Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Real Romney 9: Governor Romney

In my latest reading of The Real Romney, by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, the topic was Romney's record as Governor of Massachusetts, and how he moved to the right on such issues as abortion and gay rights, probably because he was planning to run for President.

According to Kranish and Helman, Romney as Governor did not really form relationships with state legislators, for he was not a back-slapping sort of politician.  This had negative consequences for Romney, but also positive consequences.  The negative consequences were that several state legislators thought that Romney regarded them as underlings, that there was not a great deal of cooperation between Romney and state legislators in pursuing Romney's agenda, and that state legislators tried at times to show Romney who was boss (as when they overrode the vast bulk of his vetoes).  The positive consequence was that Romney led state government slightly away from its "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" atmosphere (which sometimes led to corruption), for Romney was not much of a deal maker.  Rather, Romney's strategy was to appeal to the people of Massachusetts, expecting for them to put the state legislators in the hot seat.  There were times when this worked, as when the Democrats in the state legislature backed off from increasing the capital-gains tax.

Regarding Romney's accomplishments as Governor, Romney did help make the judiciary more of a meritocracy.  Romney also displayed leadership after a tragedy involving the Boston highway system, when "heavy concrete ceiling panels fell onto a car driving through a Big Dig tunnel", resulting in the death of a mother of three (page 243).  Kranish and Helman say on page 244: "Immediately, Romney became a commanding and reassuring presence.  The legendary quick study was on the case, demonstrating a stunning mastery of complicated engineering details."

In terms of the economy, Romney (according to Kranish and Helman) "streamlined the public approval process to help businesses expand and revived an agency charged with recruiting businesses to Massachusetts" (page 242).  At the same time, Kranish and Helman state that there was only a one percent net increase in new jobs by the end of Romney's term. 

Kranish and Helman are excellent writers, and I think that you can see that in what they say on pages 259-260, as they artfully transition to the next chapter, which is about Romney's health care reform plan:

"As public resentment about his national ambitions grew, Romney swatted it away as best he could.  How could liberal Massachusetts be expected to understand?  The state didn't matter for Republican presidential candidates, anyway.  Yet just when many expected him to disengage completely, Romney did the opposite, displaying a dedication and focus that people around him had never seen.  Eager to notch a signature achievement before he left office, he took on a problem many others had tried, and failed, to solve.  It was a puzzle he had worked over in his mind for years.  No state had ever put all the pieces together.  But now, Romney decided, Massachusetts would: every resident would have health insurance.  He'd find a way."

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