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    Does Mitt Romney Have What it Takes?


    Leadership: the ability to act as a guide, to show the way….

    Regular readers of my articles and postings know that I struggle with my place in the Republican Party, my party, both because of what it has become and because of what it has been. I cleave to my hope that the party can recover, can return to providing the kind of leadership it had in the past, leadership that dates all the way back to the iconic service of Abraham Lincoln.

    Mitt Romney, though a far cry from my ideal GOP candidate, provides some of that hope. I continue to think of him as more right of center than far right (despite the inability to admit his own moderate history—a result, I believe, of the need to engage in primary pander in order to gain the nomination). I have respect for his years at Bain Capital, his stewardship over the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, and his challenging years as governor of Massachusetts when he proved that he could work with the Democrats in the legislature to enact, for example, the state-wide health care reforms that ultimately became the blueprint for Obamacare.

    While I’m haven’t been as committed to him as I was to McCain four years ago, I have generally felt that he possesses both the business and leadership experience that would make him a good President. Unlike Barak Obama, whose background and experience were admittedly limited when he ran for and won the office, Mitt Romney has made a significant impact in both the business and political circles in which he has traveled.

    But let’s go back for a moment to that italicized definition at the top of the page:

    Leadership: the ability to act as a guide, to show the way….

    Over the course of the campaign, Romney has made some unfortunate gaffes. His most famous (and most oft-repeated) blunder is the now-viral quote, “Corporations are people, my friend,” which, even if taken out of context, speaks volumes about the distance between his world and ours. He also tongue-trippingly told listeners that he “likes to fire people who provide services to me,” and that he’s “not concerned about the very poor.” These are the kinds of verbal tics that probably make campaign manager Matt Rhoades breathe into a brown paper bag with his head between his knees.

    Though he’s not the first—nor will he be the last—national politician to wish he could take back his own words (Obama, let’s remember said, "I've now been in 57 states -- I think one left to go,” and also offered a less than stellar verbal performance with that now-infamous quote about bitter people clinging to their guns and religion), Romney’s gaffes have been like a wedge widening the gap between us and them, between haves and have-nots, making him look more and more arrogant with each revolution of the news cycle.

    That’s just not leadership. That’s not how you bring people together. That’s not how you act as a guide to show the way…

    “Okay, okay,” my personal homunculus is saying, the one that doggedly protects me from my own cognitive dissonance. “That’s all just the pressure of the campaign.  After all, the guy’s been on the road for months and months and all the stress is sure to take its toll.  He probably doesn’t sleep much. Half the time he probably doesn’t know where he is.  Remember when Obama called Sunrise, Florida “Sunshine,” Florida?”

    Perhaps that’s all true.  I remember reading Meghan McCain’s Dirty Sexy Politics (an amusing and snarky insider’s view of her father’s 2008 campaign), and I’m well aware that it’s a big country filled with myriad blue highways, along which thousands of stump speeches are given, all making for a recipe where gaffes are inevitable.  But in the last week Romney took things to a whole new level: he screwed up on the world stage.

    He insulted the London Olympics security operation and the cultural heritage of the Palestinians. His chief foreign policy advisor left the reservation when he said that Romney would "respect" any Israeli decision to use force in preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, and his campaign’s traveling press secretary, while reminding reporters that they were standing before a “holy site for the Polish people,” arguably denigrated that very site with his overly colorful language.

    So now it’s not just about the back-and-forth of campaign season and the now-and-then mutterings of an exhausted candidate (and his team).  Romney hit the world stage with a chance to demonstrate his ability to function there and to connect with his counterparts—to show leadership—and he came away, instead, looking like the arrogant American.  Only this time, he’s not just showing that he can be arrogant towards you and me. This time, he’s reinforcing the view that America acts arrogantly toward the rest of the world.

    That’s not leadership. That’s not even statesmanship.

    Romney is going to have to demonstrate some real leadership soon. He needs to  stand up straight, get out of the way of his own talking points, and convince us—the moderate Republicans—that he can not only sit in the Oval Office, but that he can stand on the world stage and represent us the way we want and need to be represented.  If he doesn’t, then many of us—myself included—will have more to think about than we planned when we walk into that booth in November.


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