George Washington, businessman.
Sometimes I think the reason Mitt lies so relentlessly and shamelessly is that he thinks we should all know better than to take anything he says as anything more than advertising. To him, it's all sloganeering and were not expected to believe it, just pay attention to it long enough to take note of the product being sold. Lies like Obama Gutted Welfare Reform are just his versions of New and Improved or Now With 30 % Fewer Calories. None of it means anything. None of it is meant to tell us anything about what the product actually does. In this case the product doesn't do anything. The product is simply Mitt himself. What were all supposed to rush out to buy is the wonderfulness of having President Mitt. Be the first on your block to own the 2013 model!
I don't know. He can't be thinking about what he's saying, not beyond its effectiveness in selling the product. If he gave it a second's real thought he wouldn't have disqualified his own running mate and just about everyone who's held or even run for the job from becoming President.
We have never had a true businessman as President. There have been a few who at one point or another in their lives ran a business. That few includes the farmers and most of those farmers were plantation owners, which would seem to make owning slaves a qualification for the job, something, sadly, many of the founders probably believed. Then there was the guy who ran a ranch. He didn't get rich at it. In fact, he nearly bankrupted himself, and the main lesson he seems to have learned from the business was that he was not a businessman. Theodore Roosevelt was never very good with money. I suppose you could include the lawyers like Lincoln who had their own firms. Lincoln also owned a grocery for a short while when he was young. He was sort of the early 19th century equivalent of the owner of the local 7-Eleven franchise. I don't think that's the kind of business experience Mitt has in mind. Nixon clerked in his father's store when he was a kid. Grant nearly ran his father’s leather goods business into the ground. Andrew Johnson had a tailor shop. Warren G. Harding was a newspaperman, owner and publisher of the Marion (Ohio) Daily Star, although his wife appears to deserve a lot of the credit for making the paper a successful business.
Herbert Hoover was very successful in business. Hard to see what good that did him as President.
Then there's George W. Bush, our first MBA President, whose most famous---infamous---business decision was to trade Sammy Sosa.
When you get right down to it, no President had the kind of business career Mitt had, and if you take his words at face value, Mitt is making the case that Mitt is better qualified for the job than Washington, Lincoln, both Roosevelts, and Ronald Reagan. Not only has Mitt disqualified Paul Ryan from the Presidency, he's disqualified the other rising stars Republicans will be counting on in 2016, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, and Bobby Jindal. If Mitt got his Constitutional amendment the next GOP ticket would have to be Rand Paul and Nikki Haley.
Now, of course the only one Mitt intends to disqualify is Barack Obama, and you could say that all Mitt's arguing here is that running Bain gave him experience and required skills that make him better suited to handling economic issues. That's a reasonable argument. It ignores the fact that the President has to handle a lot more than economic issues, being leader of the free world and all. Mitt thinks Russia is our biggest threat, on the days when he doesn't think it's Iran, and it's hard to see how his decision not to shutter Staples would help him deal with either one of them. Whenever the case for a CEO president gets made, the talk is about managing a budget, meeting a payroll, keeping track of farflung employees, making the tough decisions (I.e. Firing people). But what it boils down to is executive experience. And as it happens I agree that executive experience is an important qualification, one of several, not the only one, but a significant one. And judging by the number of governors who have become President, voters seem to think so too.
It's too bad Mitt was never a governor, then he'd really have a case.
It's a fact that Barack Obama had no significant executive experience. But neither did John McCain. Didn't keep Romney from stumping for McCain.
To really make the point about how his executive experience makes him better qualified to be Chief Executive than the guy who has been the Chief Executive for the last four years, though, Mitt would have to talk specifically about what he did as an executive. He really would like his Right Wing base to forget that he was governor of Massachusetts and he really, really doesn’t want anybody to know what Bain did. That's a problem. If his only real qualification, according to himself, is his experience as a business executive but he can't tell you about the kinds of executive decisions he made as a businessman because then you'd really hate him, how can he argue he's the best man for the job?
Lie about it, of course.
I didn't know until Mitt said it at the convention that Bain was a small business dedicated to helping other small businesses grow.
