Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It Really Is That Simple, Folks

I am now going to break my self-imposed political silence and post my first screed on the 2012 election. If he happens to read it, this post is dedicated to my good friend Jeff Tone, who blogs as The Liberal Curmudgeon, because although we differ enormously in our political views, we respect the integrity and civility with which we each maintain them.

By now, I suspect so many on the right are sickened by the flat-out partisanship of the drive-by media that they have had it up to here with the latest attempts to pronounce the campaign all but over -- and, as always due to some freshly uttered words of the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney. First he committed the gaffe of telling the Brits that they hadn't done everything he knew they could to prepare for the Olympics in London. (He spoke, of course, from his own experience in organizing a highly successful Olympics in Salt Lake City.)

Next, he spoke out to criticize the Cairo embassy's appeasement towards Muslim radicals just before the attack in Libya, and for the drive-bys, that was both too soon, and unstatesmanlike as well (never point out our weaknesses in public, if you are a politician statesman).

Then, in quick succession, he was caught on a videotape (tracked down by Jimmy Carter's grandson) acknowledging that the 47% of Americans who pay no income tax would probably not be voting for him, and that the Palestinians just are not interested in a two-state solution in which they would co-exist with Israel.

My, oh my -- and these are the words that the media believes make Romney unelectable?

What have we come to, when it comes to the point where such utter nonsense could be put forth as political "wisdom"? Have we all lost our collective common sense?

There is only one viable candidate in this year's election, and his name is Mitt Romney. I do not like that fact, because there are many things about Mitt Romney of which I frankly disapprove. But that realization cannot blind me to this simple truth:

The President of the United States is an executive position -- one of the biggest and most important (if not the biggest and most important) in the world.

Mitt Romney is an executive, with considerable experience as a CEO.

Barack Hussein Obama is not.

Yes, it really is that simple.

We already have had three and a half years of Barack Obama as chief executive, and what have we seen? He is like nothing so much as the boss's son, who grew up partying and playing golf, and then was foisted on the business by his doting father (who then died immediately afterwards).

He has no clue of what it takes to run a business (remember "you didn't build that," anyone?) -- let alone run an entire country. He spends so much time on the golf course or at basketball, and appearing on TV shows and now at continuous fundraisers, that he cannot be bothered to attend intelligence briefings, or to make time to meet with Israel's prime minister on the eve of an impending nuclear war in the Middle East.

And so, given the clear choice between the two candidates, we are now to write off Romney because of some words which he said? Words which were largely close to the objective truth on the ground?

Please. Spare me the inanity.

Good CEOs are known for their efficiency, not for their popularity, or for their media skills. Indeed, most of them try to avoid the media.

Here is the Harvard Business Review magazine's January 2010 list of the 100 greatest CEOs in the world. (The underlying article is here.) As you go through the names (apart from Steve Jobs or Bill Gates), see how many you can even recognize, let alone could have named if told their company.

There is a good reason CEOs are not popular with the public, or the press. They are too busy getting things done to waste time in kowtowing to demands for publicity.  They frequently do not do the "popular" thing -- they do instead what is in the long-term best interest of their company.

A politician like Obama may be able to run his campaign, and even may run a good campaign. But that does not make him a CEO, and I shall tell you why.

A political campaign is not a "business."  Yes, they both exist to sell a product, but there the similarities end. A political campaign is interested in advancing only one point of view -- the candidate's -- and only for a limited time, in the run-up to the election. It cannot afford to be objective, or to take a longer-term view of matters; let alone concede the validity of points made by an opponent. (Can you see Mr. Obama saying this? "Well, yes, Governor Romney does have a point there; I'll admit that.")

A business is in business to deal with everything that comes its way, and is in it for the long haul. A CEO who was capable of seeing only one point of view, or who was focused too much on the shorter term and incapable of adapting on the spot to changed circumstances, would soon lead his company into disaster.

In fact, that is why I would say that Obama is leading America into disaster -- because he cannot see any other point of view but his own, which is bent on the short-term goal of winning re-election, and he cannot adapt to changing circumstances on the ground.  (Such as is happening under his nose with the "Arab Spring," for instance, and with the signs and portents of war.) 

