In a previous article, I stated that “Romney seemed plastic to me. Like he was pretending to be someone he wasn’t.” This concerned me because I really wanted to trust him, but something subconscious was telling me “he’s fake”.
Ever since Michigan, however, my concern has disappeared. Mitt seems much more genuine to me now, although he still seems “robotic” in some regards, primarily because he seems to use the same phrases over and over again, as if they are rehearsed.
They probably are.
It’s easy to forget, in a political season full of political candidates, the Mitt is not, in fact, a politician. Other politicians say the same things over and over again as well. The difference is that they are professional politicians. They are more polished in their delivery, and you don’t notice it as much.
Mitt is a businessman. His specialty is fixing things that are broken. It’s how he has made his fortune. It’s what he’s good at. And like many who have become wealthy doing what they are good at, it’s his passion. And it shows when that is the topic of discussion.
But political candidates don’t jump into the political waters and strike out on their own. They have campaign managers to manage their campaigns and advise them on how to conduct their campaign so as to win. The campaign manager, who after all was hired by the candidate to help him win the election, advises the candidate on where to talk, when to talk, and what issues to talk about. Even if they don’t happen to be the things the candidate is personally passionate about.
It’s a politician’s job to be passionate about everything. I bet some of them could even sound passionate reading the federal budget.
So Mitt talks to the issues. The right to life. His stand on abortion. Second amendment rights. Gay marriage. Illegal Immigration. The War on Terror. Issues near and dear to the hearts of religious conservatives, economic conservatives, social conservatives, and national defense conservatives.
And despite having served as Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt really isn’t a professional politician, at least not in the public sense. True, there is a certain amount of politics that is necessary in the business world, but it isn’t exactly the same thing.
So when he talks on matters that he thinks he has to talk about, or which his campaign managers tell him he needs to talk about, he comes across as plastic, or “trying to sell you something”, the classic “used car salesman” look. It seems rehearsed, and it probably is. He hasn’t spent years, even decades polishing his delivery the way folks such as McCain and Giuliani have. He really isn’t comfortable with it and it shows. We pick up on that subliminally, and notice that “something isn’t quite right”. He doesn’t look quite like the other politicians, and we interpret this with distrust; “he’s trying to sell us something”.
George Bush has a similar problem; he is much better in an informal setting than he is in a formal one. The reason is similar as well; George Bush was not a professional politician either.
Mitt’s problem is slightly different. It’s not that he has problems in front of groups. He has been in front of groups his entire life. Mitt’s problem is one of delivery. There is a difference between giving a Powerpoint presentation in the boardroom, and giving a stump speech before the press and a crowd of onlookers, or answering questions in a nationally televised debate.
He doesn’t easily speak in 15 second soundbites.
It isn’t that he doesn’t believe in the issues, it’s just that they aren’t his bag. They aren’t what he lives and breathes. I am the same way. Many people are. I can discuss many issues, but if you really want an impassioned response, get me talking about space colonization, space solar power, computer programming, Amigas, or some of the other topics I have written about previously.
But since he has started talking about fixing the economy, and fixing Washington, now Mitt is in his element. Fixing thing is his passion; now he looks more “real”, now he appears more “trustworthy”. The media has noticed this as well. Their take on it? Well, Mitt is an “economic nerd”. Like the computer nerd who gets all caught up in matters technical, Mitt is positively at home when it comes to things like business, the economy, and solving problems.
Is this a bad thing? How many times have we said that we want someone who doesn’t act like a politician? Now when we have someone like that, we fault him because he doesn’t act like a politician. How messed up is that?
OK, so he never was a prisoner of war, doesn’t have three purple hearts (though ultimately that didn’t do Kerry as much good as he thought it would), and has never served in the armed forces. So what? Are those Constitutional requirements to be commander in chief or just things his opponents have tried to make into requirements in order to make themselves look good and Mitt look bad.
Bill Clinton didn’t have those things either, and he served two terms.
Hmmm. Bad example.
Anyway, the problem Mitt now has is overcoming his previous plastic façade. First impressions are usually lasting ones, and he may have fatally damaged himself. “Which is the real Mitt Romney?” one may ask.
And that’s easy to figure out. Look at what he has accomplished. Turning around businesses. Turning around the Winter Olympics. Taking the State of Massachusetts from deficit to surplus in four years without raising taxes. Coming up with a plan for health care that relies on the private sector. Supporting life. Supporting the family. Supporting marriage.
Yes, people can say “well he said this back when” or “he said that back when”. But what did he do? When we discuss liberals and what they say, we point our finger and say, ”yes, but what did they actually do?” With Mitt, the same is true. When faced with the actual issues, while governor, what did he actually do, rather than what did he say when he was running for office. What he did was consistent with conservative principles.
Is he Ronald Reagan? No. But then again, even Ronald Reagan would have a problem being Ronald Reagan today. Having lived through the period of his presidency, all was not sweetness and light back then either. His accomplishments were remarkable, particularly in regard to the opposition he faced. There were a lot of things about his administration and the direction that he took the country that were absolutely magnificent (though Hillary Clinton would no doubt disagree). But Reagan wasn’t perfect either, and there were things he did that I think could have been done better; promises he made that, probably through no fault of his own, he failed to keep. (Such as eliminating the Departments of Energy and Education).
Mitt Romney does share some characteristics in common with Reagan though. For one, he seems naturally upbeat. He believes in the goodness and greatness of this country, and those who are its citizens. He believes that America is special, and that even though our past is not unblemished, we are nevertheless a shining beacon before the world, the city upon the hill. He believes in the Constitution of the United States, not as a “living breathing document” that means whatever those in power want it to mean at any particular point in time, but rather as a contract between the government and the citizens of the United States of America, for whom the government works.
Mormons view the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as inspired documents. Like those who founded this nation, we believe the establishment of the United States to be by Divine providence. That does not mean we were established without blemish. But we set for ourselves lofty goals, and provided the tools whereby imperfections could be corrected.
We proclaimed that “all men are created equal”, for example. The fact that all men were not treated equal at that time in no way diminished the proclamation, which is as true today as it was back then. Since then, we have corrected the treatment problem, first simply on paper, and a blood soaked paper indeed. Since then we have striven mightily to take the paper, correct it in fact as well. Enormous progress has been made in the last 40 years. The USA today is very different from the USA of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.
Just because we have not achieved perfection does not mean that we should not continue to strive for it. Just because we are not perfect does not mean we are evil.
Would I buy a used car from this man? Yes I would. I think he is the real deal. Will he be perfect? Undoubtedly he will not be. No one is. But I am confident that he has a vision for America, and that that vision is not too terribly different from mine. I think he is smart, articulate, and skilled at solving problems. Does he know everything he needs to know to be President? No. But who does? I believe he is demonstrably capable of surrounding himself with advisors that are highly competent in their various areas of expertise, and who can advise him on whatever matters should arise in those areas. I am confident that he is capable of taking that advice, weighing it, and coming to a reasoned conclusion from which he can take action.
I believe he can set direction, create policy, and orchestrate the levers of power. Can he achieve everything? No. He has a hostile congress to contend with. Will he please everyone? No, there will always be those who complain. Will he make mistakes? Most definitely; to err is human, after all.
Will he be the best candidate for the job? It is my belief that he will.