#4: Romney Has Crossover Appeal

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.


#5: Romney Is More Presidential … and Does His Homework

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:

The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We’re now down to 285…. I want to make sure that we have the ships that are required by our 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.

#6: Romney Has an Inclusive Track Record

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.


#7: Mitt Romney Doesn’t Pretend to Be Poor, although He Is Frugal

I can’t quite figure out why it’s so offensive for Romney to admit that he owns Cadillacs. Would it be better for him to pretend that he didn’t? The media coverage of those comments seem unfair to me.

Let’s look at the experience of Corrine and Hal Prewitt as a counterpoint to the media coverage of Mitt Romney. The Prewitts are independents who vote for both Republicans and Democrats, they are not Mormons, and they did not support Romney in 2008. However, in 2009, they purchased Romney’s house in Park City, Utah, and they learned a great deal about Romney in the process.

The linens in Romney’s house were good quality, but not from fancy stores, while the pillows in the master bedroom came from a discount store. When they went to the mud room, they found that Mitt had duct-taped the holes in his gloves.

His indifference to appearance demonstrated his confidence, true character and priorities. Good qualities, but easily misunderstood because they are quite different from those displayed by many famous people and certainly politicians, who highly protect and prize their appearance.

Mitt personally showed the house to the Prewitts at closing, he explained how to use and service the appliances, and he gave them his contact information in case they should have any problems. Romney rented a truck, loaded it with the help of family and a friend, and drove the truck himself to his new home.

Mitt and his family are much more in-touch with average Americans than many people realize. They had a home of faith and family just like many of us…. Clearly he is more like most Americans than not. We learned many things about Mitt Romney that contradicted what we have been told. He is not aloof or out of touch…. It is not beneath him to roll up his shirt-sleeves and get the job done.

Romney is clearly frugal, Romney even used to live on a constrained budget when he was a student, but it’s fine with me if he doesn’t pretend to be poor.

On the other hand, Michelle Obama visited Zanesville, Ohio in the last election cycle. Zanesville is located in a county that had a median income of $37,000, and she told a group of women she met with:

I know we’re spending — I added it up for the first time — we spend between the two kids, on extracurriculars outside the classroom, we’re spending about $10,000 a year on piano and dance and sports supplements and so on and so forth…. And summer programs. That’s the other huge cost. Barack is saying, ‘Whyyyyyy are we spending that?’ And I’m saying, ‘Do you know what summer camp costs?’… We don’t complain because we’ve got resources because of our education. We’ve got family structure…. So I tell people don’t cry for me.

In a county where 12% of adults have a college diploma, Michelle went on to talk about the difficulties of paying off student loans when they should be saving for their kids.

Call me a contrarian, but I’ll take Mitt Romney’s admission that he owns Cadillacs over Michelle Obama’s comments in Zanesville. Remember, Romney never complained about how expensive it was to service his Cadillacs, he just admitted he owned them. To me, it seems more out-of-touch to complain about spending $10,000+ on extra-curricular expenses for your kids in a county where that represents over one-fourth of the median income than to admit you own Cadillacs. And I certainly wouldn’t mind having a rich guy in the Oval Office who still knows how to be frugal.

It seems to me that the independent voter would do well to read the Prewitts’ experience of buying a house from Romney and see if that doesn’t provide a new vantage point for judging Romney.

Why a Moderate Voter Should Consider Romney, #8: Understanding and Compassion

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.

Why an Independent Should Consider Romney, #9: Problem Solving

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:

State Senator Bruce E. Tarr, also a co-chariman for Mr. Giuliani’s campaign, said Mr. Romney ‘provided some pretty strong fiscal discipline.’

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.

Top 10 Reasons Why an Independent Voter Should Consider Romney, Starting with #10: Collaboration

One of the most obvious facts of national politics is that Washington faces some of the most challenging issues ever (including the solvency of Social Security, not to mention the solvency of our national government). The corollary to this fact is that Washington is broken – with plenty of fault to assign to both sides of the aisle – and, without some serious collaboration, serious solutions remain unlikely.

In Clinton’s nominating speech this week, he proclaimed Obama to be a great compromiser. NPR – not typically considered to be a Republican rag – did a fact check on Clinton’s claim, citing key examples of Obama’s failure to forge compromise:

  • The “grand bargain” budget agreement, which failed to come anywhere close to fruition, and
  • The Simpson-Bowles recommendations for fixing Social Security and Medicare, which failed to result in meaningful reform. NPR concluded that Obama’s response to the recommendations “ensured the tough compromises would not get made.

Let’s take a look at healthcare reform as an example of the relative ability of the two presidential candidates to succeed at collaboration:

  • The final House vote on Obamacare was 219-212 with 34 Democrats joining all Republicans in voting against the measure. No matter how you feel about the bill, it’s clear that there was a failure of leadership in forging compromise.
  • The final vote on Romneycare was very lopsided, with 198 representatives supporting the measure and only 2 representatives opposing it. In the Massachusetts Senate, not a single Senator voted against the bill. The Massachussets House was 85% Democrat at the time Romneycare passed. Romney’s ability to work across the aisle on a complicated and contentious issue demonstrates significant leadership in collaboration and compromise, while Obama’s ability to lead in collaboration and compromise remains as possibly his most disappointing failure to deliver on a campaign promise.

One other measure of the relative success of achieving leadership in collaboration is how the two leaders satisfied their respective electorates in the area of healthcare reform. In Massachusetts, recent polls show Romneycare growing in popularity, with 63% supporting the law. In contrast,  50% of Americans want to repeal Obamacare, according to a national poll released this week.

If you’re not a hard-core ideologue of the left or of the right, it seems to me that you should give serious consideration to Romney’s track record of working across the aisle to forge solutions with staying power. On the other hand, you may want to exercise a healthy dose of scepticism that Obama’s failure to produce a track record of collaboration in his first four years would have much hope of change during a second term.