The Real Mitt Romney, According to his Bain Colleague, Ed Conard

How do you turn a liability into an asset? Ed Conard, a former colleague of Mitt Romney's at Bain Capital, says Romney's history with the company should be an asset because Romney is an "outstanding business executive" who always took the longview. 

It is hard to imagine a greater invasion of privacy than running for president. Not only must candidates submit their personal lives to microscopic scrutiny, the same is true for their families, friends and former colleagues. That was too much for Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, a rising star who decided not to run. On the other end of the spectrum is Newt Gingrich, who was so eager to run that he allegedly "bought off" his wife Callista with a luxurious trip to Greece and gifts of expensive jewelry. 

Of course, as we have pointed out previously, the president has the power to authorize Armageddon, so we don't propose the vetting process should be any more forgiving. However, American politics can also be very shallow. Once a candidate has passed the so-called Presidential Sanity Test, Americans also demand they pass this all-important character test: would I have a beer with him?

To put it another way, as Joe Klein told Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball, "the presidency is the most intimate office we have. They live in our kitchens. They live in our living rooms. We demand to get to know them." 

This has been a challenge for Mitt Romney, who is what is known as a resume candidate. He wants your vote because of his business experience. That might not be good enough. Currently Obama has a wide lead over Romney in the so-called empathy numbers

Some supporters have lampooned Romney for his reluctance to talk about himself, and hence define who the real Mitt Romney is. Experienced strategists have suggested a public makeover. "I am who I am," has been Romney's refrain. We elected a rock star, his argument goes, but what we need is a quiet, competent leader with solid business credentials. 

Politico summarized this contrast well: 

His language, his approach, his mannerisms convey: I am not asking you to trust me to see into your soul, or to feel your pain, or bring you hope and fuzzy change. I will bring you concrete, measurable, profitable change — the kind you can authentically take stock of, and even measure in your family’s bank account.

In order to make this argument, however, Romney will need to translate his experience as a businessman into an asset, rather than the liability that Democrats have tried to make it into. His success will depend on the way voters view Bain Capital. 

"Bain Capital will have to undergo tremendous scrutiny," says Ed Conard, a colleague of Romney's at Bain and the author of the recent book Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You've Been Told About the Economy is Wrong. "If he can’t survive that scrutiny," Conard tells us, "he won’t be the president." So far, Bain hasn't been mentioned at the Republican National Convention. 

Ed Conard would change that. 

Conard's book, with its defense of the economic elite, was dubbed "perhaps the most hated book in America" by The New York Times Magazine. And yet, Conard says he's not afraid of embarrassing his former colleague. "It would be unfortunate if we can’t have an honest conversation about what drives our economy and what would make it more successful in the future," he tells Big Think. 

So Conard's advice to Romney: don't be afraid of the scrutiny. Your resume is almost too good to be true, so just be who you are, with no apologies. Romney is an "outstanding business executive," Conard says, with a "deep understanding of business and how the economy works."

Watch the video here:

While Conard does not speak for Bain Capital, he was eager to defend the firm against Obama campaign ads that have been critical of Romney's dealings with Kansas City's GST Steel. Conard responds: "We killed ourselves to make that business as successful as we could possibly make it."

Watch the video here:

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @Daniel Honan

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