And for his part, Governor Romney may well be running an inept campaign, precisely for the opposite reasons. He is incapable of seeing just one point of view -- he constantly puts himself in other people's shoes, and acts accordingly (just compare his track record of charitable giving with that of President Obama). He cannot stop taking the longer term into account, which is why he does not weigh the cost of speaking the truth (as he did about the Egyptian embassy's foolhardy apology, or about the Palestinians' intransigence on Israel) against what he could gain in the short term by remaining silent.

So for this curmudgeon, at any rate, the choice is clear. And it rarely has been clearer. When is the last time America ever had a true executive as its president? A case could perhaps be made for Dwight D. Eisenhower, but before him, who? George Washington?

America has never before been so big and so unmanageable, and so enmeshed in a complex world. Indeed, even a good CEO like Mitt Romney may not, in the end, be up to the difficult task of putting the country back right.

But I'm willing to give him the chance. To go for the alternative would be to deny the reality of the stark choice that faces us.


  1. AC,

    You, and I, are throwbacks to an age when reality mattered. The most urgent matter is a change in administrations. Otherwise, we will, both domestically and internationally, doing the equivalent of going to war with Neville Chamberlain as president. The most important matter is to fix our educational system. Talk to a sixth or eighth grader about what they are taught. My head spins, both at that, and that parents do not put a stop to it.


  2. An entertaining post Mr Curmudgeon, but not as nice (in the proper sense) as your legal analyses.

    Why? Because a country is not a business (though business skills are clearly relevant to running an economy). A country must care for the welfare of its citizens, and not just for the dividend to share-holders. A country must have a view to its moral condition, not just its profitability.

    And so the leader of a country must take a view on what will promote the well-being of the citizens, and what will keep the social and moral bonds of society functioning well (if only to prevent riots).

    So a leader is quite right to use the media well, in order to put across his moral vision. It is of course up to the voters to decide which of the competing moral visions they prefer.

    But I agree that most politicians have too short-term a view of the world, and won't necessarily take the hard, unpopular but right-for-the-long-term decisions. Such is the nature of Western democracy.

    And finally, you ask when America had a true CEO in charge. You imply "never" as the answer, which is why, presumably, soon after start-up, the "business" collapsed into bankruptcy, with the various parts sold off to foreign consortia, and all the workers migrating to other "businesses" where the prospects were better ...

  3. I agree completely. And then there's the economic argument, which is equally compelling.

    As well as the fast-disintegrating situation around the globe -- the Iranian nuke, Israel, China getting ready to go after Japan (of all things!). When America pulls back, the jackals begin to prowl.

    Alas, as an Anglican you know only too well America is filled with people who are more concerned with gay marriage, the "right" to an abortion, green energy, and any of the other false idols and red herrings are to divert those who are not adults no matter what they're age.

    I pray every day Mitt Romney gets elected in November. Four more years of Obama and we are toast.

    The issue now seems to be whether Romney recognizes and can overcome the fact that the media will give him not one break; he's going to have leverage himself by his own bootstraps to overcome that left-wing antipathy in the media -- and I speak as a veteran thereof.

  4. Bernard Randall, thank you very much for coming here to offer some insights from outside America. There is no doubt that a President who can use the media effectively to communicate his message has an advantage over other Presidents, but at the same time, there is no correlation between media skills and executive competency: even the Great Communicator himself was not that great an executive as President.

    Although a country is much more than a business, as you rightly point out, they both must be operated on similar principles if they are to succeed. America's dollar succeeded to reserve currency status only on the strength of America's past faithfulness to the gold standard. It was poor executive leadership under first LBJ and then Nixon that took America off that standard, and which under successive presidents has led to a now nearly fatal undermining of the world's residual confidence in the dollar.

    We have been suffering as a country for lack of skilled executive leadership. My only point in the above post was that Romney is far more competent in that department than Obama could ever aspire to be (and guess what -- he's not even aspiring to such expertise). He is the true exemplar of the playboy heir foisted on a fading business at just the wrong instant.

  5. If Obama were the GOP candidate instead of the DNC one, the Romney campaign would be uncorking the champagne bottles by now. The media would be predicting a 40 state landslide. Does anyone (rationally, that is) doubt it?

