Can Either of These Guys Govern?


Do Americans want to make Barack Obama a one-term president so that they can replace him with a one-term governor? My biggest beef with Mitt Romney is that he won his way into the statehouse in Boston in 2002 only to use it as a perch to run for the White House in 2008. He didn’t run for re-election.

Granted, Romney never was a natural fit for liberal Massachusetts, a state with a rich history of big-talking, belly-up-to-the-bar political icons. In their book, “The Real Romney,” Boston Globe reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman quote a Democratic lawmaker who complained that the Bay State governor didn’t even know lawmakers’ names.

Sometimes Romney got what he wanted. For example, he balanced the state budget without broad-based tax increases. Other times, Romney moved to the left, even working with former rival Ted Kennedy to pass Romneycare. Sometimes he vetoed Democratic legislation, and often the Democrats overrode his veto.

When Romney tried to elect more Republicans, he failed. The already outnumbered GOP lost another three seats. It might well be that Massachusetts is too liberal for Romney; polls show that Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly support not their former governor but the incumbent president.

Joshua Archambault, the Pioneer Institute’s director of health care policy, worked as a legislative aide under Romney. “It’s no secret that there was a transition from the governor from spending time in the business world to the political world,” Archambault told me. “It took at least a year to a year and a half to work out the kinks.”

Over time, Archambault believes, Romney established good relations with the Senate president and House speaker. Robert Travaglini, the erstwhile Democratic Senate president, told Kranish and Helman, “(Romney) brought out the best of us here in the Senate.”

So maybe Romney did learn a few things about governing in his one term.

What has Obama learned? Though his toxic relations with Republicans are legendary, Obama’s relations with Democrats aren’t very cozy, either. In his new book, “The Price of Politics,” Bob Woodward reported on an aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who was furious at Obama’s fumbling of debt ceiling negotiations, which forced congressional leaders to cut their own deal. “It is really disheartening that you, that this White House, did not have a plan B,” the aide told Obama.

The question I keep wondering is: If Obama cannot cut a budget “grand bargain” ostensibly because he cannot negotiate with Republicans, why should voters re-elect him?

In an interview with Time magazine in August, Obama answered that question. If he should be “fortunate enough to have another four years,” Obama said, “the American people will have made a decision. And hopefully, that will impact how Republicans think about these problems.”

In other words, Obama doesn’t think he has to learn from his mistakes. Nor does he want to. Re-elect him and he will be as feckless against GOP opposition in his second term as he has been for the past two years.

Email Debra J. Saunders at [email protected].

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