Tongue firmly in cheek (I think), Ben Domenech tells the political equivalent of a campfire ghost story.
The odds of Mitt Romney actually being interested in the ultimate salvage operation are south of one percent, I’d guess, but on a news day as slow as this one, that’s more than enough to justify blogging the possibility. Dude, I’m nervous:
What Obama needs right now more than ever is a turnaround artist. Ideally, he would find someone with executive experience and bipartisan bona fides, someone experienced in the health policy space, who understands how these complicated exchanges are supposed to work. He needs someone with serious management experience and corporate consulting acumen, who’s dealt with a prominent national project while in the public eye, who’s completed a significant Olympic-sized undertaking under the pressure of a hard timeline. He needs someone with no future ambitions or plans to run for office again, a true non-ideological technocrat, someone who won’t manipulate a bureaucratic undertaking toward personal or political ends, but is just interested in solutions, in making things work.
It might even help if this person was a bit cutthroat, a tad robotic, with that special type of smiling harshness – someone who can slash the deadwood from a project, prioritize what needs doing and who can do it, and who won’t hesitate for one second to fire people who deserve it. If you’re talking about the perfect candidate, it’d be someone who actually liked firing people, who relishes it, and didn’t really give a damn who didn’t like him for it.
Thankfully, as Ann Althouse has noted, there is exactly one person in America who has all these qualities. And he’s got time on his hands.
He does have time on his hands, and maybe he has a motive too. Consider: Uniquely among the nominees of the past 25 years, he’ll leave no major legacy of public service if he retires now. The Olympics rescue was impressive and his term as governor of Massachusetts was fine (if you, er, exclude RomneyCare), but the guys who preceded him as presidential losers were, in reverse order, a war hero turned longtime senator; another veteran turned longtime senator who went on to become secretary of state; another veteran who was at the time the sitting vice president of the United States and who ultimately won a Nobel prize; another longtime senator who served briefly as VP and was himself a war hero in his youth; and finally the incumbent president of the United States, who’d served previously as VP and director of the CIA after some war heroics of his own early on. It’s no knock on Mitt, a brilliant, fabulously successful businessman, to say that he’s apt to get lost in the historical shuffle in having had to follow that act. The people who write the first draft of history, though, would love love love him for stepping up now to rescue Precious’s boondoggle in its hour of need. It’d be the ultimate act of bipartisan civic-minded magnanimity — at least, that’s how it’d be spun — and if he was able to keep the Titanic afloat, it’d cement his reputation as an executive whose genius could move mountains. He’d be the savior of America’s new Democratic-engineered health-care system. And best of all, the media could use his example to bludgeon future Republicans who dare to oppose a Democratic president’s policies. I can already see the Paul Krugman op-ed: “The Redemption of Mitt Romney.” The effusive crapola shall flow like a mighty river.
Romney could have pettier motives too. He’s spent the past year being rhetorically stomped on by conservatives who hate him for fizzling in their last, best chance to stop The One. He spent the two years before that being rhetorically stomped on by conservatives who hated him for being a squish but who felt obliged for vote for him if he won the nomination anyway. He did his best at every step to pander to them, famously describing himself as “severely conservative” at CPAC 2012, but they disdained him to the bitter end. What better revenge than to drop his “ObamaCare is totally different from RomneyCare” pretense now and extend a two-handed middle-finger salute to righties by signing on to Team Sebelius? Plus, after O’s campaign ran rings around him technologically, it’d surely be gratifying to Romney for Obama to come crawling to him for help with a website fiasco. Apart from and on top of the bitterness of losing the election, it must have wounded Mitt’s pride to know that, despite his reputation for managerial wizardry, it was the inexperienced guy from Chicago who outraised him, out-organized him, and — horrors — out-number-crunched him. Here’s Romney’s chance to prove that Project ORCA was a fluke. And no, contrary to what people on Twitter keep saying to me, Obama’s ego would not prevent him from considering this idea. The only thing The One savors more than praise is having a ready scapegoat at hand when he fails. (Just ask the insurance industry.) He’s desperate for some sort of blame-sharing Republican buy-in on O-Care but the GOP’s stubbornly resisted. Appoint the party’s last nominee as ObamaCare czar, though, and you’ve got all the buy-in you need to convince most of our very low-information voting public that Republicans support O-Care just as much as Democrats do. And if Mitt can’t right the ship and the law flames out anyway, that’s okay. Just proves that even the GOP’s most eminent “turnaround artist” failed as much as O himself did.
Good lord, I think I’m talking myself into this. Second look at the ultimate Romney betrayal?