  6. We posted a link within our screed yesterday to the Anglican Curmudgeon, ordering our readers to make the pilgrimmage over to this site. Many positive responses, as usual, about the proprietor of this pub, and the fellows lined up at the bar.
    You all did me proud!
    El Gringo Viejo

  7. We agree on the importance of electing Governor Romney.

    I am gobsmacked, though, (perhaps even disillusioned) at the unhealthy levels of integrity and civility proferred by the two Curmudgeons. Have you both lost all sense of tradition, and the standards expected of any crusty cynic worthy of the Curmudgeon title?

    What's next? Cats sleeping with dogs?

  8. Alan, I’m honored that you have dedicated your post to me. My disagreement with your political views are equaled by my admiration for your engaging writing and your honesty and decency. I take your dedication as a salute across the barricades, so to speak, and not as an attempt to turn me into a Republican. By the way, congratulations on the wedding of your younger daughter. May she and her husband have many years of happiness together.

    Regarding your essay, it really isn’t that simple. Romney’s comments are clear signals that he is not fit to be president. Why is he set on alienating so many? He gratuitously told the English, in the midst of their excitement, that they might not be ready for the Olympics; he said that the Palestinians aren’t interested in peace, despite the fact that, at least in the West Bank, they’ve had the most moderate administration ever under Mahmoud Abbas; he preposterously said that Russia is our “No. I geopolitical foe.” Most disgracefully, he attempted to play politics with the attacks on U.S. embassies that resulted in the loss of life. The statement you refer to was made by frightened occupants of the embassy, which Romney distorted as representing the administration’s sympathy for the attackers.

    Regarding the 47%, the candidate who aspires to represent the nation disparaged almost half the country as refusing to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” Who makes up these households? According to the Tax Policy Center, they are people who work and pay payroll tax; the retired and elderly who aren’t taxed on Social Security benefits, which they earned; and a minority of households that earn less than $20,000 a year.

    I don’t recall conservatives criticizing the considerable amount of time “W” spent on vacation; like the deficit that mushroomed under Bush, the right woke up to the issue of the president’s schedule the minute a Democrat took office. In any event, the idea that a nuclear war is “impending” in the Middle East is subject to considerable controversy in Israel itself, including among its top officials.

    Yes, Romney did get things done at Bain, including buying up companies, loading them with debt and bankrupting them, as well as investing in companies that shipped jobs overseas. And what are we to make of a presidential candidate who parks so much cash in the Caymans and other exotic locales? Then there are those elusive tax returns.

    Romney does indeed have an ability to see multiple points of view–that is, to switch his views based on expediency. It’s clear that the Affordable Care Act is Romney’s Massachusetts health care reform writ large, yet he disavows Obama’s achievement (recently, though, he reversed his avowal of repeal, stating that “there are a number of things I like in health care reform”). He misrepresented himself as a “severely conservative” governor before the CPAC crowd. I’ve read criticisms of Romney in a number of conservative outlets regarding his shifting positions on abortion, gay rights, immigration, gun control and global warming.

    Let’s re-elect, then, the candidate who will not appoint another reactionary to the Supreme Court; who opposes the corruption of our democracy rendered by the Citizens United decision; and who supports a woman’s right to choose; equal pay for women; gay rights, including marriage equality and the ending of DADT; financial regulation; progressive taxation; the preservation of Medicare, in contrast to Ryan’s fraudulent vouchercare; health care reform, and jobs programs. Romney represents nothing more than a reversion to the ruinous domestic and foreign policies of the Bush years. We can’t afford that again.

  9. I awoke chagrined to see my grammatical mistake in the second sentence above, which should have read, "My disagreement with your political views is equaled..."

    That being said, my admiration expressed in the rest of the sentence for the host of this site remains intact–-as much of a shock as that might be to Fradgan above.

  10. "Yes, Romney did get things done at Bain, including buying up companies, loading them with debt and bankrupting them, as well as investing in companies that shipped jobs overseas. And what are we to make of a presidential candidate who parks so much cash in the Caymans and other exotic locales? Then there are those elusive tax returns."

    My Goodness! This could have been copied and pasted directly from one of any hundred of Pro-Obama SuperPACs...and it probably was.

    Mr. Tone: Do you know how many minds you have changed today? Well, certainly not mine.

