It is arguable that this election is one of the most critical ones we have seen in more than a generation. The stakes are extremely high, as America is at a crossroads in terms of its ability to lead the world economically. Fundamental questions persist as well, particularly around the role of government in health care, education and our banking system after one of the most disastrous financial meltdowns in history.
With this in mind, TOC’s concern is around how we choose a President. While it is true that shenanigans happen on both sides of the aisle, the lead political stories of last week seem more troubling than normal. Total disclosure, TOC is a supporter of Mitt Romney and feels he is more than qualified to be President. With that being said, I struggle to reconcile the attacks the Obama campaign has levied against Romney. Although TOC deserves an explanation for why Obama’s $840B stimulus package has done little to turn around our economy – as it was supposed to do – the campaign seems little troubled to provide one. It is even more troubling that the campaign has not only failed to provide such an explanation but has also failed to lay out a specific detailed plan for how we will get out of this economic quagmire in a second term if Obama is re-elected. Instead, we have been told that Romney is an outsourcer and his plan is more of the same we saw under Bush. The latest version of the attack comes from Stephanie Cutter of the Obama campaign, who stated that Romney was either lying about when he left Bain or was guilty of a felony since some documents from Bain had his signature after his supposed departure from the company in 1999. A bipartisan report has already stated that Romney did not serve in any decision-making capacity for Bain after 1999, when the supposed outsourcing took place.
A concerned citizen may now be asking what does all of this have to do with getting unemployment back under 6%, and TOC would agree with that concern. Even if you are a die-hard Obama supporter, you should still prefer to have the President explain to you what you can specifically expect in his second term. Electing Obama should not be an end, but instead a means to some end that you clearly understand. Unfortunately, that is not what we get when we turn back the dial 12 years to the end of 1999 and spread accusations about felonies. None of us win.
This instance presents a fundamental question for America. How are we to choose our leaders, particularly those to fill an office as important as President? Compare the way our last couple of elections have been conducted compared to, say, a job interview. In recent elections, there has been limited attention paid to what would be a critical job interview question: what did you accomplish in your last role? Indeed, we never talked specifically about Senator Obama’s time as a senator. TOC is not just thinking of the voting record of the then-senator, but also of his exemplifying himself as a leader. We never got to that point in discussing him or Senator McCain, for that matter. We have a great way to test to see if people are great politicians, but how do we assess their leadership? Going back to 2008, the fact that Senator Obama had no distinguishing record as a Senator was considered an asset by some high-ranking people within the Democratic Party. Interviews from PBS’s Frontline – The Choice 2008 reveal that several high-ranking people, including former Senator Tom Daschle, thought that it was better to have a less-experienced Obama run for President due to the fact there would be no record for people to attack. While this may work in politics, is it really good for a party to select a nominee primarily because of his lack of a record (inexperience) so he does not have to answer questions from his interviewers (the electors)?
Let us fast forward to 2012. We find the same President Obama now attacking his opponent on his record while an executive at Bain Capital. The irony is incredible, but such a review is appropriate if fair. We should have that opportunity to interview Mitt Romney – the same opportunity we did not get with then-Senator Barack Obama. Unfortunately, the conversation to-date is very lacking. We have seen misrepresentations of what private equity really is, which have been refuted by the likes of key Democrats like Corey Booker and Bill Clinton. We have also seen what seems to be a focus on events at Bain that took place when Romney was not there. Of course, the back and forth is good for the Sunday morning talk shows, but the electorate remains distracted and confused with all of the noise and name-calling.
It is ironic that President Obama, who was elected with the benefit of a razor-thin executive record, now unfairly attacks an executive that has a long, distinguished record to attack. All the while, we still do not have a clear understanding of why Obama’s $840B stimulus package missed the mark so badly and what Obama would do differently if elected. That would be the first question TOC would ask in an interview!
Is this any way for us to elect a President? Is this any way for an incumbent to present his plan for the future? When do we get our chance to stop selecting politicians and start finding leaders?