Romney and the vision thing.

Darren Gershby Darren Gersh, Washington Bureau Chief

The search for Mitt Romney’s soul continues.  What does this guy believe?  What’s his gut?  Everyone left, right, wants to put a scope down Mitt’s throat and search his innards from some signs of a core value.

The problem is that Mitt’s vision is about competence, about getting things done, about business.  Mitt is a product of his environment — Harvard Business School (HBS) and consulting.  Just take a look at the mission statement of Harvard Business School:  “We educate leaders who make a difference in the world.”  Does that clear things up?


Let’s dig deeper.  HBS developed the case method for teaching business.  Why is that important?  Just look:

The cornerstone of the School’s renowned general management approach, the case method provides students with the transcendent skills, insights, and self-confidence required to meet the interdisciplinary demands of real business situations.

Now we are getting somewhere.  HBS is about general management — the idea is that someone graduating from HBS can take on ANY management challenge.  Add in “transcendent skills” and self-confidence and you get a business leader.   In other words, these are people who know how to analyze a problem and come up with a solution and they have the confidence to get it done.

Mitt is offering all that, indeed, staking his campaign on his business skills.  This is what business leaders always do when they get into politics.  Am I the only one who hears in Mitt and echo of Ross Perot talking about “getting under the hood” and fixing the car.

If only government were a car.  We’d know when it was fixed and when it was not.  And we are comfortable with cars too. We know how much a muffler should cost — roughly.

But there is no right solution when it comes to setting the level of taxation and social spending in our country.  Business leaders often come to government with a sense that their skills in decision making transcend politics.  That’s not how it works.  It is easy to make the math work on our budget.  What’s hard is figuring out how to craft an agreement the country will accept on health care spending.

The American people understand all this better than most pundits.  They know that a president has to make decisions they can’t make.  They also understand that a president must be guided in his or her decision making by more than self-confidence.  People want to know what a president believes and how those beliefs will inform the decisions that president makes.

Mitt does have a center and a value system.  He seems to genuinely believe in his technocratic skills, his ability to make hard decisions and succeed.  Expertise and ability and common sense are noble virtues and in big demand in government.    But that is only half the equation.  Many Republicans have grown increasingly conservative over time.  These voters know what they believe and they want a president to fight for those beliefs.  The business ethos that confidence and skill can solve all problems does guarantee the outcomes conservative voters seek.

If Mitt is elected president, he will be the first businessman to lead our government since Herbert Hoover.  I am not saying Mitt is another Hoover.  I just want to point out that, for all the talk of how much we need to run government more like a business, there may be a good reason it’s been more than 80 years since the American people elected a businessman to lead the free world.

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