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.
In addition to having an impressive business and government resume, Mitt Romney’s life also provides evidence of altruistic behavior, which is certainly not a bad thing in a candidate for public office.
In the summer of 2003, two of Mitt’s sons were cleaning the beach at Lake Winnipesaukee when they heard screams from the lake. Romney’s sons raced toward the screams on their Jet Skis, while Mitt — who had been in the garage of the family’s summer home — followed his sons.
The Romneys found six people floating in their life jackets, along with a Scottish terrier. Their boat had sunk, and they were scared that they might be hit by another boat in the darkness. Mitt shuttled two of them to safety, while his sons stayed near the others. Mitt then made two more trips to ferry the rest to shore. All of them, including the dog, were successfully rescued. One of Romney’s sons had kept the dog on his Jet Ski during the recue operation, since the dog was the only one wihout a life jacket.
Sgt. Robertson [of the New Hampshire State Marine Patrol] said he wasn’t surprised at the Good Samaritan behavior by the Romneys, who are well known to the neighbors.
A few years earlier, at the same lake, the Romneys had performed another water rescue. In the previous incident, the Romneys had rescued a group of kayakers who had been threatened by wind and rocks.
And, before that rescue effort, Romney had also led the effort to locate the daughter of a business colleague, Robert Gay, who had gone missing. Gay told about the search operation that Romney organized:
My 14-year-old daughter had disappeared in New York City for three days. No one could find her. My business partner stepped forward to take charge. He closed the company and brought almost all our employees to New York. He said, “I don’t care how long it takes. We’re going to find her”…. He set up a command center and searched through the night. The man who helped save my daughter was Mitt Romney. Mitt’s done a lot of things that people say are nearly impossible. But for me, the most important thing he’s ever done is to help save my daughter.
Romney asked employees of Bain’s law firm and accounting firm to help out. The sight of all these professionals in suits walking around New York’s rough neighborhoods finally prompted media to cover the story, which helped generate the lead that allowed the rescuers to locate the missing daughter.
In addition to these rescue efforts, Romney has donated much of his time in church volunteer work, as mentioned in a previous post, and he has also donated much of his money to charity.
It seems to me that when you combine these examples of altruism with his track record in business, Olympics, and politics, the overall result is that Romney appears to be someone who can be trusted. It seems that someone who is willing to drop whatever he’s doing to run off and rescue people can be entrusted with the incredibly responsible job of being President … a job where decisions often affect the lives of many others.
Watching the third presidential debate made it pretty clear that Romney acts in a more presidential manner than Obama. The lowlight of nastiness and contempt occurred when Obama tried to explain why he does not believe that the Navy needs more ships.
I think Governor Romney maybe hasn’t spent enough time looking at how our military works. You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. And so the question is not a game of Battleship where we’re counting ships. It’s what are our capabilities.
In addition to being condescending during the third debate and in this segment in particular, Obama also suffered the misfortune of not having done his homework before launching this attack against Romney.
Even though Obama only said that we have fewer bayonets today, his tone and body language and the fact that he tied bayonets with horses all clearly indicated – at least to me – that Obama considers bayonets to be antiquated weapons. Unfortunately for Obama, bayonets are still a significant part of the American military arsenal. The army has over 419,000 bayonets, the Marine Corps has over 195,000, and the Marine Corps has plans to order an additional 175,000.
Obama mentioned Osama bin Laden by name six times during the debate, commenting once that “we killed bin Laden.” It seems to me that if Obama really values military personnel the way he says that he does, it would have been more chivalrous to explicitly acknowledge the role of the Navy SEALs in that operation. Or, perhaps Obama – as Commander-in–Chief – might realize that the Navy SEALs under his command still use weapons such as bayonets.
Weapons of the Navy SEALs by Fred Pushies points out that each Navy SEAL is allowed to choose his own “edged weapon” and indicates that those choices include the M9 bayonet. The book concludes that “The Navy SEAL is as comfortable – and as lethal – with a knife as he is with any firearm.”
Standard Marine training teaches Marines how to make deadly use of bayonets. A former Marine passionately defended the value of bayonets in an on-line post:
As a former U.S. Marine, I can attest to the value of bayonet training. When out of ammo, out of touch or in close, it is best to have a bayonet…. It is not archaic or a throwback to the past that the Marine Corps still trains with bayonets. It is not archaic that the U.S. Army and Marine Corps has an active hand to hand combat training program that includes knives and bayonets. For the military and the idiotic few who seem to think that a knife or bayonet or [enthrenching] tool is an ineffective weapon of last resort then I hope they find themselves without one when the situation warrants….
On first read, one might think this post was made in response to the final presidential debate, except for the fact that the designation “142 weeks ago” appears above the post. Apparently, Obama has company in scorning the use of bayonets. However, it seems unwise of Obama not to have done his homework before jabbing Romney with his bayonet line. In what some have speculated was a pre-planned line, Obama kindly gave Romney an opening for an effective campaign ad and gave thoughtful indepedents an opening for contrasting the two candidates.
During the debate, Romney proposed increasing the number of ships in the Navy:
Romney seems to have done his homework on this one. The Naval Sea Systems Command Strategic Business Plan for 2009-2013 says:
We are accountable to the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) to deliver, modernize and maintain a 313-ship Navy that meets the requirements of our national security plan. If we continue to operate with a “business as usual” approach, this goal will not be achieved; we must change.