  11. No, Reformed Reinhardt, I am not in the habit of copying and pasting anything. Take care before making such an insinuation.

    I'll take your comment as an exception to the ordinarily civil tone I find on this blog, including among the majority that regularly disagrees with me.

  12. Jeff, thank you for coming here to make your response to my screed, and to subject that response in turn to the responses of those who regularly comment here. You do not lack the courage to stand up for your views, and I knew I could count on you to present them for us.

    If one tries to be as objective as one can in this situation, I believe that one would have to conclude that my argument was based in logic (the President of the U.S. is a supremely executive position, and Governor Romney is our first candidate who is truly an experienced executive). Your responses to that logic, however, do not attempt to contradict or counter how the logic works. Instead, you argue from the candidates' statements, and how you react to what they say.

    I submit that this is where the country goes wrong, and ends up with so many poor executives (both Republican and Democrat; party affiliation is no predictor of competence). The long campaign season (getting longer and longer every four years) turns the presidential race into a popularity contest, and voters are told (or asked) to vote for the one they like best -- based, of course, on what they say, what they look like, and on how well they present themselves.

    Even when people try to look at what the candidates have done (as you did with Romney's time at Bain, or as I did with Obama's 3 1/2 years thus far as president), the argument often devolves to reactions to what the candidates (or others) say or don't say about what they have done, instead of actually looking at the facts of what they did.

    Nowhere have I seen online an objective analysis of Romney's years at Bain capital and what he actually accomplished there in light of his objectives as its CEO. Instead, I see all kinds of argument (such as yours above) about what Bain did to cause harm to others (as though it should have been a philanthropic organization, and not one formed and designed to create value where there was none before).

    Capitalism can always be criticized on the harm it causes to some people, while hardly ever does one point out its concomitant benefits (such as raising the standard of living by generally making things cheaper through competition). Those benefits are too inconsequential for them to be seen in individual cases.

    It is only when one views those benefits in the aggregate -- as, for instance, what capitalism (or at least as much of it as the government has allowed to function) has done to make the United States the wealthiest and most productive country in the world. And then the individual contributions to that picture, such as Bain's, become in turn too inconsequential to allow them to receive any credit.

    I don't know if there is any solution to all of this. I just know that no good has ever come from making the presidency into a popularity (or beauty) contest.

  13. Fradgan, your astonishment is duly noted, but curmudgeons are allowed to be civil with other curmudgeons -- rather for the same (evolutionary?) reasons that lions or bears do not attack and eat their own kind.

    And as for cats lying with dogs -- I'm not saying it couldn't happen. The Biblical precedent, of course, is wolves with lambs, leopards with goats, lions with oxen, and cows with bears (Isaiah 11:6-7).

  14. Dear Jeff Tone:

    Thanks for your response. I'm glad that you are not accusing Romney of 'killing a woman' or of being the figurative Elizabeth Bathory of Wall Street, etc. :-)

    "...including buying up companies... loading them with debt...bankrupting them...investing in companies...shipped jobs overseas...tax returns..."

    I mean no offense, but I must say that I've heard these utterances nearly verbatim (usually in the same breath) from about a dozen Obama surrogates on the 'news' in the past month, and I've read them (usually in the same sentence) in their various blogs.

    If you must, please wring your hands about 'tone' (a liberal meme that I think most Americans are tired of), but you used a regular Obama 'talking point' against Romney which stems from a common and unquestioned enthymeme of the American left.

    If you didn't 'copy and paste' it, I apologize. However, I must say that I'm not sure how that is somehow exculpatory for you: it indicates to me that you pass Obama messages on uncritically to other people without much scrutiny, all while trying to appear as if you are giving some sort of unvarnished (though liberal) commentary on this election.

    You could have at least worded it differently. But we are all Americans, and we will have to continue to live with one another regardless of who sits in the White House.


  15. PS: In my original post, I said "this could have been..." not, "this was..." There is a big difference, Jeff Tone. Peace be with you.

  16. Reinhardt, I have no reason to seek exculpation. My good friend Alan dedicated his essay to me, and I sensed that he would have appreciated my response. His statement, “I knew I could count on you to present [your views] for us,” leads me to think that I was correct.

