Mitt Romney is a Businessman, not a Flip-Flopper


Romney is not necessarily a flip-flopper in the direct sense of the word.  The changes in his stance are rather predictable, and Dean Obeidallah is right on the money.


“This is a man without a core, a man without substance, a man that will say anything to become president of the United States.”

Rudy Giuliani uttered these harsh words when describing Mitt Romney eight months ago. But then, four months later, Giuliani endorsed Romney.

Is Giuliani correct? Is Romney truly a man “without a core”? The simple answer: No. Romney has a distinct core — not that of a politician, but of a CEO.

What do I mean? We have become accustomed in these highly partisan times to politicians who adhere rigidly to their ideological positions. They don’t change their views to attract supporters. Rather, they want voters to agree with the positions they advocate.

In contrast, a CEO is not shackled by ideology. A CEO’s success is measured by the bottom line, not by how many principles he or she sticks to.

To the CEO, if a product is not selling, you don’t stick with it until the product destroys your business. Instead, you tweak it. You rebrand it. You try a new slogan or new packaging. And if people are still not buying it, like New Coke, you drop it. You regroup, come up with a new product and then start selling again.

Romney is first and foremost a businessman. In fact, Romney has repeatedly made this very point to us with statements like: “I spent my life in the private sector, not in government. I only spent four years as a governor. I didn’t inhale. I’m a business guy.”

I’m not defending Romney’s acrobatic flips on issues. In fact, if Romney loses this election, he would make a great circus performer. I can see the ads: “The Amazing Romney — he can change positions in midair.” At times, I truly wonder if Mitt realizes we have Google and can look up his record on issues.

But Romney’s “evolution” on certain key issues does not technically constitute a “flip-flop,” which is defined by as, “A sudden or unexpected reversal as of direction, belief, attitude or policy.”

Romney’s changing views are neither sudden nor unexpected. Rather, they are astutely calculated by Romney the businessman to appeal to the customers he’s targeting at that very moment. This is a man clearly driven by the adage: “The customer is always right.”

For example, this week Romney declared that the individual mandate imposed by Obamacare is a tax. Yet when Romney was the governor of Massachusetts, he implemented an identical individual mandate but consistently denied it was a tax.

Romney has simply modified his “product line” to attract the most customers based on the current marketplace conditions. Even “Mad Men’s” Don Draper would have to be in awe of Romney’s business acumen.

This strategy is even more apparent when you contrast Romney’s views from when he ran for office in Massachusetts with those he espoused when seeking the Republican presidential nomination. In Massachusetts, Romney fashioned a product that appealed to the left-leaning consumers who populate the state. But when seeking to sell his wares to the more conservative Republican primary market, he customized it accordingly.

For example, on abortion, Romney was unequivocally pro-choice in his run for the Senate in 1994 and for governor in 2002. In fact, during a 2002 gubernatorial debate, Romney stated, “I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose and am devoted and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard.”

But when Romney sought the Republican nomination, he tweaked his goods to appeal to these right-leaning buyers by saying, “I support the reversal of Roe v. Wade.”

On gun control, Romney admitted during his 1994 Senate race that his views were, “… not going to make me the hero of the NRA.” Indeed, as governor, Romney signed into law a ban on assault weapons, dubbing them “instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people.”

Flash forward to 2012. During the Republican primaries, Romney again fine-tuned his merchandise to attract the more conservative gun owners. In April, he even addressed the NRA’s national convention, explaining, “We need a president who will enforce current laws, not create new ones that only serve to burden lawful gun owners.”

Romney not only revamped his product line, he also repackaged himself. During his 1994 Senate campaign, Romney told Massachusetts voters, “I’m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush.” But when running for the Republican presidential nomination, he shrewdly rebranded himself as a self-described “Reagan Republican.”

For many, a CEO-style president could be a good fit. Romney’s track record indicates he will likely be a pragmatic leader, not rigidly beholden to ideology.

But for others like myself, Romney’s CEO core and ever evolving product line lead to doubt about every word he says.

Editor’s note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog “The Dean’s Report” and co-director of the upcoming documentary, “The Muslims Are Coming!” Follow him on Twitter: @deanofcomedy

This entry was published on July 8, 2012 at 12:17 pm. It’s filed under Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

14 thoughts on “Mitt Romney is a Businessman, not a Flip-Flopper

  1. I’m not at all sure about today’s politicians being rigidly tied to an “ideology,” unless you mean by that tied to their political party. They strike me as pragmatists of the first order. They will stick by their party and “those that brung them” (the corporations that got them there). But none of them seems to me to have much of an “ideology.” They just go where the winds blow. In that regard, Romney is just more of the same.

    • I think that politicians, in acting according to a party platform based on a very particular worldview, are acting consciously under specific ideology. Even if it is also based in a perceived self-interest, pragmatism is often subverted by ideology in our political culture. By that I mean that, in a real pragmatism, there would be more flexibility and an understanding that the personal lens through which one views the world influences our ability to see the good or the right or the best. Strict ideologies refuse the possibility of multiple points of view, and thus seem to be the dominant theme in our politics over pragmatism.

      • We have a different take on what the word “pragmatism” means. My take is philosophical and it does not rule out the possibility of a particular way of looking at things: it suggests that what works is best. In this case (as I use the word) what works for the politician, regardless of what it is we are talking about, is what he or she regards as best. But I see what you’re saying. You see the pragmatist as having no point of view whatever, being completely flexible and able to bend as the wind blows. Your idea is that Romney is this type of politician. He might just as well be a Democrat. No? Perhaps you are right. Thanks for the good blog.

      • I think that I see pragmatism in a similar way. But I believe that the pragmatism of some is bent by ideology, to make what may not be the best option for all appear to be the only option. Basically, I think many politicians believe they are being pragmatic, but are actually being ideological, seeing the only sane or rational option as the one they choose.

