Look, I don't know who's going to win this damn election. The numbers right now suggest that Obama's going to take it by an eyelash. But if it goes the other way, I guess we have to be ready for a Romney presidency. Fortunately, The New York Times today gives us a story about Romney's management style, which means we can pretty much guess how President Romney's first year would go.
We know he'd start his term with admiring, even effusive press coverage. If there was every any doubt about that, this should dispel it:
As a boss, Mr. Romney was big on small gestures. At Bain Capital, he instituted a rule that every meeting begin with a joke. At the Olympic offices in Salt Lake City, he once showed up with a griddle and apron to cook his staff a surprise pancake breakfast. And on his last campaign, he took a break from debate preparation for a game of touch football with his advisers.I've spent my entire working life in New York City, where this kind of icky-poo happy-talk team-building crap is not in fashion, and I hope I make it to retirement without ever experiencing it. It's way too Dunder Mifflin for me. But if Romney is the winner, the Beltway press will eat this up. The stories from the first hundred days will be all about the new atmosphere of warmth and collegiality after four years of chilly, non-glad-handing, hyper-cerebral Obama.
Employees said he seemed to intuitively understand how to motivate people who worked long hours in high-stress jobs. He doled out generous bonuses, to be sure. But he also roamed halls, poking his head into cubicles and offices, inquiring what people were working on, quietly studying the mood.
"He would say, 'People aren't smiling enough,'" recalled Cindy Gillespie, who worked with him at the Olympics and the governor’s office.
Just a few weeks before the Olympics began, Mr. Romney starred in an office rendition of "Romeo and Juliet." He played Romeo, opposite a male colleague in drag. There was no kiss, but Mr. Romney ad-libbed a few lines: "Juliet, you are ugly as sin and need a shave to boot."
"People just died," Ms. Gillespie said.
But presidents actually have to do stuff. And that may not work out well:
Mr. Romney's diplomatic, low-drama approach, admired by many of his employees, has at times proved problematic for the organizations he oversees, according to interviews.When this happens in a campaign, it just screws up the campaign. When it happens in a presidency, people's lives are affected.
Four years ago, campaign aides said, he allowed distracting conflicts to fester within his presidential campaign when members of his advertising team split into warring factions.
As new operatives arrived, touching off a power struggle, weekly meetings devolved into angry shouting matches that stretched on for hours. "It was absolutely perfectly horrible and I have tried to completely repress it," said the campaign’s pollster at the time, Jan van Lohuizen. The solution seemed obvious: Mr. Romney needed to step in, untangle the egos and eliminate somebody. But he did not act. "The problem should have been resolved," Mr. van Lohuizen said. "It wasn't. He would have better off had it been."
Also, when you have conflict involving A-list White House counselors and courtiers, you're talking about conflict involving some of the most highly skilled infighters in America. If they see chaos, and a president unwilling to resolve disputes, they're going to take advantage of the instability and steamroll the opposition. Inevitably in White Houses, the winners of such conflicts are the nastiest people with the nastiest ideas. Remember how the fat-cat coddlers on Obama's economic team won? Remember how the neocons won in the Bush administration?
This is a long way of saying that, yes, President Romney will nuke Iran. Or he'll do something equally ill-advised. The foreign-policy crazies will win. (The same will be true if Romney still has some authentic "moderate Mitt" instincts and might want to avoid going full-tilt Randian -- the Randians will fight, and they'll win.)
On the subject of war, are we ready for this?
As governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney could not resist burrowing into the bureaucratic weeds: He once took the statewide math and reading test for 10th graders, then startled his education commissioner by calling to say, "I like No. 14" and rattling off the answer....He's going to be that way if there's a war, isn't he? And he knows nothing about war, and probably has no close relationships with anyone who knows anything about war. He knows nothing about the reliability of various kinds of intelligence reporting, either.
He is not so much a micromanager as a microprocessor, wading deeply into the raw data usually left to junior aides....
His tendency to immerse himself in the details recalls Lyndon B. Johnson, who closeted himself with Pentagon brass to personally choose targets for American bombers during the Vietnam War....
It will probably be ridiculously easy for master infighters to stovepipe data to Romney that will make his microprocessor brain arrive at just the conclusions they want him to.
So in a Romney presidency, we're all going to die.
Or, at least, we're at a serious risk of getting knee deep in any number of brand-new Big Muddies.