Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mitt Romney’s way of firing people

Mitt Romney wants to fix a troubled economy. That’s supposed to be his ballot advantage. He’s not the ineffectual nice guy—he gets it. Getting it, Republicans know, doesn’t mean waiting around for the next stimulus package. It means actually making all kinds of tough decisions before going home to horse around with the boys.
To be the trouble-shooter president, however, Romney must first demonstrate that he has a ruthless edge.
Behind all the happy talk about job creators and less taxing government, he must leave the impression that he’ll be a more decisive leader, a decent man also able to beat even the Americans he sees in America’s way.
From that angle, his earlier outburst—that he “like’s firing people”—was a contribution to his no-nonsense campaign.  
The problem is: It doesn’t appear that he does. His rough talk about firing people may be more macho invention than the words of a transformative executive. What may have been itching to get out of his mouth was far worse: “I’d like to like firing people, just like the real giants of business I studied at Harvard.”
Some people do lose their jobs working for Romney. But, the process is more akin to devious politics than crisp business decision-making. They lose their jobs for putting Romney in danger, not for failing to perform their duties—and Romney’s hands remain impeccably clean.
This week, Richard Grenell, a 45-year-old Republican foreign policy expert who is openly gay, resigned from the Romney campaign under mounting pressure from conservative bloggers and social conservative groups.  Romney said he doesn’t discriminate and regretted Grenell’s resignation.
Grenell, who was hired to represent Romney and attack Obama on foreign policy, had merely been asked to stop talking to people. So, Grenell wasn’t fired by Romney or asked directly to leave by Romney’s senior team. Instead, as one Republican observed, he was Etch-A-Sketched.
Last week, GQ Magazine’s feature by Jason Zengerle, “Mitt Romney’s Dark Knight,” included this extraordinary story about how Romney managed an awkward p.r./personnel crisis when he was Governor of Massachusetts:
The mandate Romney gave Fehrnstrom extended far beyond dealing with the press. As communications director—a job explicitly created for Fehrnstrom, with the highest staff salary at the time, $150,000—he also waded into political and personnel matters. When William Monahan, Romney's neighbor in Belmont, who'd been nominated by Romney to serve as the chair of the state Civil Service Commission, was discovered by the Globe to have once purchased some real estate from a company linked to organized crime, it was Fehrnstrom who called him and demanded his resignation. "He was very, very forceful and very abrupt," Monahan recalls. "It was just, 'Bang, you're out.' “It was also a message that Romney seemed incapable of delivering himself. Indeed, when Monahan appealed to the governor for mercy, he says Romney implied that Fehrnstrom had given him no choice: "He said his stomach was turning," Monahan recalls, "and that he didn't want to do this, but that his senior staff was unanimous that he had to ask for my resignation. He said he didn't want to do this but that he was outvoted."

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Who will hold those votes in a Romney presidency? That should flesh out the real ballot question.

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