Firing subordinates is the rite of passage for managers in Mitt Romney’s real world. Last night, Republican leaders and convention choreographers impeccably executed that part of their plan—to put the American Dream back on the tracks.
"Humanizing" Romney for the prime time "termination" of Barack Obama was predictable, utterly standard practice, not some hack’s concoction.
In a convention hall full of bosses, their spouses and suppliers, Romney showed real skill; he followed a script he knew inside out. There are rules for the firer, and he played by the rules:
One: If the change will affect the culture of the whole organization, establish that you are as nice and as good-hearted as your victim.
Romney and his planners didn’t hurry this part of the process. After watching hours of testimonials and film footage on Romney’s piety and philanthropy, I’d guess that even Obama must have started wondering whether he would have done more good for the "least amongst us" if he joined a Mormon-friendly investment bank rather than working as a community organizer after Harvard.
Two: Keep the message killingly simple; don’t try out any arguments or qualifiers that could open up a conversation or lead to a wrongful dismissal suit.
On this point, there was nothing quirky or exceptional about Clint Eastwood’s foreshadowing. Sounding a little out of touch and closed-minded, with the confidence of a man with a handgun, provides extra shock and awe to the core message: “You failed to fix it; we got to let you go.”
Three: Gently suggest how the victim could learn from the experience. This is tricky (see above). The victim might start in about the mess he’d cleaned up and the terrible advice he’d rejected.
Romney performed this part with genuine relish, telling Obama that an inspiring president doesn’t blame others and shows “more backbone” to Iran and the Russians.
Four: Don’t share any confidences about what you’re going to do after he’s gone. You don’t have to tell him anything now.
On this final point, Romney may be a bit ahead of himself. The shareholders, in this process, actually get to ratify his plan to change leaders in November.
Last night’s speech may have left good number shareholders with a few qualms. For instance:
What’s this new line: “I’ll not raise taxes on the middle class”? Did he just throw the Romney-Ryan tax/reform package under the bus?
And how can you promise to create 12 million jobs while spending less money? Not cutting taxes? And not depreciating the dollar? Are you suggesting that making pretty speeches from the White House actually will do the trick?