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Investor-in-Chief?

I am either very old-fashioned or very naive. Maybe both. But I grew up thinking that those who ran for public office, especially for the U.S. presidency, did so as public servants and statesmen. Some of that might still be in play, but the overwhelming motivation now seems simply to be winning. Beat the other guy, at any cost, both financially and morally.

Regrettably, Barack Obama’s campaign team has been resorting to some very unstatesman-like Mitt-bashing and Mitt Romney has responded with a similarly unpleasant lack of statesmanship. May the worst man lose.

I will not be voting for Romney, but as the campaigns trade sucker punches, I am befuddled by the way Romney has presented himself in this campaign. If he wanted to present himself to the electorate as an honorable public servant and statesman, he actually has a couple of pretty good highlights on his resume that he seems to prefer to shield from public view.

In general, he did a decent job as Massachusetts governor, behaving with bipartisan reasonableness as a Republican in a predominantly Democratic state. Pundits tell us that this sort of centrism appeals to swing voters who will play a decisive role in the election’s outcome. And when he took charge of the Salt Lake Olympics, he did an admirable job of cleaning up what was a dysfunctional and corrupt committee and subsequently overseeing the smooth and totally incident-free consummation of the first major international event in the U.S. after the 9/11 disaster.

The governorship and the oversight of the Salt Lake Games would seem to entail the kind of skill and management style that would pertain directly to being president. Yet I assume he is shying away from talking about his days in charge in Massachusetts because a) he made deals with Democrats, spawn of the Evil Empire, and b) it opens up that can of worms known as Romneycare. He risks exposing himself to lock-step conservatives as someone who might not be trusted to keep the faith.

And the only whisper I have heard of his role in the Salt lake Games has been in using the Games as his out in trying to convince his critics that he was not an active participant in Bain Capital from 1999 to 2002. This is mysterious, really, because the Olympics have widespread, nonpartisan appeal and unless there is some yet-to-be-revealed skeleton in Romney’s Olympic closet, he performed his role effectively and with distinction.

What Romney chooses instead to foist on the voting public as his main presidential qualification is his managing role at Bain Capital. Oddly, he argues that Bain can provide a national template for job creation, which is utter nonsense. Some of Bain’s companies added jobs, some cut jobs, but for a capital-investment company like Bain, employment is beside the point.

Bain existed to make money for its investors (Romney most prominently). Period. If adding jobs to meet a growing company’s needs was called for, Bain was all for it. If paring jobs to make a company leaner and more efficient, Bain was for that, too. The objective was not to see companies grow or shrink, or succeed or fail, but to see that whatever course of action was taken would maximize Bain’s return on investment. How this relates to the skills of being president follows a skewed and, in my opinion, failed logic. We are not voting for an Investor-in-Chief.

I don’t begrudge Romney for becoming very wealthy at Bain Capital. Investment firms are a key cog in the machinery of capitalism. But given what else is on his resume, should this really be the basis for voting for him for president?

 

Peter Oliver lives in Warren.

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