    You assume that because I agree with the liberal consensus–or a talking point–about Romney, my agreement must be the result of a lack of scrutiny. I don’t see how you could make that assumption, any more than I could say that a conservative who agrees with the conservative consensus–or a talking point–about Obama is not using his critical faculties. I might disagree with his premises and conclusions; I would not assume, though, that he is mindlessly passing along what he’s been told.

    No, I’m not “trying to appear” as anything. Please don’t patronize me with assumptions about my motivations. It’s also ironic that you should advise me to “word it differently” for the very sake of appearance.

    I realize that you wrote, “this could have been.” What I really object to is your conclusion that I “probably” copied and pasted my thoughts. Picture what you’re actually implying: I “probably” went to an anti-Romney web site, copied some paragraphs, came back to this blog and pasted the paragraphs here–all in an attempt to fraudulently pass off writing, without the use of quotation marks or italics, that is not my own.

    That’s an outrageous charge to make, especially about a total stranger. Thank you for your wishes of peace, but I don’t believe making false, unjustified accusations reflects such good wishes.

  17. Jeff Tone:

    Actually, I really thought I was giving you the benefit of the doubt on this whole overused meme about Romney's time at Bain Capital.

    Two points:

    (1). Forgive me, but how do you explain and reconcile what appears to be a hypocritical judgement on your part? You are using the Obama 'talking point' about Romney 'loading up companies with debt' (which is pretty inaccurate as I shall point out), but you don't want to go near Obama's $5.6 billion in deficit spending, as well as his adding a new entitlement program that by all projections will add more debt?

    (2). The Obama camp's argument that Romney's tenure "at Bain, includ[ed] buying up companies, loading them with debt and bankrupting them, as well as investing in companies that shipped jobs overseas" is one of the most blatant lies of this 2012 campaign. I frankly find it disgusting and it really raises my ire because I thought (1) we celebrated success and achievement in this country, (2) judged individuals (or institutions) by the sum total of their acts and achievements, not demonize them for one or two things that we may not like about them, and (3) the statement is distorted and is nearly libelous.

    Bain invested in companies that were hardly pristine 'mom and pop' operations on Main Street, as the leftist romantic narrative usually goes. These companies were already 'loaded up with debt' and heading towards 'bankruptcy'...Bain invested new capital into these companies, and usually these companies were either saved or transformed into different companies that were profitable again, and Bain created hundreds of thousands of new jobs doing this. (The profit-motive increases jobs...government involvement, except when it opens a stateside military base, usually hinders it.)

    Occasionally, some of Bain's investments failed and the companies went under anyway, and so the investors tried to salvage what was left of their initial capital to invest elsewhere (where it made money and more jobs, rather than going down with a failed company where people were going to lose their jobs anyway). In no way can that be interpreted as "loading [the companies] with debt and bankrupting" them. The companies were already loaded in debt and going under...the new money saved them...Bain took their money back when it was clear the company was failing...from beginning to end, it was THEIR OWN MONEY.

    The Bain 'vampire' myth is a clear mischaracterization by Obama surrogates who have nothing else to campaign on.

    So I guess my question for you is, (1) are you passing along information that you have not examined critically enough, (2) are you a 'true believer' who thinks all businessmen are merely Elizabeth Bathorys in neckties who can't eat their breakfast without first crushing the middle-class, (3) or are you purposely distorting Romney's record at Bain?

    In my softer nature, I thought I was doing you a good turn by assuming the 1st of the 3 possibilities.

    So are there more than those 3 conclusions that I should have reached, but I'm too much of a utilitarian-leaning Republican to see or understand?

    Please explain them to me. But you should confess that the Bain myth is just an Obama desperation tactic (as many Democrats like Bill Clinton and Cory Booker have already said). If you can admit that, then I'll know that you are a reasonable fellow and will stand corrected.

    Blessings and Peace,

  18. Reinhardt:

    The Obama spending binge is a myth. Spending has gone down under Obama; according to the CBO, he has spent less than all presidents from Reagan to Bush II. (To my regret, by the way; as a follower of Keynes, Krugman and Stiglitz, I want more stimulus.) In July, the CBO projected a lowering of the deficit through the Affordable Care Act. The CBO also said that repealing the ACA would increase the deficit by $109 billion over nine years.