The Navy’s plan for 313 ships does include the “things called aircraft carriers” as well as “ships that go underwater.” It begs the question of how Obama could appear to be unaware that the Navy’s own plan for 313 ships includes aircraft carriers and submarines. Humorously, my copy of the game Battleship also includes aircraft carriers and submarines, and, so, even that part of Obama’s jab missed the mark. Even the game Battleship is not just a matter of “counting ships.” It t has different ships with different capabilities.
It seems ironic that during the foreign policy debate, Obama’s tone of voice, smirking, and body language showed him to be the less dimplomatic of the two candidates.
With supporters like Secretary Jane Edmonds – an African-American female and liberal Democrat – how can a moderate not take Mitt Romney seriously? Jane Edmonds served in Romney’s administration as the Secretary of Workforce and spoke glowingly of Romney at the Republican National Convention:
By way of background, my politics is as a liberal Democrat…. When I first met Governor Romney, I was struck by his humanity, his grace, his kind manner…. He is the real thing, authentic. He struck me then and now as honest, transparent, and inclusive…. He always drove us in his administration to make government better for the people…. He is unquestionably an amazing steward and leader, a servant-leader and someone whom I respect very much…. He is open to good ideas wherever they come from. It doesn’t matter if they’re from a liberal Democrat like me. He’ll listen and he’s inclusive. As a great leader, he brought out the best in me, and I know – as President – he will bring out the best in our country.
Liberals have made fun of Romney’s comment in the second debate that he used “binders full of women” to fill his cabinet with competent women. It’s hard for me to understand the sin involved in seriously considering talented women for top positions.
According to a 2004 study by the State University of New York, in “Romney’s first year as governor, Massachusetts ranked first among all states in women appointed policy leaders.”
By contrast, Obama is in no position to poke fun of Mitt Romney’s record.
[Obama’s] White House pays women less than men…. In Ron Suskind’s Confidence Men, [Anita] Dunn [Obama debate coach and former Obama White House Communications Director] is quoted as saying, “looking back, this place would be in court for a hostile workplace…. Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women.” According to Time Magazine, the Obama White House is [a] “Boys’ Club” that “marginalizes” and “ignores” women. Former economic adviser Christina Romer said she was treated as a “piece of meat.”
Romney’s administration was quite different from Obama’s administration according to Romney’s female lieutenant governor, Kerry Healey:
My personal experience has obviously been extraordinary. Governor Romney is a great leader, and he also creates a work environment which is enormously friendly, it’s family friendly, it’s professional. It’s everything women in the workforce could hope for.
Hopefully, all the hoopla over binders of women will actually cause voters to recognize one of Romney’s heretofore unnoticed strengths as a candidate. Elizabeth Childs, a former member of Romney’s staff, said:
If I’m a binder girl, I’m proud of it…. Governor Romney has so much respect for women of all kinds. I’ve seen how much respect he has for his wife Ann and families and mothers and grandmothers. But he also has a lot of respect for women who work and bring up families, who are primarily career women.
Obama may talk nicely about women and minorities, but Romney has delivered results.
Grant Bennett spoke at the Republican National Convention about Mitt Romney’s service as a lay pastor. Grant explained that Mitt volunteered up to 20 hours a week when he was serving as a lay pastor, helping people with the full range of personal problems: unemployment, sickness, financial distress, loneliness, marital problems, addiction, challenges faced by single mothers, and separation from family faced by immigrants. Mitt listened, he helped, and he demonstrated compassion. With the assistance of his congregation, Mitt provided food and housing, rides to the doctor, and companionship for those facing illness. He also performed physical acts of service, including raking leaves and sweeping floors. Grant concluded the address by expressing gratitude for having been tutored by Mitt, who he described as a “deeply good man”.
Pat and Ted Oparowski also spoke at the convention about their experience as church members who were blessed by caring service from Mitt Romney. Their son, David, was diagnosed with cancer. Mitt visited David on many occasions. Once, 14 year-old David asked Mitt to help him write a will so that he could divide up his prized possessions, such as his skateboard and his fishing gear. In addition to recording David’s will, Mitt gave the boy a thoughtful gift to bring him cheer during his illness and honored the boy’s request to deliver the eulogy at his funeral.
Pam Finlayson told the Republican convention about the first time that Mitt visited her house. Because she didn’t have a dryer, laundry was hanging everywhere, and Mitt simply began collecting and folding the laundry with her. She told of Mitt later visiting her premature baby in the hospital and stroking the baby’s back as tears filled his eyes. She described Mitt being “overcome with compassion” for their sick baby. At Thanksgiving time, Mitt and his family brought Pam’s family a Thanksgiving dinner. Mitt’s wife, Ann, told Pam that Mitt had done most of the shopping and cooking. Pam said that Mitt didn’t just believe in loving his neighbor, he practiced it.
In addition to his time as a lay pastor (1981-1994), Mitt also spent two and a half years volunteering as a missionary, beginning at the age of 19. Just as Mormon lay pastors spend their time working with those facing challenges, so to do Mormon missionaries spend their time – in very large measure – talking with and working among those facing challenges. They meet people from a broader diversity of backgrounds than most Americans have a chance to meet in their daily lives.
If we look at the whole scope of Romney’s lay service in the Mormon church, I think there is a convincing record of a man who honestly cares for others, who purposely has committed his time to serving others, and who — contrary to the mantra among his detractors — has plenty of first-hand experience that allows him to understand the challenges of everyday Americans.
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.