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…?

23 thoughts on “The Campaign Manager: 2012

  1. dave

    how is it different if obama said “47% of the country wont vote for me because i believe in redistribution of wealth, single payer heath insurance, and more food stamps for people.”

    romney didnt say the people who will vote for obama no matter what are “all of the above” but merely for the reasons listed, they would not be voting for any republican.

  2. Total

    how is it different if obama said “47% of the country wont vote for me because i believe in redistribution of wealth, single payer heath insurance, and more food stamps for people.”

    We’ll have to wait for Obama to say that to find out, won’t we?

    @Charles: Romney was *not* telling the truth: the 47% of Americans he mentions pay lots of taxes, like Social Security, medicare, state, local, etc. And that 47% he was referring to are actually about evenly split between Obama and Romney (about 60-40 Obama). So, no.

  3. Total

    he says “income tax” its even on the subtitles in the video. nice strawman…

    Yes, I know what he says, genius. My point is that all those people he’s holding up as dependent slackers when, in fact, they pay lots of taxes.

  4. Nat

    @Dave: how is it different if obama said “47% of the country wont vote for me because i believe in redistribution of wealth, single payer heath insurance, and more food stamps for people.”

    Did you mean “how was it different when Obama said …?”

    Because it’s quite different than “if” Obama said that, since he hasn’t said that as far as I know. And if he has, please link it up.

  5. Bongo

    It’s posts like this is why I prefer that my favorite tech journalists stick to technology rather than public policy.

    As for @total, nope – stick to income taxes, because that’s what the topic is. Or do you want me to add irrelevant topics like Obama believes in 57 states? I can easily project Obama’s stupidity based on that single comment, if you want to play that game.

  6. dave

    yes @nat i was paraphrasing obama. if you don’t believe he has said these things then you are being intellectually dishonest.

  7. Total

    you mad bro

    Mad at people who don’t know grammar, spelling, and capitalization? Yes, yes, I am.

    do you know what a strawman is

    I do. It is not the same thing as you wanting the conversation only to be about your topic. Income taxes are a relevant part of what people pay the government, but not the only part, and to insist they are, as Romney did (and as you are), is silly and offensive. It is also silly and offensive to accuse senior citizens of being dependent and getting handouts because they pay no income taxes on their Social Security.

    i was paraphrasing obama

    Translated Nat: “I was making things up!”

  8. ghoppe

    @Bongo It’s posts like yours that make me wish close-minded misanthropes stuck to their echo chambers instead of posting on a tech blog.

    Andy has every right to be creative in whichever way he chooses, and I’m happy to read anything smart people write even if I don’t agree with them.

  9. Matt

    Brilliant, Andy. I wasn’t familiar with Bob Newhart’s routine, but I will definitely look it up. Sounds like a fantastic bit.

  10. William Tucker

    To all of you who are clearly far too sensitive to get the funny in all of this…let me quote from the book of M*A*S*H:

    “Ladies and Gentlemen, take my advice,
    Pull down your pants and slide on the ice.”

  11. romzburg


    I have been reading your blog and listening to various podcasts of yours for years and years. And years. When it comes to tech, I think you have a genuine ability to be objective, rational and fair. When it comes to politics, you don’t. You pretend to, but you commit the exact same logical fallacies, deliberate misinterpretation errors and intentional deceptions that plague Glenn Beck and Keith Olberman.

    Sad, because you should really know better, and be better.

    I’m glad you and Leo and Alex make an effort to keep the politics out of the podcast. (I like to think the profanity-laden email I sent to Leo a while back on the topic helped purge future shows. How could it not have? Who could ignore that many “STFU about politics!”?)

  12. Liberty Dogood

    The sad truth is there is little difference between the two parties anymore.. If they were NASCAR teams, their primary sponsors (the corporations, I’m sorry, “people” that write the biggest checks and are on the hood of the car the the chest of the fire suit) would be the same..

    If this is the best democracy money can buy, we’re SOL.

