Romney the bipartisan conciliator?

In the first presidential debate last week, Republican Mitt Romney made much of his working with Democrats in Massachusetts to pass health-care reform, a bipartisan initiative he said President Barack Obama failed to achieve in passing a very similar law on the national level.

Yes, Romney’s remark was silly: Of course Democrats worked with a then-moderate Republican governor to pass an initiative that they favored! If Romney had offered to raise taxes, the Democrats of Beacon Hill would probably have gone along with that, too. Ask yourself: How did the bipartisan Romney fare when he tacked to starboard, and, say, opposed stem cell research that he deemed morally objectionable? Veto overridden, stem cell research intact.

Journalist and author Robert Draper takes a deeper look at Romney’s gubernatorial tenure in this week’s New York Times Magazine, and a revealing look it is. Draper argues from history that Romney is anything but a bipartisan negotiator able to work across the aisle to get things done. The relevant passages:

But for the most part, the only unconventional ideas that Romney managed to enact were those he could ratify unilaterally.

Romney’s failure to master such a consensus had little to do with his party affiliation: other Republican governors in Massachusetts, like Frank Sargent and William Weld, long profited from excellent relations with their Democratic counterparts in the state Legislature. But what Sargent and Weld had that the Bain CEO lacked was experience in forming political alliances and reaching compromises.

Building grass-roots support was not part of Romney’s world experience, and he made almost no effort to enlist the public in his crusade.

Instead of working with the Democrats on Beacon Hill, Romney decided to recruit a host of Republican challengers to unseat them in 2004. The tactic backfired. “He ended up losing three seats and a lot of good will in the bargain,” [Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation President Michael] Widmer said.

Moreover, Romney will not face the Massachusetts state Legislature circa 2003; he’ll face a Congress full of hostile Democrats and hostile tea party Republicans. Draper’s piece ends with a quote from Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador: “If Romney comes in here and feels like he has to capitulate and govern from the middle of the road, not only will it be disheartening: I predict that you will see the conservatives in the House rise up. We’ve been pretty quiet — everybody claims we’ve been rambunctious, but we’ve been pretty quiet. I think you’ll see something different.”

A government in which your political opponents refuse to compromise in any way makes uni-partisan action virtually the only way to move forward. A true leader is not one who waits to form a consensus in those circumstances; a true leader seizes the moment to do what must be done. And that — in a nutshell — is what Obama did. He shouldn’t be criticized for it.







3 Responses to “Romney the bipartisan conciliator?”

  1. Steve says:

    Agreed! Romney will have a very difficult time IF he takes the WH away from Obama AND attempts to use the same tactics that failed in Massachusetts. But I believe he learned from that experience and the last failed election experience too. Obama has been OJT all along and Obama is the guy who got his opponents removed from the ballot in his very first election. Obama may be meeting his Waterloo, finally. BUT! I remain steadfast in my prediction of three years running. Obama holds the WH. Albeit W/O my vote.

  2. Edward Hamlton says:

    Let me tick you off ONE MORE TIME Mr Sebelius: Mitt’s dad, George Romney, was three times Republican governor of Michigan, a blue state. George Romney had great appeals among the so-called Reagan Democrats of Macomb County (blue collar white etnics). He also got moderate WHITE Democrats voting for his candidacy during his three MI goober campaigns. Gov. Mitt Romney pulled off the same phenom in Mass.The DNA has been passed on from George to Mitt. Prez. OBAMA is running out of his RACIAL PREFERENCE and AFFIRMATIVE ACTION guilt trip among white folks !! Barack is LOST without the telepromter written by his staff experts. The man (BHO) got into the Ivy League colleges at the expense of young Jews and Asian kids, who studied hard achieving perfect SAT scores ! At the end, they were sacrificed on the Altar of racial preference. My take: ROMNEY beating OBAMA by a field goal in November…thanks to the white folks (the majority of voters in the USA)!

  3. Jerry Sturdivant says:

    Mitt Romney’s hardly taken a position that’s lasted more than a day. He’s flip-flopped on (and these are on video) covering pre-existing conditions; about that remark of President Obama’s investments in green energy. (Obama never said it); about that $5 trillion (4.8) tax cut; about those 47% leaches and bums (he switched to “it wasn’t eloquently stated, then switched to, “I love them”); about President Obama cutting $416 Billion from Obamacare; about President Obama adding more to the national debt as previous presidents; about those medical (“death” panels.; about Dodd-Frank labeling banks Too Big To Fail; about his position on abortion (he change that position again yesterday); he was “for” the Brady Bill and “against” assault weapons before he was “against” the Brady Bill and “for” assault weapons; (his “lifelong” member in the NRA is now a “lifetime” membership – started in 2006); he now says he really didn’t own a gun, but that it was his son’s; he said President Obama never signed a Free Trade Agreement; now admits that he kinda did sign one with South Korea, Columba and Panama; admits that when he said, “Hope is not a strategy,” that excluded that secret fundraiser tape where he said, “You hope for some degree of stability … then kick the can down the road;” was “for” a timeline in Afghanistan before he was “against” it (all in two consecutive sentences); he was for and against the Iraq war. Sorry – no more room.