He Who Makes Plastic Look Real, Ctd

by Patrick Appel

Jonathan Bernstein defends multiple-choice Mitt:

[H]ow can anyone know what Romney will actually do it elected?  I think the answer is, basically, the same way you can know that about anyone.  He'll follow party incentives, and institutional incentives, and other such things that have little or nothing to do with what he "really" thinks.  And that's mostly a good thing!  As I've said many times, our presidents are experts on practically none of the issues about which they must make decisions.  If they fool themselves into thinking that they know more than anyone else about arms control, or the effects of economic stimulus, or farming, or 5th amendment jurisprudence, or what North Korea is up to, then there's a good chance they'll fail.  Even worse, if they convince themselves (as Woodrow Wilson, and probably George W. Bush, did) that as a result of being elected they share some mystical bond with the American people that allows them, and only them, to understand what the American people "really" want...well, that's a recipe for disaster. 

Responding to public opinion is one thing, but Romney constantly does 180s to follow miniscule political advantages. He's the reverse of Obama –Mitt takes the long-term political hit for the short-term gain; he campaigns as if political opportunity costs don't exist. Yglesias is correct that basic beliefs and temperament matter. And John Gardner is right to point out that public opinion has its limits:

[T]he next President will have many, many occasions to inform the “customers” that they cannot have what they want precisely how they want it – America simply cannot afford it.  Does the next President have the courage to do so?  What proof do we have?  Customer service and management consulting is a good model to run a company, even a large government agency.  (Business leaders work best in government at agencies that bear some similarity to business, such as Social Security or Medicare.)  But President?  No – the style of leadership we need in a President right now is very different than corporate leadership.  It’s far more about negotiation and persuasion than command, control, and organization management, to say nothing of the need for principles beyond customer service during the 3:00 AM phone calls made famous in the last campaign. 

(Image: Mandel Ngan/Getty)