All politicians turn their life experiences into qualifications for whatever office they're running for. Remember that Jimmy Carter, besides being a governor, asked us to vote for him because was also a peanut farmer and a nuclear engineer. Young politicians turn their lack of experience into a qualification. And at a basic level it's all true. The first qualification for any office in a democracy is being able to represent your constituents, which usually means being in some meaningful ways representative of them. This is why politicians running for office--- a tautology Republicans pretend doesn't exist. They like to brag on how they're above politics or outside politics or better than politics or in one way or another not in politics. Politics is a contemptible activity only Democrats engage in. But as soon as you throw your hat in the ring, you're a politician, like it or not---boast about the most ordinary and banal aspects of their lives, how they're married with kids, how they go to church every Sunday, how they worked at McDonalds in high school, that they're sports fans, that they listen to rock and roll on their iPods, that they went out for pizza the other night.
This is why many politicians strain to make distinctions between themselves and their opponents designed to make the case that their opponents aren't representative of the voters, that they're out of touch, not one of us, un-American. And it's not false equivalence to say that Democrats do it too. What is the point of bringing up the Cayman Island and Swiss bank accounts? What is the whole thrust of the attacks on Bain? Why are we demanding to see the tax returns?
To show that Mitt isn't one of us.
The difference is that the Republicans attempt to show that Obama isn't one of us by simply and brazenly pointing to the color of his skin.
Obama is, in his usual circumspect way, calling Mitt a rich asshole. Mitt in his craven, sideways, you can't prove it way is saying the President is a you know what and you know how they are.
That difference is everything.
Mitt isn't one of us, not least because of his willingness to tell racists and bigots that they're right, black people and brown people and women and gays are not true Americans. Mitt even knows he's not one of us or rather not particularly representative of the vast majority of the people he needs to vote for him. But he has to try to make the case that he is beyond "At least I'm white." So he emphasizes what a great family man he is and how he's a faithful churchgoer. One thing he's done that is moderately clever is to tell folks Well, maybe I'm not like you, but vote for me and I promise I'll do things that will help make you rich like me, although he didn't think that one up. It's been a standard part of the Republican pitch for at least a hundred and twenty years. Beyond that, though, Mitt has nothing.
Like its been said many times and many ways and by many more people than me, Mitt needs the Right Wing base to forget about his truly qualifying experience as a chief executive but he doesn't dare get into the details of his experience at Bain. What's an ambitious weasel to do then except lie?
But how can a supposedly moral man, especially one who is a paragon of his church, as Mitt boasts he is, justify being a craven, lying weasel?
Well, all kinds of ways. Human beings are very adept at rationalizing their bad behavior to the point of persuading themselves that it isn't bad behavior at all. It's even the very best of good behavior.
But for the moment I'm going with the idea that Mitt has convinced himself it's all just good advertising. Sure, he's promising that a vote for him is a vote for whiter teeth, fresher breath, and a brighter smile, but we all know there's really not much difference between toothpastes and only the suckers are truly fooled. The point is to sell the product and that's the name of the game, isn't it? That's all that matters in the end, that more people buy Romneydent than the other leading toothpaste.
It's all about selling the product, and since there's no real difference between the brands, what does it really matter what you do or say to make the sale? A lot of political journalists and pundits see it that way, so why shouldn't Mitt?
Look at the justification for the despicable welfare ads even after other Republicans have admitted they're deceitful, divisive, and racist.
Mitt Corp has no intention of pulling them because they're "effective". And a significant cohort in the lamestream Media just shrug and some even applaud.
So what happens in 2016 if the Democrats run Mark Warner against Paul Ryan? Here's a guy who not only has business experience---founding and running a company that actually did things as opposed to undoing things---but having been a governor he has real chief executive experience as well. Will Mitt have to tell Ryan, Sorry, buddy, he has it and you don't?
Of course not.
The Republicans will just dream up some new slogans.
Vote Ryan, because he knows how to flip a burger!
Vote Ryan, because costing his running mate Florida taught him all he needs to know.
Vote Ryan, because when you get right down to it, isn't all you want in a President a set of rock-hard abs?
Related reading: About that guy who owned a ranch? Here’s my review of Theodore Roosevelt in the Badlands, Roger L. DiSilivestro’s book about TR’s time out West, The adventures of that Cowboy in the White House back when he was a real cowboy in a bunkhouse.
Image: Life of Washington---The Famer by Junius Brutus Stearns courtesy of the Library of Congress via the University of Delaware.