“We got trouble, right here in River City!”
All the chatter, tweating (2 million in first 2 minutes) and talking-head pronouncements don’t come close to addressing the real problem America saw on its TV screens last night. What America does not need is a choice between a theoretical professor and a technocratic problem solver. But that’s what we’re getting.
The lesser of two evils
Everyone is yakking about “who won?” but the real question should be: Which of these two men is the lesser of two evils? We know the American people are losing and as the song from The Music Man says, “We got trouble, right here in River City” – and every Springfield, Dallas, Dodge City and Podunk Hollow in the country. And no president can solve our problems. He can help, lead in the right direction, but he can’t do much else. And his political ideology doesn’t have much to do with it. In fact, it encumbers him.
What we don’t need is a “problem solver.” This may be counter intuitive and difficult to consider when we’re up to our ass in problems but it has a lot of validity. Romney is a problem solver, a numbers guy, a get-it-done guy, a show-me-a-problem-and-I’ll start fixing-it manager. And this sounds like it’s just what the doctor order. But it’s not what we need. If it was that easy, we’d have solved most of the problems by now. Hell, there are thousands of problem solvers in America, they’re everywhere. And they’re good, That’s why they get hired in every company and every government agency in the country. Some of them fix the problems, some of them don’t – many more of the latter: Larry Summers, Henry Paulson, Ben Bernanke, Alan Greenspan, Rahm Emanuel, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, John Sculley (Apple circa 1990), Angelo Mozilo (Countrywide), Gerald Levin (Time Warner), Richard Fuld Jr. (Lehman Brothers), etc. etc. All of them have been problem solvers – and major screw ups. And Romney is cut from the same cloth (Bain Capital). That ain’t the kind of person we need running the most powerful nation in the world. Because it’s in the DNA of problem solvers to come up with answers without first making sure they are dealing with the right questions. They “don’t know what they don’t know” and yet, they charge ahead as if they know the answers. They don’t deliberate, they do. That’s not only dangerous, it compounds the problem. History is full of examples.
Problem solvers are not leaders and Romney is not a leader. Why? Because he doesn’t know who he is. Never has. He’s always been what others want him to be. His father wanted him to be a big executive. He did it. His mother wanted him to fit into high society. He did it. He’s never been the real Mitt. That’s why he never seems “authentic.” He isn’t. And that’s one problem he can’t fix. We know that when a person is not himself, not in touch with his own self worth (despite the financial net worth) or has his own values, he can’t be trusted to do what is right. There is no balancing core so he always reverts to doing what he thinks someone else thinks he should do (father, mother, wife, advisers, bankers, big donors, lobbyists). And his values come from someone else. We see it all the time. He says and does what it takes to win the day (forget the long-term good), whether flip-flopping through the GOP primary debates or telling it like it is at a private fund raising dinner (“47% ” of Americans are on the mooch). With Mitt, “What you see is not what you get,” never has been. Can’t be. Nice guy but … And that’s a serious problem if he ends up in the Oval Office.
“C’mon man …” Wake up and smell the napalm in the air. You were clobbered last night. Stop being the calm, cool professor, as if you can ignore the bully student throwing spitballs across the room. This ain’t gonna cut it. What America does not need is another policy wonk-wonk. What we need is leadership, not some damn professor crawling around in the weeds trying to figure out how to drain the swamp. We need someone to lead us out of the swamp to higher ground and you can’t do that by swatting at every damn mosquito. And stop going on about the alligators that were already in the swamp when you waded in in 2008. We know it. Just tell us how the hell you’re gonna get us out of the swamp. That’s all we need to know. What direction should we go? What are you going to do to lead us? What do we have to do? What will it take? How far is it? Be specific, we can handle it. And if the alligator hunter from Massachusetts keeps firing his pellet gun, fire back with a couple of rounds from your 12 gauge shotgun (every president has one), and then keep leading. Or not. If you just keep preaching and spewing micro-facts and factoids, well … maybe we will sink into the swamp that used to be a shining beacon on the hill.
Mr. President, this is no time to be saying, “Look, I’ll get back to you on that.” You may be able to climb aboard Air Force One and move forward, but the rest of us have a boat full of alligators snapping at our asses and were drowning in the gobbledygook of the political swamp. So give us something we can cling to, something tangible about what you’re going to do. How you’re going to lead. And if you’re lucky enough to get a second term, do something.