate is the one carrying the big stick. Unfortunately, Mitt is making poor use of it as compared to Obama in 2008. He got here, but the pieces aren’t coming together.

  100. 100
    gene108 says:

    @liberal:

    The really scary thing is that while I do think Mittens is much smarter than Bush, at this point I’d predict he could be roughly as awful a president.

    Funny thing with Republicans, going back 50 years, they’ve had a pretty good run at having someone in the White House: Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush, Sr. and Bush, Jr.

    And if you ask Republicans to name a President they like, they inevitably will only say Reagan.

    Just shows how totally ineffectual or outright criminal the other four were, even in the minds of other Republicans.

  101. 101
    Bill says:

    Is there a good running mate for Romney? Given the current state of the Republican party, I’m hard pressed to come up with anyone that I would call a “good” choice.

    Choose a hardline teapartier, run the risk of alienating moderates/independents.

    Choose a moderate, run the risk of alienating the crazy base.

    At least another bland white guy probably doesn’t alienate as many potential voters. Of course, it probably doesn’t move the needle much in his direction either.

    Watching the R’s have to deal with the current state of their party is quickly becoming one of my favorite pass times.

  102. 102
    Bob2 says:

    @liberal:
    There were serious nontrivial character flaws about Bush even before the first election, not least of which was his intellectual incuriosity and troubling statements about governing (gut! shoot from the hip sort of guy! instinct!). And then you go back and look at his business and governing record and cringe. He was touted as a business president, but good fucking lord, Gore never bothered attacking that, and Bush had the sense to seal most of his Texas records.

    All I said is that you can corroborate the sort of pieces DougJ dislikes with biographies, actual data and personal statements by people who know him. If it all checks out, it’s not going to be a particularly good exec.

    I think we roughly agree here anyway except that I really really thought Bush would be a disaster before you did….given his campaign talk of privatizing SS and tax cuts. 9/11 just gave him carte blanche to do anything he wanted and Democrats would cave.

  103. 103
    Bill says:

    @shortstop: I think Mitt thought he lived in an America where any profitable decision is considered the right decision. Turns out that may not be entirely true, but let’s face it there’s a huge part of the voting poulation that still lives in that America.

  104. 104
    shortstop says:

    @Martin: I’m not convinced that every decision, or even most of the decisions, was/were made with that conscious tradeoff in mind. For one thing, there’s no evidence that he couldn’t have made certain (not all) decisions–and here I’m thinking of specific Bain deals and personal investment choices–that would have been equally profitable without turning off either the base or independent voters.

    For another, we have plenty of indications that Team Romney leaves messaging and damage control to the very last minute, despite having plenty of time (in some cases, many years) to prepare for specific near-certain attacks. In most cases, he’s being hit with the same attacks he’s gotten for years from both Democrats and GOP primary challengers; there’s no reason for a functional campaign not to have improved the response by now or to still be in full reaction mode — even on this blog a fair number of people have penned more saleable defenses than Romney Inc. has come up with! There’s a solid pattern of unpreparedness and deep denial going on that doesn’t really support the idea that it’s all part of a follow-the-plan-and-deal-with-the-problems-after-the-nomination approach.

  105. 105
    John Casey says:

    @KG: 14 of 47 vice presidents have become president, a 30% promotion rate.

    Not bad odds at all, really.

  106. 106
    Bex says:

    @Amir Khalid: Actually I think he wants to be Queen of England.

  107. 107
    Jim Vandewalker says:

    “If death came from Madrid we should all be immortal.”
    –Commonplace in the time of Philip IV

  108. 108
  109. 109
    WaterGirl says:

    @Steeplejack: I loved that article! So Romney might prefer to drop out of the presidential campaign rather than release his tax returns? Wow.

    So it sounds to me like Romney has 3 shitty choices:

    1. drop out of the campaign even though he has long-time ambitions to be president
    3. release the returns that will (likely) shine an unkind light on him & his business dealings
    3. lose the election because he won’t release his returns

    IIRC, Isn’t one of the Alinsky Rules for Radicals to push the other guy into a position where there are no good choices for them?

    Go Team Obama!

  110. 110
    JR in WV says:

    I agree about Geo. W Bush – war criminal, fit only for hanging. Worst president ever! Mindless reactionary fool with some deep-seated mental flaw that both forced him into Iraq, and kept him from allowing the experts to do it right.

    Willard Mitt Romney – would probably be worse at governing; he’s never had to lead people who weren’t beholden to him for their living. The people he would have to lead as President are all volunteers, they could all get more money from the private sector.

    Or civil service, with rules about how they can be treated.

    He would pop if he had to follow the rules of civil service.

  111. 111
    pattonbt says:

    I can’t believe they would consider Portman. I mean Bush’s budget man? The ad’s they write themselves.

    I mean sure, Obama may not have be totes awesome-sauce on the economy, but people still blame Bush way more than O. And put a Bush finance guy on the ticket with Mitt already flailing on the business persona? Double FAIL.

  112. 112
    mpbruss says:

    Every foreign policy “expert” I’ve even seen associated with team Romney has been a neocon. There’s no reason to believe his presidency would be anything different from W’s with regard to foreign policy, at least. Think about that for a moment.

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