Wait: Why should we take someone from business and put him in the Oval Office?
Mitt Romney has been running for president for a long time — six, seven, maybe eight years, and he’s been presumably aiming for the White House a lot longer than that. And his central premise has always been a simple one. As he put it last night:
[Barack Obama] took office without the basic qualification that most Americans have, and one that was essential to the task at hand. He had almost no experience working in a business. Jobs to him are about government. I learned the real lessons from how America works from experience.
Here’s what’s odd. Romney, there, has a nicely written set-up to explain exactly what it is about his business career that would make him a great president. But as has been the case all along, there’s just no follow-up.
In his convention speech, Romney goes from there to talk about Bain and the businesses it helped to succeed. And he tells us the lessons he learned:
Now we weren't always successful at Bain, but no one ever is in the real world of business. That's what this president does not seem to understand. Business and growing jobs is about taking risk, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, but always striving. It's about dreams. Usually it doesn't work out exactly as you might have imagined. Steve Jobs was fired at Apple, and then he came back and changed the world. It's the genius of the American free enterprise system to harness the extraordinary creativity, and talent and industry of the American people with a system that's dedicated to creating tomorrow's prosperity, not trying to redistribute today's.
Does anyone see anything in there that Mitt Romney learned from business, that can only be learned from business, and that would help him in the White House? I see two points there: “It’s about dreams” and “it’s … about taking risk.” Really? That's it? Do we really need Mitt Romney because ordinary politicians don’t have those crucial insights? Of course not. The whole idea is preposterous. In other speeches, Romney has simply asserted that he's created jobs, so he could do it as president. But surely it's not quite the same thing — or if it is, can't he explain anything at all about how it works?
What’s striking to me is the seeming laziness of all of this. Wouldn’t you think that you could ask a team of speechwriters to invent something that Romney learned from business, give examples of how it allowed him to succeed at the Olympics and as a governor, and then explain how it will distinguish him from Barack Obama in the White House? How well such a demonstration would hold up logically might be up for debate, but at least it would be something. Romney, two presidential cycles on, hasn’t even bothered to do that.
I have no idea why. Perhaps it’s because Romney and his campaign believe that this target audience will find business experience self-evidently superior to anything else; perhaps it’s because Romney himself assumes that business experience is self-evidently superior. But it really is astonishing that he hasn’t bothered to explain why.