The Campaign Manager: 2012

Yeah, you’ve seen the video of Romney’s fundraising gaffe. Or should we call it a gaffe? It was a private function for megabuck donors. A “gaffe” is when you say something you didn’t fully intend to say. The campaign’s actual error here was in not having the forethought to confiscate cellphones from everyone entering the room who makes less than a couple million bucks a year.

The video underscores my earlier take on Romney. I think he lacks a few critical plugins in his personal OS:

  • Empathy. The ability to understand the feelings in others. The capacity to understand the desperation of someone who steals to support a drug habit, without condoning the crime itself. Or in this case: understanding that people who have led very different lives from your own have completely different problems than yours.
  • Accountability. The knowledge that you and only you are responsible for your actions, and that the repercussions of those actions are yours to deal with and yours alone. Fully-functioning adults don’t shield themselves from repercussions by wrapping themselves in layers of bureaucracy or anonymity.
  • The ability to observe one’s own thoughts and actions objectively. You need to take two or three steps outside of your body and try to observe your words and actions the way an outside observer might. When what you’re saying is right, it’ll let you figure out how to deliver your message clearly. When you’re wrong…reading your words objectively can prevent you from saying them in the first place.

I’ll illustrate all of these things in a single example. A branch office has been losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, forever. The owner of the business has tried everything to turn it around, and nothing’s worked. He knows that he has to drive down there today, close down the office, and put 80 people out of work.

A fully-functional individual knows that (1) the lives of these 80 people are going to be in tatters at the end of the day, and for employees whose family members have ongoing illnesses, the news will seem devastating; (2) much of the blame will be leveled at him, sometimes correctly, sometimes not; (3) perhaps today he should drive the SUV he usually takes the kids to school in, and not pull up to the branch office in his brand-new $280,000 supercar.

Oh, well. That’s not what I came here to say. What I came here to say is that I am just dying for Bob Newhart to do an updated version of his famous telephone sketch in which he plays the part of Abe Lincoln’s campaign manager.

I think it would go a little something…like this:

Well, I’ll tell you why I called, Governor. I got a message that you weren’t happy with tomorrow’s travel arrangements?

…You’d rather use your own transportation from the airport? What transportation is that, Mitt?

…Okay. I guess I should explain some of the logistics we’re dealing with. You’re under Secret Service protection, Mitt. They’re the ones who suggested the black Escalade. It’s comfortable, and it’s bulletproof, and they can put three other cars exactly like it in the motorcade, to make you safer. I don’t know where the Secret Service would even find three other white elephants topped with ivory coaches with leopard-upholstered seats.

…Oh. You’d just lend the campaign three of your spares. That’s…that’s good problem-solving, Mitt. I just don’t think the visual will help us much with middle class voters. We…

…”Middle class,” Mitt.

…Voters with a combined household income of less than $250,000 a year?

Right, I suppose “waiters and drug addicts” are…part of…that group, too. Just remember that I told you you shouldn’t say things like that in public.

…What’s that, Mitt?

…You just said something exactly like that in public. Could…could you hold the line for a minute, Governor?

Kathy? Could you pick up the extension? Mitt just said “The middle class is just how we honest, working people politely refer to waiters and drug addicts” again. Could you send the full response team to…

Where were you when you said that, Mitt?


…Yeah, Kathy, send them over to the Jimmy Buffett concert in Atlanta. If we’re lucky, he’ll let the Governor go back onstage and lead the Pledge of Allegiance again. And Kathy? When they’re done, just for laughs, um, why don’t you make sure the team is at the Make-A-Wish event. Get them there ahead of the Governor, okay? Thanks, Kath.

Mitt? Thanks for standing by. The point is that these people do vote, Mitt, and I don’t think they’ll react well to seeing you riding atop a line of elephants marching from the Airport to the downtown Hilton.

Oh, you weren’t going to have them marching after all. That’s just great, Mitt. I’m sorry I didn’t get your little joke…

…You want them to be carried.

…Carried In gold, elephant-sized sedan chairs.

…Carried in gold, elephant-sized sedan chairs by people on Welfare and Medicaid, because “as it is we’re just paying them to sit around and do nothing.”

Kathy? Are you still on the line…?