Romney’s governance of Massachusetts was marked by being pragmatic rather than ideological. He left a track record of reaching across the aisle. Similarly, Romney’s energy plan focuses on the pragmatic.
In a Forbes artcle, Mark Mills says that Romney’s plan:
Has a shot at succeeding because it reflects technology reality…. His goals appear focused on practical technologies. If ever there were an age that needed a practical President, it is ours. Romney’s plan reflects three indisputable facts. First, hydrocarbons supply 85 percent of what America and the rest of the world consumes, a share that will change little for decades to come based on every credible forecast including our own Department of Energy. Second, hydrocarbons are where the vast majority of current and future energy-related jobs reside. And third, the most important technology progress in energy has occurred with hydrocarbons, making them more abundant, affordable and greener…. Romney also proposes forging an energy alliance with Canada and Mexico, where our collective hydrocarbons resources are some five-fold greater than that of the Middle East.
If North America develops more energy clout than the Middle East, we could see a serious economic dividend and peace dividend, a prospect that seems pretty attractive.
And Romney’s plan also includes facilitating private-sector-led development of new technologies.
Overall, it seems like a plan that a thoughtful moderate could consider supporting.
Artur Davis, formerly a Democratic Representative from Alabama, spoke at the Republican National Convention this year. In 2008, he gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention seconding Obama’s nomination. And he was a co-chair of Obama’s national campaign in 2008. But this year, he attended the Republican National Convention to support Romney.
Davis spoke of his reasons for changing allegiance and challenged Democrats and independents to compare the two candidates and decide which one better measures up to their vision of America.
Do you know why so many of us believed [in Obama in 2008]? We led with our hearts and our dreams that we could be more inclusive than America had ever been, and no candidate had ever spoken so beautifully. But dreams meet daybreak. The jobless know what I mean, so [do] the families who wonder how this Administration could wreck a recovery for three years and counting…. Remember, my friends, the President saying of negative politics and untrue ads, “Not this time?” Who knew “not this time” just meant “not unless the economy is stuck and we can’t run on our record?” Remember when the President said of his own election this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal? Who knew the plain English version of it was, “Middle America, get ready to shell out 60 bucks to fill up your car?”… So, this time, in the name of 23 million of our children and parents and brothers and sisters who are officially unemployed, underemployed, or who have stopped looking for work, let’s put the poetry aside, let’s suspend the hype, let’s come down to earth and start creating jobs again. This time, instead of moving oceans and healing planets, let’s pay our bills down and pay down the debt … so we control our own future. And, of course, we know that opportunity lies outside the reach of some of our people. We don’t need flowery words about inequality to tell us that, and we don’t need a party that has led — while poverty and hunger rose to record levels — to give us lectures about suffering…. Bill Clinton, Jack Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson reached across the aisle and said, “Meet me in the middle,” but their party rammed through a healthcare bill that took over one-sixth of our economy without accepting a single Republican idea, without winning a single vote in either house from a party whose constituents make up half of this country…. This is the dawn before we remember who we are. So, may it be said of this time in our history: 2008 to 2011, lesson learned. 2012, mistake corrected.
If the man who seconded Obama’s nomination has come out in support of Romney, it may be worthwhile for Democrats and independents to evaluate Obama’s promises and his track record and decide if there is a better source for hope and change.
My previous blog entry commented on our national government being broken. With that background, what would be more appealing than a leader with a proven track record as a problem solver? Let’s take a look at Romney’s ability to solve problems in several different arenas.
1. Bain Capital problem solving – Romney’s firm specialized in seeking out troubled companies and turning them around. One of Romney’s detractors, a former member of Obama’s administration, gave a positive review of Romney’s record at Bain Capital:
Overall, Bain Capital’s record was extraordinary, among the best in the business…. Of course, a number of its early stage investments failed. That is the nature of venture capital — an industry not unlike baseball in that a .300 batting average can be an excellent performance. But who can quarrel with an investment firm trying to nurture and finance young companies? The story of the private equity business is somewhat more complicated. Almost by definition, a private equity investment is made with the hope of improving the profitability of the “portfolio company”…. Bain had less than its share of bankruptcies, but it had a few — it appears four — that are particularly troubling…. Let’s be sure to keep these few problem children in perspective. During the Romney years, Bain made 77 significant investments — and a number of smaller ones. It made billions for worthy investors and, yes, doubtless created some incalculable number of net new jobs for the U.S. economy.
