This really isn’t much to write home about.
Honestly, the whole “I like being able to fire people” controversy gives Romney a perfect avenue if he’ll take it.
Romney can say – though he might be leaving himself open to charges of crony capitalism if examples are found along those lines – that as an investor if he sees divisions or operations or people in companies Bain Capital is involved in he doesn’t go to the government for more resources to subsidize those unproductive operations; he does what’s necessary and makes changes. Leaner, meaner, more competitive. And he can say that but for his involvement Domino’s Pizza and Dunkin Donuts would have failed and all the jobs in those companies would have gone away with them. Not every company he was involved in fared as well, but business isn’t easy and them’s the breaks. His job wasn’t to give everybody an all-day sucker; his job was to make money. Sometimes that didn’t involve a good outcome for people who had already made a mess before he got there.
And he can say that when the kid who cuts your lawn does a lousy job you don’t call the Landscape Architecture board and file a complaint or go to arbitration or sign up for some bad lawn-cutting remedial program the federal government has set up. No, you tell the kid he’s fired and you hire another kid. Or if you don’t like your cell phone deal you switch companies.
In our case here at the Hayride, we changed hosting companies for our site because we had issues with server access and I wasn’t satisfied with the site going down every time we had a traffic spike. I didn’t complain to the Federal Communications Commission; I just went out and got another provider.
In other words, I fired somebody. And just like Mitt Romney, I relish and treasure the freedom to do it. Firing people worked for us. Even the people who got fired appreciated it; they know why they got fired and that’s information which will help them avoid getting fired by somebody else if they act on it. And the new people we hired know that a similar fate awaits them if we’re not happy with the service we get, which is a nice little motivator for them to do a good job.
And if Romney wants to craft a persona conservatives can actually get behind, he ought to relish this “You’re Fired” business. He ought to say “That’s right. I’m a cold, mean guy who fires people. I look at the numbers and when they don’t make sense, I get out the axe and I start choppin’ away. I’m goofy like that.
“And I’m runnin’ for president because there’s no place in the world where a guy like me is needed than in the federal government. The feds waste more money than anybody else in the world and it’s not close. You need a cold, mean guy who fires people to run the federal government if America is gonna survive. And I’m your huckleberry for that job.”
“Besides, you ever see the U.S. Postal Service? You really gonna tell me that operation couldn’t use a Bain Capital treatment?”
That’s a counterintuitive strategy, of course. Nobody wants to be the mean guy who comes along and says Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy don’t exist. But if you’re Mitt Romney, you don’t have a whole lot to lose. You’re the Man Without A Face. You’ve been running for president for six years and you still can’t get your own party to mobilize behind you. You’re the guy who can’t seem to say anything people remember – other than this recent thing about how you like to fire people.
So rather than trying to be the Generic Republican, why not be Winston Wolf? After all, Harvey Keitel’s character is the best one in Pulp Fiction (this one is not patricularly work safe)…
Romney ought to run as Harvey Keitel. Everybody knows the federal government needs Winston Wolf to come in and do some major damage control, and fast. And while Winston Wolf is a pretty direct, not particularly sympathetic type – which is one of the main gripes folks have about Romney (the unsympathetic part, not the direct part; the direct part is what we’re suggesting he work on) – everybody likes the fact that he knows what he’s doing and he’s in control.
Romney, as it happens, has been Winston Wolf before. We wish he’d been Winston Wolf as governor of Massachusetts, but he wasn’t. But he was Winston Wolf in Salt Lake City, when he turned an Olympic Committee which was headed for abject disaster into a colossal success by shaking down the operation and making it run correctly just in time. It’s amazing that he’s never really touted that work; all this time he’s been running he’s tried to marry a withering media-driven assault on his opponents with this completely generic presentation of his own candidacy, and that’s been rather amazingly unsuccessful for him if you consider that he lost to John McCain of all people four years ago and even though he’s won Iowa and New Hampshire so far it’s still pretty clear that he’s nowhere near closing the sale with the GOP electorate this time around.
Just be The Cleaner. Be the guy who’ll fire the people who need to be fired and shut down the useless, wasteful programs that need to be shut down. Be Winston Wolf, who will come in and make the dysfunctional federal government live within its means and get out of people’s lives, and then you can get away with firing whomever you want.
Romney’s worst sin as a candidate is that because of Romneycare he can’t run against Obamacare, which is the number one asset the GOP has in this fall’s election. But if the top asset isn’t available, use the second-best asset – namely, the fact that Obama has so blown away the federal government’s fiscal situation that, figuratively speaking, there’s blood and brains and little bits of skull all over the back seat. You’ve got to have a Winston Wolf to come in and clean all that up. Obama won’t do it; he’s John Travolta’s character who’s whining about being told how he screwed up and made the mess.
Let Romney be Winston Wolf. It’s a campaign strategy that might just unite the party, and it’s a strategy his opponents have already made possible.
UPDATE: Here’s a piece that goes with all this – Romney was on CBS this morning talking about what he did at Bain Capital and comparing it to the Winston Wolf act Obama tried to put forth with GM.
I can’t say I love the comparison, because it implies an endorsement of the federal government’s unconstitutional/lawless bailout of the auto industry. But Romney does have a point – namely, that the GM bailout involved a whole bunch of people losing their jobs and lots of car dealers losing their businesses, and why is it that Obama gets credited with saving GM and Chrysler but he doesn’t get credited with saving all those companies he managed to save when he was at Bain Capital?
If I understand this right, Bain Capital profited from the creative destruction of capital. It went in, found the unappreciated or hidden value in companies, restructured and/or chopped up companies, and returned the valuable parts to health.
It did it across the board.
And if I understand it right, attacking Bain Capital or Mitt Romney for what Bain did is unacceptable as an attack on capitalism. Now, this bit may be a bit over broad as I suspect there are things Bain did that conservative might attack, including itself taking government money in the past.
But that’s the gist, right?
Bain participated in capitalism, revitalized defunct companies, spun off as needed, and from the ashes of creative destruction of capital made a profit, saved or created companies, and saved or created jobs therefore let’s not attack Romney for his time there.
If I have that right (and I largely agree with it), I have a question.
If Mitt Romney saw, knew, profited from and participated in the creative destructive of capital, why did he advocate the government passing the troubled asset relief program (“TARP”)? Why not let the creative destruction of capital solve the problem and potentially make a profit off it?
It seems to me, considering his continued involvement with Bain, though indirect, Bain and other private equity groups and others in the private sector could have handled the messiness without government involving itself, deciding some were too big to fail, and now potentially setting up a scenario where people take undue risks thinking the government will do it all over again.
The answer, probably, is that Wall Street’s failure was so complete and so sudden that there weren’t enough Bain Capitals to come in and fix the problem fast enough. That may not be a good answer. Maybe a better one is to say that the structural economic deficiencies which made TARP necessary were deficiencies created by government – namely Fannie and Freddie – and so a government fix was appropriate. And then Romney could say now that we’ve been through the TARP mess it’s time to do a vulture capitalist job on Fannie and Freddie and return them to the market with all the crap taken out and burned away, which is something Romney is eminently qualified for and oh-by-the-way Newt sure isn’t since he’s got all that Freddie money still in his bank account even after he paid off his tab at Tiffany’s.
But none of this stuff works unless Romney takes on the persona of Winston Wolf and stops trying to be the nice guy who doesn’t offend anybody.
We can support a cleaner, even if we know he’s not perfect and maybe we don’t even want to know his whole story. What we can’t support is a guy who never says anything we can even remember five minutes later.