This goes a long way in Washington, D.C., as former President George H.W. Bush could tell him. But Romney enters the White House with a burden different from the one that weighed down Obama four years ago.
Romney is more manager than politician — that was evident in his awkward mien and his uncanny inability in recent months to master fundamental political arts, such as the artful dodge and the tactful feint — and it is as a manager rather than as a politician that he proceeds, and perhaps succeeds, in the White House.
America’s political problem today is at base a management challenge — how to adjudicate between polarized parties and among passionate politicians who see compromise as an indication of powerlessness rather than an act of patriotism. The new president trims some of his jagged political edges — all presidents do so, even Reagan — but holds fast to his core principle, which is that the United States government is poorly managed and that its current condition is insupportable and irresponsible. From that assessment, all things are visible and, perhaps, possible.
The choice from behind rose-colored glasses remains one between two men of good faith and honor, one with a gift for the inspiring speech, another with a gift for the detailed spreadsheet. Both abjure compromise, but both will have to compromise; the logic of Stein’s Law is too great and the political landscape too complicated to avoid compromise. Both have plausible ways forward but narrow openings to succeed.
In the end, the choice is between two dramatically different conceptions of government — and two dramatically different ways of moving forward.
Pulitzer Prize-winner and North Shore native David M. Shribman is executive editor of the Post-Gazette.