2. Home problem solver – Mitt’s son Tagg describes his dad as someone who is constantly trying to solve problems:
“In his spare time, he wants to solve problems,” Tagg Romney said in an interview. “He wants to figure out, when he comes over to your house, he wants to figure out, ‘Well, your boiler’s not working. How are we going to fix the boiler?’ and ‘Have you noticed that some of your trees are dying out there? Why are your trees dying? What’s causing that? Can we figure that out, and can we go down to the hardware store and see if they’ve got something to fix that?’ And all of a sudden you see him driving a tractor in your backyard, and he’s pulling stuff up. He’s like, ‘Oh, these rocks were doing that.’ I mean, that’s just who he is.
3. Olympics turnaround – The Salt Lake Olympics were suffering from scandal ($1 million in bribes) as well as financial problems (projected debt of $397 million), when Romney was asked to take the reins. Romney’s COO at the Olympics praised Romney’s involvement in the Olympic turnaround:
It was in the midst of a scandal, and you only know how dark it was there if you were there…. Prospective sponsors, nobody would answer the phone. We had a budget deficit, the morale was very low…. [Romney] can see into a situation very quickly… He’s very facile with numbers. He’s got that raw intellect which lays a great foundation… He is a blast to work with. He’s very funny, he’s got a wonderful sense of humor; he has endless energy. It’s always hard for people to keep up with him, because he’s going at 90 miles an hour all the time.
In the end, attendance at the Olympics was up compared to previous Olympics, and the budget shortfall turned into a $56 million surplus. And Romney, who had said he would not accept a salary unless the Olympics ended in the black, turned over his Olympics salary to charity.
4. Bain & Company problem solving – Not only did Romney solve problems for companies in which Bain Capital made investments, Romney was also called on to turn around Bain Capital’s parent company (Bain & Company). Bain & Company was suffering from problems with debt and from dissatisfaction among employees and clients. Clay Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, described Romney’s accomplishment in glowing terms:
There’s nobody that I can conceive of who could have come into that fractious situation, and pull that together…. I know Nancy Pelosi very well and I know a number of the Republican leaders…. Pulling those guys together is a lot easier than pulling Bain together.
5. Personal problem solver – Mitt Romney helped members of his congregation with personal problems while he served as a lay pastor in the LDS church. Ronnie Catalano and his wife credit Romney with saving their marriage.
‘Mitt was the one who really stood out. He was always caring about my family, my wife, my children,’ Catalano said in a recent interview. ‘He taught me how to keep my family together.’ ‘He saved us. He rescued us,’ added his wife.
6. Government problem solver – Mitt Romney inherited a state budget that faced a $3 billion shortfall and managed to generate budget surpluses by reducing spending, consolidating government agencies, increasing fees, and closing loopholes. He didn’t change the tax rates but still managed to set the state’s financial house in order. Even staffers who were helping one of his Repbulican opponents admitted Romney had a strong fiscal record in Massachusetts:
I’ve been waiting my entire voting life for a President who would actually follow through on campaign promises of turning around the fiscal disaster of our national deficits. I have been successively disappointed by every Republican and Democratic President in my voting lifetime. With Romney’s track record of establishing fiscal discipline in the Olympics, in the corporate world, and in state government, and his overall record of being a creative problem solver, I’m willing to suspend disbelief for the first time in many years and hope that, finally, we might have a candidate who can pull it off.
Some thoughts on why Rick Perry may not be the most competitive candidate for the general election campaign.
2. Perry’s government subsidy of banks doesn’t inspire confidence in his financial acumen.
An AP article reported that – under Perry’s leadership – Texas subsidized two of the banks that were major contributors to the subprime lending crisis (Countrywide and Washington Mutual) to the tune of $35 million. The article also reported that, after receiving grants from the Texas Enterprise Fund, the two banks increased their risky lending practices, and that the two banks contributed to Perry’s campaign fund. In 2007:
As credit-rating agencies continued downgrading hundreds of billions in mortgage-backed assets on Wall Street, Perry’s spokeswoman described Texas as ‘one of the hottest housing markets in the nation’ and dismissed concerns about the looming economic implosion as ‘slightly alarmist.’
NPR reported that:
Perry has been repeatedly accused of cronyism during his time as Texas governor in which both Perry and companies doing business in or with his state appear to benefit financially from the arrangement.
The allegation that cronyism was behind his 2007 executive order to have 12-year old Texas girls receive the HPV vaccine (his former chief of staff lobbied for the drug maker Merck) is at the heart of that controversy. And there are a number of other allegations that the Texas Enterprise Fund, meant to help bring jobs to Texas, was used to reward companies linked to Perry supporters.
Given the current state of the national economy, it seems that Republicans would be better served to pick a candidate with a more impressive financial resume.