The Meaning of Mitt’s Massachusetts RecordPosted: March 11, 2012
I’ve written a couple of posts about Mitt Romney’s economic record in Massachusetts. It’s a very poor record. I can’t seem to dig up the links to my previous posts right now, but I’m including two from The Boston Globe. I’ve also written about Romney’s cold and distant, almost robot-like behavior–as have a number of journalists–for examples see here and here.
As a citizen of Massachusetts who didn’t follow state politics very closely, I had a sense of Romney as a deeply amoral man, a user who only ran for office–first for Senator against Ted Kennedy and then for Governor–as a stepping-stone to the presidency. During his time as Governor, Romney turned Massachusetts’ already regressive income tax into a flat tax and increased fees so that the economic burden fell more heavily on the poor. His record on jobs was abominable, and the population in the state actually dropped as Bay-Staters went elsewhere in search of work.
It became a joke in the state that Romney was never around–he was always traveling around the country building support for his presidential run. After his one term in the State House (he was very unpopular and unlikely to win reelection), Romney moved on to greener pastures where he proceeded to criticize and mock Massachusetts in order to win favor with the right.
Yesterday, The New York Times ran an article by Michael Barbaro that I want to call to your attention. Barbaro (or his contributors Ashley Southall and Kitty Bennett) actually talked to a number of people who did watch state politics very closely during Romney’s governorship–other politicians, specifically state legislators. What they had to say only confirms my intuitive sense of Romney as a person.
He was aloof and distant–not unfriendly per se, but he didn’t care for schmoozing with other politicians. He saw himself as the CEO who could delegate responsibilities and didn’t need to reach out to legislators. He had the attitude that he could simply make a decision and that was the end of it. This anecdote is typical of many who spoke to Barbaro:
Well into Mitt Romney’s tenure as governor of Massachusetts, a state legislator named Jay Kaufman developed a nagging suspicion: the governor had no idea who he was.
A committee chairman and a veteran Democrat in the State House of Representatives, Mr. Kaufman routinely waved to Mr. Romney from his capitol office, right above the governor’s parking spot. But when he crossed Mr. Romney’s path in the building’s marble corridors one day, his fears were confirmed.
“Hello, Senator,” Mr. Romney called to Mr. Kaufman.
Sitting in his office five years later, Mr. Kaufman still seemed wounded by the slight. “No name, wrong title,” he said. “Give me a break.”
Instead of compromising, he vetoed hundreds of pieces of legislation and then the vetoes were routinely overturned by the legislature.
On working with the legislature:
Even though he worked just a few hundred feet from them for four years, Mr. Romney displayed little interest in getting to know lawmakers and never developed real relationships with most members of the Democratic-dominated body, according to interviews with two dozen current and former lawmakers of both parties and members of the governor’s staff….
“Romney just didn’t want to deal with legislators,” said Robert A. Antonioni, a Democratic state senator and a chairman of the Education Committee during the Romney years. “Typically, the governor wants to have a productive relationship with the legislature. That is not something that happened with him.”
A number of politicians who were interviewed said that Romney could have accomplished much more as governor if he had simply deigned to show a little respect for the legislative body it was his responsibility to deal with.
Some complained that Romney disrespected them when he visited their districts–forcing them to sit withe the rest of the audience in the “cheap seats” rather than “front and center.” Other were shocked when Romney
personally helped recruit 131 Republican candidates to run against Democratic legislators in 2004, an unusual frontal assault against incumbents….The effort backfired. Republicans lost seats that year, and Mr. Romney earned the enmity of the Democrats he had sought to unseat, especially those who had supported his initiatives….When Mr. Romney needed their votes, Mr. O’Keefe remembers several offended lawmakers rejecting his request by saying, “Talk to the next guy.”
One of Romney’s decisions that most insulted legislators was when he blocked off one the elevators in the State House for his personal use–so that he wouldn’t need to ride up with legislators. His staff claimed this was done for security reasons after 9/11, which seems to me to be a pretty feeble excuse.
The overall picture of Romney presented by those who worked most closely with him in Massachusetts rings true based on my own observations and on the general reactions of the media and the public to Romney as presidential candidate. He appears to be arrogant, insensitive, ham-handed, and authoritarian. In many ways he resembles Barack Obama who has also be criticized for being distant with Congress. But Romney makes Obama look like friendly and approachable.
We’ve also seen that Romney will lie with a straight face no matter how often his supposed position on an issue changes. For whatever reason–probably daddy issues–Romney has always wanted to be president. But in my opinion Romney is not tempermentally suited for the job. We’ve already had two presidents in a row with daddy issues. That’s just not a good reason.
The only other reason I can figure that Romney wants the job is so he can make sure that rich people get a lot richer and poor people bear the economic burdens of the country. That’s what he did in Massachusetts.
There is no way this man should be president. If he doesn’t feel ready for retirement yet, he should return to the business world.