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Mitt’s Potential: Better President Than Campaigner

Why we might thrive if Romney is in the West Wing.

By 9.26.12

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So, you ask, tell me why Mitt Romney will make a good president.

For background, you say you are a voter who has watched Mitt Romney for a long time and just, well, you know, you just don't like him. Worse, you think that as a candidate, he's a dolt. You think he exhibits the emotional depth of Hymie the robot from Get Smart. You think he has the philosophical solidity of a sand castle below the high-tide line. You think he shows the boldness of an Ecuadorean dipping his toe into the Arctic Ocean and vowing never, ever again to risk such a shock to his system.

To which the best response is: Get over it. First, we're not in a position to wait for perfection. Second, the skills of a good candidate do not necessarily translate into the skills needed for the presidency. As Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter both proved, a good campaigner can be a godawful president. Conversely, and more to the point here, a weak campaigner can turn into a very good president. A man of competence and decency can steadily assert his own style onto the template of what the public expects from the man in the Oval Office, and grow in public stature as he does.

Let there be no mistake: Gov. Romney is by all believable accounts a man of great personal decency and generosity, and there can be no doubt about his competence as an administrator and organizational leader. Mere money changers might get rich pushing financial paper, but Romney's history is different: He put both money and expertise into real goods and services, acting not just as a bettor on somebody else's skills but instead as an abettor of other people's dreams, using his own management skills as a force multiplier for sales, profits, and, yes, new jobs. His Bain Capital company did not just trade financial capital; it invested human capital in a way that allowed other human capital to flourish in abundance.

These are skills a president could well use. There can be no doubt that the behemoth that is the federal government can be better managed -- that not only can savings be achieved for taxpayers through better management, but that services can be better delivered even while the costs for those services are being ratcheted downward. Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Jeff Sessions of Alabama all have identified numerous ways such savings can be achieved.

Meanwhile, from what already was a far leaner discretionary budget than exists now, the Republican Congress of 1995-96 saved $50 billion not just from projected spending but from actual, current federal appropriations, which is the equivalent of saving more than $200 billion today. Again, that's just in two years; spread over ten years, those savings would soon be adding up to what the wags call "real money." Does anybody really doubt that a notoriously penny-pinching Romney, who turned a Massachusetts deficit into a surplus, would be able to achieve similar savings with a Republican Congress? And that, with all the fat added to discretionary spending in the past 14 years, that he could do so without harming the social fabric? This is not grim austerity that Romney is promising; it's just common sense combined with good arithmetic, guided by a sense of public responsibility to ordinary taxpayers.

There can also be no doubt, none whatsoever, that a President Romney would easily succeed in overturning the medical device tax with which Obamacare plagues the most vulnerable among us. Under Obamacare, makers of devices such as pacemakers, insulin pumps, asthma inhalers, prosthetics, wheelchairs, and all sorts of other great advances in modern medical technology will be taxed, some in ways that are likely to put the manufacturers out of business. Of all the objectionable parts of Obamacare, this would obviously be the first to go if Romney were to be elected.

The price of energy also would surely tumble under a Romney administration. The laws of supply and demand cannot be denied. The slowdown in Gulf of Mexico permitting that earned the Obama administration a contempt of court citation would no longer apply. The moratorium against natural gas wells off Virginia and North Carolina, which would welcome the development, would be ended. The Keystone Pipeline would be immediately approved. Romney would stop the Environmental Protection Agency's illegal reign of regulatory terror that threatens to drive up utility costs by massive amounts. New parts of Alaska would be opened to drilling. The massive discoveries of oil shale within U.S. boundaries, especially in North Dakota, would receive far more encouragement for development. And coal, which now can be burned more cleanly, would join entirely clean nuclear energy (a Romney priority), among the ranks of the energy sources that no longer would be treated like pariahs.

All of which, of course, would work to drive down costs of home heating and air conditioning, and (quite significantly) of prices at the pump.

If you want fewer niggling regulations on small businesses across the board, Romney's your man. If you want an end to the crony capitalism that under Bill Clinton led to the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac scandals and that under Barack Obama led to Solyndra and other abominable market distortions and waste of tax dollars, Romney's your man. If you want a real commitment to the sort of bipartisan tax reform that Ronald Reagan achieved with Bill Bradley in 1986 (except with continued low rates for dividends and capital gains -- low rates that benefit pensioners, including union pensioners, as much as any group in the country), then Romney is definitely your man. If there is anybody who understands how tax complexity puts burdens on start-up businesses or small-business expansion, especially, it is the man whose entire business career was built on helping businesses just like those that build prosperity by hiring just two or three workers at a time. In the aggregate, this could quickly amount to five million new jobs even without touching the half of the labor force represented by big-business conglomerates.

The truth is that a Romney administration would hold a great deal of promise for Americans on the edge between employment and unemployment, and for those self-employed whose personal enterprises are on the border between profitability and collapse. Mitt Romney understands these situations, because these are the situations that have been his stock-in-trade for a whole career.

On the other hand, Barack Obama's way has been tried, and it failed. Just last week alone, its failures were shown in stark relief. Last Monday, the Congressional Budget Office confirmed yet another trillion-dollar deficit under Obama. On Tuesday, Moody's threatened to downgrade the national government's bond rating yet again, and the Kaiser Foundation showed that health insurance premiums rose last year to nearly $16,000 per family. On Wednesday, the Census Bureau reported that poverty, now afflicting 46.2 million Americans, is at a 50-year high. On Thursday, producer prices were reported to rise by the largest monthly amount in three years, and the weekly jobless claims rose to their highest levels since July; while on Friday, new numbers showed that industrial production shrank by the largest amount in three years.

And, of course, gasoline prices now are almost precisely double what they were when Obama took office.

There are no imaginable circumstances under which Mitt Romney, economic turn-around specialist, could do any worse. There is ample reason, indeed, to think he would help free the people of this great nation to do far, far better.

Such are the things a president can accomplish by imbuing the West Wing with a sense of mission, in the style of the most successful small business boardrooms. How a president communicates to and manages the people in those rooms is far more important that how well he fulminates, prompter-aided, in front of Styrofoam columns.

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About the Author
Quin Hillyer is a senior editor of The American Spectator and a senior fellow at the Center for Individual Freedom. Follow him on Twitter @QuinHillyer.