Convention Showed Romney the Man, Not Just the BusinessmanSeptember 2, 2012
Let Bartlet be Bartlet.
Any West Wing fan will immediately recognize the line. It’s from an episode in which the staff of fictional president Jed Bartlet catch themselves focusing on political point scoring than actual policymaking. They recognize that they’ve come to accept marginalizing their goals and beliefs in order to “win” the issue. In effect, they see their president sacrificing who he really is in an attempt to be who his consultants think voters want him to be.
They realize that to truly be a great leader, they have to stop being timid and start being themselves. They needed to let Bartlet be Bartlet.
“How many days have you woken up feeling that something really special was happening in America?” Romney asked the crowd at the Republican National Convention. “Many of you felt that way on Election Day four years ago. Hope and Change had a powerful appeal. . . You know there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.”
President Obama didn’t set out to be the president he has been. He sought to be transformative. A unique candidate who would leave his mark on Washington by simply refusing to allow Washington leave its mark on him. But whether by design or circumstance, the power of the presidency has morphed Obama into a do-nothing president at a time when our nation can least afford one.
Obama has been paralyzed with political fear. His foreign policy timidity has left us weak, his nonexistent economic policy has left us unemployed, and his quiet acquiescence to the growth of federal government has left us with a historic debt. And with every turn, with every government bail out, with every taxpayer-funded stimulus package, and every proposed tax hike, Obama becomes less the individual Americans voted for and more of a partisan caricature.
He’s in a rut and he either doesn’t know or doesn’t care to escape.
But Romney’s speech showed he’s now fully willing and confident to “Let Bartlet Be Bartlet.” More than ever before he set aside his mechanistic approach, which allowed many liberals to paint him as a corporate robot with a machine’s capacity for empathy. His speech showed he is a man before he is a businessman.
For the first time he went in depth about his family. About his father who was born in Mexico during the Mexican revolution. A father who never made it through college, apprenticed as a plaster carpenter, and eventually became Governor of Michigan. About his mom who ran for Senate. And learned of her husband’s death because the rose he set on her bedside table every day wasn’t there one morning.
These are the experiences that made Mitt the man. A passionate desire to be a “car guy,” like his dad, but the deep understanding that he needed to “go someplace new and prove myself.” His love for his children and his yearning to see them succeed in their careers. And his love of community, whether it be watching with interest as that new business opens up downtown, or the “good feeling when you have more time to volunteer to coach your kid’s soccer team.”
“But for too many Americans, these good days are harder to come by,” Mitt said. And that’s the driving force behind his campaign – a longing to give others the opportunities he had, a desire to strengthen communities, and the aspiration to create the economic environment for businesses to thrive.
This is not Mitt the robot. This is Mitt the man. This is Bartlet being Bartlet. This is what a future president looks like.