      • he ” personally ” can’t srppout it. Well, this bill only raises the debt $ 7 TRILLION over 10 years instead of $ 10 TRILLION. So, we have saved $ 3 TRILLION….mainly by ending wars we haven’t yet started and threatening to cap programs in the future that Harry Reid can table anyway. Frankly, this bill smells and it will stink up the entire 2012 campaign. It will do NOTHING to avoid Downgrading and it will do NOTHING about the major sources of our debt. Romney is pretty smart. I would have been stunned if he endorsed this piece of legislative crap ginned up in OZ. Watch the market. they will tell you how wonderful this bill is CraigS CraigS

    • I commend Romney for doing the only thing that was coisnstent with his previous statements. (see No Apology)He is on the record for maintaining Defense spending at 4% of GDP, and this bill put that at risk. (See James Pethakoukis’ remarks following his trip to China. “I’d hate to negotiate with them with anything other than military superiority.)He is on record that spending should be less than 20% of GDP. This bill cuts a scrawny $7 billion in 2012. It sends NO message to the businesses that DC is serious about reining in spending. It sends no message to the analysts, making capital more expensive. It is a jobs destroyer.He is on the record that he would NOT raise taxes, yet this agreement will likely do just that. Harry Reid is already backing away from the no taxes commitment.He did not grandstand the issue. He let the elected leaders work out the best compromise they could. And then he waited until it was reasonably assured that there would be enough support from both sides to pass it, avoiding default.But he also pinned the issue on Obama and his lack of leadership, and assured everyone that he would run against him on the issue of spending, taxes, and deficit.Well done, Governor Romney.

  2. Would it be the ultimate goal of the pragmatist, that need be examined? Is his/her goal to get elected, to push party platform or to serve country. Maybe they determine that in order to do the latter, they must do the former. So, to raise money and garner support, it is pragmatic to appear to be staunchly ideological. I may just be turning it into an ‘ends justifies the means’ issue.

    • The pieces fit there. It seems one certainly could draw that conclusion: that this type of pragmatism, blinded by ideology, becomes a scenario where the possible options are narrowed.

      • True. Whether you are a frog or pretending to be one, you still have to eat bugs.

      • First of all, I would like to thank foe and friend alike for their syetaphims. It turns out that negotiating a funeral date is not any easier than negotiating a budget deal, but that is another story.Yes this is a strange day in deed where I am slightly to the Left of Mr. Romney while being slightly to the Right of Mrs. Palin. To cap it all off MWS is to the left to all of us. And with respect while I know what DanL think of Mr. Romney’s position, I am trying to figure out his.I must confess I am taking pleasure saying Mr. Romney stand up to his wack job supporters. While I have gain a bit of respect for Mr. Romney, I am not ready to vote for him. I will forgive my own Congressman. So that is my effort to compromise and bipartisanship. I will vote for the bottom of the ballot, but not the top. So I am in a bit better mood this week than last.

    • I suppose where I dinsest is from the idea that progressive (“left leaning”) politics aren’t pragmatic or don’t focus on what works. I think this is dead wrong.If the last 8 years have proven anything, it is that modern “movement conservatism” of the Goldwater-Reagan-Gingrich-Bush II-type is what is impractical and leads to government that cannot work. Rigid leftwing ideology might do the same, but the American left IS pragmatic.Take universal single-payer healthcare: It would not only lead to a healthier America, it would help in the revitalization of American manufacturing by eliminating the biggest labor costs. (If GM had been a Canadian corporation, for instance, even with the same bad management, etc., it would not have needed government loans–because the savings from Canada’s universal healthcare would have netted GM an additional 20 billion in profits!)Compared to single payer, it is the half-way forms of healthcare reform, including Obama’s plan, that are impractical–and far more costly.The American Left IS pragmatic–which is why we back a slightly left of center bi-partisan who could get elected rather than a Dennis Kucinich or Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney. For the most part, we are happy with the way that Obama is charming as much of the GOP and conservatives as he can. We know that getting past partisan divides will help in this crisis. (The story of the “angry left” is a media myth.)But we are suspicious that the Right will cooperate with the Obama charm offensive and we want to make sure he stands up and doesn’t cave in when the GOP decides to knee cap him.


    • The Rombot’s efforts to spin this… here and on Race is paethtic. Especially after days of bashing Palin for not supportin the Boehner bill. For the record, I agree with Mitt on this. This bill is a shit sandwich that will blow up in the face of every republican that votes for it. By the way, Boehner is now on record saying that he got 98% of what he wanted. The Dems are certain to hang that statement around the necks of every republican that criticizes the bill. Thanks, John. Dan, I disagree with you on this issue, but I admire your honest. I can’t say the same for some of you fellow Romney fanatics.

  3. Romney was first in line to sign Cut, Cap and Balance. He’s been calling for such poiclies since his book came out. (See Closer To Home’s eloquent summation on this thread)As CraigS summarized earlier on this thread, and which many of us did so last week as well, the 2012ers don’t need to be popping off on this issue, since it was in constant flux.Romney didn’t support the Boehner Plan last week, he applauded Boehner for holding firm on raising taxes. That is different thing entirely, but some Romnots are to0 obtuse to get that.Nobody likes this bill and even those elected officials who have to vote for it, I doubt really like it. So what do we have?Romney staking out his positions in his book, committing to them by signing the CCB pledge.He issues a supportive statement for not raising taxes in a lousy economy.He’s avoided looking like a fool for commenting on negotiations he didn’t have all the info on.He issued a statement he’s disappointed in the bill, forced on us, because the President failed to lead on the issue.I think he played it straight and perfect. If he injected himeslf anyother way in to the debate it would have backfired on him.

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