Friday, February 10, 2012

Mitt Romney, Super Consultant

I'm a consultant, many of my friends are consultants, and, as Reason Magazine notes, Mitt Romney is a consultant by experience and temperament, with all of the positives and negatives that implies. He's a really smart, flexible thinker with effective problem-solving skills, but he's also detached from the emotional and economic consequences of his decisions. For a good example, consider Romney's plan to balance the budget and set government spending at 17% of GDP, which would require greater than 50% cuts in domestic programs.

There's a certain narrowness of focus required to practice consulting at the highest level, because the client wants a particular problem solved, not the most interesting or beneficial problem solved. Plus, with today's GOP, he's got a basket case for a client; in the course of trying to make the base happy, he's going to have to be willing to do a lot of really foolish, damaging things to America.
If flip-flopping is Romney’s greatest weakness, his business experience is probably his greatest strength. But can the two be separated? Consultants don’t have ideology; they have strategy. Their job is to take their current client’s side, whatever it is, and put a good polish on it while restoring whatever’s underneath.

Think about what Romney actually did while running Bain Capital. Stephen Kaplan, the Chicago business professor, argues that he should get credit just for having run something. But former Bain Capital partner Eric Kriss, who also worked with Romney in the Massachusetts governor’s office, has warned people not to read too much into the gig. “Mitt ran a private equity firm, not a cement company,” Kriss told The New York Times in 2007. “He was not a businessman in the sense of running a company. He was a great presenter, a great spokesman, and a great salesman.”

Those who have worked with Romney cite his flexibility as a virtue. “He’s spent his entire life in a world that’s constantly changing, where he has had to modify his thinking in order to address problems,” says Scott Meadow, his friend and former business partner. “I think it demonstrates something that I’ve always seen: an ability to adapt and change, and a willingness to accept that his thinking evolves. And not being afraid to change his mind and go in a different direction because that seems like the appropriate thing to do.” Meadow says Romney is “loyal to success,” whatever form it takes. “He’s flexible because he’s had to be,” Meadow says.
More: How Mormon Economics Shape the GOP,

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