Will Trump learn from Romney’s mistakes?

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/02/26/will-trump-learn-from-romneys-mistakes/

It was bound to happen sooner or later — former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney regrettably waded into the treacherous currents of the 2016 presidential campaign by admonishing likely Republican nominee Donald Trump over tax disclosure.

The Romney-Trump relationship, seemingly like many relationships involving Trump-The-Candidate, combines the political and personal and is fraught with, and usually followed by, patronizing scorn by Trump.

Four years ago, prior to the Nevada Caucus, Trump endorsed Romney saying, “It’s my honor, real honor, to endorse Mitt Romney.” The real estate mogul described the venture capitalist as “tough” and “smart.” This week, Romney suggested there might be a “bombshell” in Trump’s tax return. Trump responded on Twitter, with the tone of a teenager, tweeting, “Mitt Romney, who was one of the dumbest and worst candidates in the history of Republican politics, is now pushing me on tax returns. Dope!”

In 2012, Romney largely secured the nomination with convincing victories during the March Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses (he won 71 percent of the vote in Massachusetts). Trump will likely do the same in this year’s Super Tuesday races (he currently leads Rubio by 34 percent in Massachusetts) with 595 delegates at stake, if polling trends continue.

This skirmish aside, Trump will have nearly eight months to ponder Romney’s mistakes as a publicly elected executive and as a candidate for national office.

Trump appeals to those who believe government is dysfunctional as political leaders have continually failed the American people. His entire campaign revolves around the concept of applying a private sector mentality (a results-driven, profit-oriented, efficient organizational model) to the public sector (a lumbering, unproductive, inefficient bureaucratic model), as a means to cure all that ails the public sector. So did Romney’s in the 2002 gubernatorial race in Massachusetts and later as governor.

Like Trump today, Romney had not held elective office before running for a public executive position and Romney believed he too could apply his business acumen to the government. His success at Bain Capital and the 2002 Winter Olympics could be mimicked as governor, he surely thought.

“It is only terminal,” Romney warned in his 2003 inaugural address, “to be slow, unresponsive, arrogant, isolated, bureaucratic, or unwilling to change.” As he further concluded, “These same dynamics also confront what we do in the public sector.” The speech was peppered with the consultant-speak of “innovate,” “invest,” and “downsize.”

Romney served his full term to run for the presidency in 2008 and 2012. He left a decidedly mixed record, if largely unchanged government, and a disappointed electorate in Massachusetts. His so-called biggest achievement, state mandated healthcare, known as Romneycare, 10 years old in 2016, is a complex bureaucratic maze, with uncontained costs. Today, if it were a privately held company it would be technically bankrupt. Romney failed to understand that some aspects of government, by design, cannot work like a corporation.

For Romney, political philosophy was not a core competency for much of his public career. In 2002, running for governor, he said “I’m not a partisan Republican. I’m someone who is a moderate,” and his views, “progressive.” A decade later, running for president, (a paradigm shift perhaps?), he described himself as “severely conservative.”

Imperial and uncompromising, Trump aims to approach government as a business without core values. He promises to build walls around Mexico, write executive orders (eliminating Obamacare) and remove nearly 11 million illegal immigrants.

Trump’s political philosophy is barely detectable, given his disdainful bluster on just about, well, everything. On issues such as abortion, immigration, the judiciary, among others, he too has shifted stances, leaving what Conservative Review calls a “questionable political history.” Trump said recently at Regent University, “I’m the most conservative guy in many ways” and fancied himself as a “very strong constitutionalist.” But what in the record suggests he is either of these?

For voters who care to seek some insights into what a Trump presidency might look like, read paragraph one of page one of “Trump: The Art of the Deal.” “You can’t be imaginative or entrepreneurial if you’ve got too much structure. I prefer to come to work each day and just see what develops,” he writes.

The author, and his supporters, will be loath to learn that structural impediments such as the courts, Congress and the Constitution will impinge his ability to strike many deals intended to make the government function more like a business. A lesson not lost on Romney now.

James P. Freeman

James P. Freeman

James P. Freeman is a New England-based writer and a former columnist with The Cape Cod Times. Read his past columns here.