    I can’t vote for Romney. He laughs about torturing a dog, and attacking a guy w/ scissors.. WTF? One, if any of us did either of those things, we’d still be in jail.. We soil our shorts about Iran or N. Korea getting close to having *one* nuke, but are tap dancing towards handing the largest nuclear arsenal on Earth to a someone that appears to be a f’in sociopath??? Are you kidding me???

    And.. sadly, in terms of policies that would actually not use the constitution as toilet paper, Obama isn’t any better than Bush. Anyone that thinks Obama-care is *socialism* shouldn’t be allowed shoelaces unattended.. It’s nothing but a sloppy-wet blow-job to the racketeers in the insurance industry.. Oh, they can’t deny pre-existing conditions, goody! Doesn’t stop them from charging un-godly amounts a year to people like my mother with such horrible “pre-existing conditions” as having had a f’in c-section back in the 70s, THAT SAVED MY LIFE!!!! Obama caved to the special interests, his corporate sponsors, on single-payrer, and showed that he isn’t a secret muslim, he’s a secret Republican.. and the vast majority of Republicans are too retarded to notice!!! And don’t get me started on the far worse erosions of our liberties that are extensions of Bush police-state policies.

    I’ll be voting my conscious.. and writing in my choice this year, (as I did in the last election) and voting against all other incumbents on the ballot. Sadly, it’ll be a coin-flip between two corporate shills, one that’s a sociopath, mainly due to the sad fact that the vast majority of people are too busy watching crap like American Idol to take the time to inform themselves about the world they live in and give a damn to vote.


  13. Sam G

    To those telling Andy to stick to technology, I give you Rob Delaney’s response:

    “Also, people on the Internet tell me every day to “stick to the jokes, pal” and I wanted to outline why I will do no such thing, and why you shouldn’t either. If in fact I should “stick to the jokes” since I’m a comedian, that would suggest that politics should be left to politicians. And we know that many politicians (like large numbers of those who make up the United States Congress, for example) are very, very bad at politics. They quite literally NEED my help. And your help. And since we live in a Democratic republic, I will continue to share my opinion whenever I feel like it. And please feel free to disagree with me. Jesus, I hope you do, because there are many things I don’t know and many things I’m surely wrong about. I am a comedian. But a comedian’s opinion matters in the United States of America, as does a pipefitter’s, a truck driver’s, and a heart surgeon’s. So if you ask me to keep my opinion to myself, I will find you, and I will fart on you, aggressively.”


    Politics isn’t for politicians, it’s for the people. And some people died, and others are still dying, for that to be possible.

  14. romzburg

    @sam g

    In case part of that was addressed to me, please note I didn’t say that at all. This is his private blog, where any and all topics are at his pleasure, from whether or not a particular tux “counts” to which diner has the best waffles. I did say that the podcast he does with Leo and Alex should be a “politics-free” zone, and I was right about that, for a couple of reasons.

    @liberty dogood
    Your post was a perfect example of what I spoke about in the post immediately preceding. Very sad. If the choice were between thinking like that, or not-thinking, like the American Idol watchers you look down on, the political system would be better off with better ratings for the tv show.

  15. Nat

    How exactly does being a tech writer (or comedian, or celebrity or any of the other people who get told “stick to your day job” when making a political statement) make you any less qualified to make a statement?

    All the people who are telling Andy to stick to tech writing should perhaps stick to whatever it is you do for a living and stop talking about politics on the internet.

    @romzburg: Prefacing “When it comes to politics, you don’t” with “When it comes to tech, I think you have a genuine ability to be objective, rational and fair” indicates you think that Andy should stick to writing about tech. It doesn’t matter if you said it in so many words, that’s what’s implied.

    @Dave: Total is right – using a 14-year-old video to back up your point is weak sauce.

  16. Mickey Blanchard

    Stick to technology Andy. That is what you do best. Politics is where your logic fails and I really don’t care what your opinion is.

  17. Kevin Niven

    All I know is , almost fifty million of us on food stamps! Black unemployment at 20% Six trillion in new debt! still no budget! Over 8% unemployment for 42 months and avg household income down 6k per year. One third of Americans receiving some form of Govt welfare! I’m tired of this shit and its time for a change. Romney isn’t my first pick but Ill give him a chance as I did with Pres Obama

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