Sunday, February 26, 2012

No longer Mitt or miss: Why I've cooled on Romney

Nothing in this post is ideological. Period. It’s got more to do with the man than the plan.

It may come as a surprise to everyone reading this that I would have been completely OK with Romney as President. Does that mean I’d vote for Romney? No--nor would I hope he wins. But he has some plusses: I know he’s significantly less divisive than Obama, and I think the top job the next president must take care of is national unification. I say that because the economy is out of his control.

Romney would be better at unification than Obama, who has become the most divisive political figure in recent memory. Romney is (was) also a moderate, something I think the president must be when there is no decisive ideological wind blowing from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine.

But in spite of this plus, there are a few crucial traits that I want in a president that Romney just doesn’t have. One is restraint and composure. For his conservative demeanor, Mitt is a very aggressive politician. He’s unleashed staggering amount of negative advertising (as Nick pointed out, this is the “nastiest” primary fight in decades); he takes very aggressive approaches to foreign policy—alluding to war with Iran and becoming so tough on China that perhaps the foremost political expert on China, Jon Huntsman, has begun to criticize Romney on his China policy.

I want my president to be calm, cool, and collected on matters of extreme importance. I don’t want him making rash, emotional decisions. As a general rule, rashness doesn't lead to positive outcomes.  McCain's temper, not his policy, was what worried me most about him as Commander-in-Chief. I'm beginning to wonder if Romney shares this attribute.

Second, is the ability to relate—or at least communicate the ability to relate. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were both excellent communicators, and both of them—despite large ideological differences—were able to persuade the American people that they were with them, that they could “feel your pain.” Mitt doesn’t have that, and it’s a big reason for his troubles. His recent comments about having multiple Cadillacs or betting $10,000 with Rick Perry or claiming that $375,000 in speaking fees wasn’t “that much money” illustrates the gap that exists between him and the American people.

It’s not that the man’s successful; it’s that he doesn’t know how to speak to us as a people.  We don’t have a problem with you being wealthy, we have a problem when you can’t put yourself in our shoes when your job is to lead us. All of these comments show Romney on an entirely different plane than where most of us live. Call it the Santo Clause: Rick Santorum knows how to speak to the average American (when he’s not speaking about social issues). Mitt Romney hasn’t the slightest clue. And that difference has played a significant role in Santorum's relevance and Romney's inability to seal the deal.

You don’t have to be one of us, you just have to show us you have enough empathy and understanding to play the part.

I don’t want a hot-head or someone who doesn’t understand me to be president. I’d say that if this were all reversed and the person I’m describing were a Democrat. Part  of being president is being a figurehead—America in the flesh. That’s what political elites seem to forget. It’s all about policy for them. But if you can communicate that policy to the masses, make them believe you’re acting in their best interest (because let’s face it, all politicians believe that’s what they’re doing), you’ll get support.

We swayed from supporting FDR to the Gipper. If there's a lesson in that, it's this: We’ll like you if you’re trying to be one of us.

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