    How did Bain load companies with insurmountable debt? It made an initial, relatively small, investment and then borrowed the considerable remainder from investment banks; the company, not Bain, was responsible for the debt, all too often to the point that any hope for revival was lost. This debt–in interest alone–resulted in the destruction of the company and the loss of thousands of jobs. Bain invested in KB Toys for less than $20 million and borrowed several hundred million, for which KB was responsible. KB also had to pay Bain’s millions in management fees. One has to start firing staff and cutting salaries and hours and benefits immediately in order to cope with the mounting debt. KB went bankrupt while Bain extracted millions from the company (more on this from Gingrich below) and pocketed enormous dividends.

    How did a company’s management agree to such destruction in the guise of “restructuring”? Bain bought off their loyalty with lucrative bonuses. The workers got the shaft, but who cares in this brave new Ayn Randian ethos? Let the John Galts of the world prosper! This sordid, corrupt reality, promoted by this hollow presidential candidate, one who mouths insipid platitudes about being a “job creator” and hypocritical bromides about debt, and speaks of his record at Bain with “pride,” disregarding thousands of workers left bereft, many of advanced age with limited skills, absolutely infuriates me. And who, by the way, was saddled with the workers’ pensions? Not Bain, of course; the taxpayers were (I hasten to add that I do not begrudge the workers their pensions). In addition, Bain was a leader in investing in companies that shipped jobs overseas, including to China. Yet Romney has cried crocodile tears about the outsourcing of jobs there and stated that he’d change that.

    You refer to Democrats Clinton and Booker on Bain? Fine. I’ll refer to Republicans Perry and Gingrich. Here’s Gingrich (please note my use of quotation marks to indicate that the following are not my words): “Did they really need to take out $180 million if, leaving $30 [million] or $40 million, the company would have survived, the people would’ve been employed, the jobs would’ve been there? These are places where they made money while the company went broke.”

    This is the only time I have ever agreed with Newt Gingrich.

    I’ve given you the explanation you requested. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time on this blog this week and am finished with this exchange. I’ll close by reminding you again that you stated, without a shred of evidence, that I am “probably” a plagiarist. I objected to this outrageous charge, but you completely ignored my objections. After this dishonorable behavior, you speak of “doing me a good turn” and wish me “Blessings and Peace.” You have so much chutzpah that I almost admire you for it.

  19. Jeff Tone:

    Obama 'the big spender' a 'myth'? Do you swallow every ounce of available Media Matters propaganda?

    I'm only going to comment on one issue, and leave it be.

    According to all the legitimate reports that I have read, the amount of federal debt before Obama took office was a little over $10 trillion. Today, 3 years and 8 months since The One took office, it is now $16 trillion: that is almost $6 trillion in new debt since the beginning of the Obama administration...adjusted, I believe, from the 'savings' from the Iraq war and the TARP repayments (which were part of the Bush deficits).

    If 'Obama the spender in chief' is a myth, than it is the best bit of storytelling that has been invented since Vlad Dracul was morphed into a bloodsucking homicidal undead maniac by Bram Stoker.

    Maybe they'll write the next bestseller. :-)

    Blessings and Peace again...I never say that with my tongue in my cheek, thank you.

  20. Jeff, and Reinhardt: On the matter of Obama's "decreased spending", Reinhardt is correct. The contention that Obama has actually reduced spending in office first appeared in the New York Times, and was based on a misleading set of data that compared the numbers to the first quarter of 2009. Compared to that base (but that base only), yes, spending has gone down, but cumulatively, the totals for all of Obama's years have added more to the deficit than in any other 3.5-year period in the nation's history.

    See the fuller explanation here.

  21. A.S. Haley for the Supreme Court!

    And maybe in a new Romney administration, I could be Secretary of Education...but then on arrival I'm afraid I might find the department such an inept mess-- such a confederacy of dunces, such a maw of bureaucracy that is only about 'education' in name only-- that I might try to salvage the taxpayer dollars that remain (return them to the state educational trust funds) then point the cannon at its own deck and blow a hole in the boat that would scuttle the ship forever with the rest of the Carter ghostship graveyard.

    That would go over very well on CNN I think. :-)