Political Animal


September 24, 2012 1:39 PM Hitting America Running

By Ed Kilgore

There’s an item at Politico today by Anna Palmer that’s probably causing a lot of chuckles around Washington, about the “intensifying” transition plans of Team Romney under the direction of former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt. The general tone is set by this graph:

The transition effort — while necessary and appropriate for a GOP nominee so close to the election — is a jarring contrast to a campaign that appears on the ropes to many Republican strategists. Receiving no bump from the Tampa convention, Romney is plowing ahead with a methodical approach to staffing his would-be administration, despite the fact that his campaign is said by some to need a radical makeover.

You get the sense the author and a fair number of her sources (and perhaps quite a few readers as well) view Romney’s transition operation as either a necessary but ironic chore or as a neurotic “curtain-measuring” preoccupation for people who can’t do much to improve their prospects for actually occupying the positions and advancing the proposals they are plotting on various charts.

The latter, “neurotic” possibility is real. I can recall a Georgia gubernatorial campaign with which I was tangentially involved way back in the day in which as “my” candidate’s prospects steadily sank like a stone going down the homestretch, many of those in his orbit became very concerned about who was getting what job on that great gettin’ up morning that never came. One of my best friends actually became obsessed with writing an Inaugural Address.

But I strongly suspect something else is going on with the Romney transition operation. If he does manage to win, the transition period will be unusually crucial. And there are a lot of variables, mainly having to do with the existence and size of GOP majorities in Congress. If, for example, the GOP decides (as it has repeatedly promised to do) to undertake a massive legislative blitz—the kind that would make Reagan’s 1981 budget and tax offensive look like child’s play—to implement the Ryan Budget and repeal as much of Obamacare as is susceptible to the budget process with its no-filibuster reconciliation rules, then speed, unity and careful coordination will be essential. And anyone who thinks a barely elected Romney with tiny congressional majorities will be inhibited from this kind of blitz or will waste time searching for “bipartisanship” really, really does need to read Elephant in the Room: Washington in the Bush Years, the Washington Monthly’s new eBook.

Lest we forget, when George W. Bush was elevated to the presidency by the U.S. Supreme Court after the most agonizing election count since 1876, there was a lot of talk about his need to show some “humility” and in effect operate a bipartisan coalition government to reflect his obvious lack of any mandate. His people—some of the same people working for Team Mitt today—brushed the talk aside and immediately pushed to implement as much of his platform (notably the tax cuts, enacted via reconciliation) as possible, a mentality that only intensified after 9/11 when Bush enjoyed exceptional approval ratings and freely deployed the Power of Fear.

Maybe Leavitt and company are just wasting their time, but there’s every reason to assume the transition effort is aimed at replicating or even improving on Bush’s one-party-government, hit-America-running precedent.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • boatboy_srq on September 24, 2012 2:00 PM:

    It may be as simple as this: Romney thinks he's done all the interviewing he needs to get the job/throne/contract (there's a separate debate there about exactly which of those he thinks he's up for), and he's assembling his court while he waits for HR (the states and their pesky voters and electors) to put through the paperwork.

    If he's not so entirely out of touch, he needs to prove it - and fast.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on September 24, 2012 2:35 PM:

    In order to be able to move into the White House as soon as possible after he takes the oath of office on January 20th, it does take planning to get the building defumigated and repainted white again.

  • Ronald on September 24, 2012 2:35 PM:

    I tend to think it is as much an absence of reality as well as Mr. Romney's corporate background.
    Since his 'coronation' is 'inevitable' then all he needs to do is to just move forward with the schedule that his 'team' developed months and months ago and things will be swell.
    Never mind reality. That's for 'you other people'. Mr. Romney makes his own reality, thankyouverymuch.

    Is it telling that Mr. Romney is getting tired of fundraising? All that 'hard work' that goes into a campaign...meeting donors and lying to them, slumming with 'regular folk' (and lying to them).

    Gosh gee willikers. Life was so much easier when taking over the presidency of something was just 'make a few deals on the golf course, let the underlings work out the details while we're boating on the yacht, pay the lawyers to make sure that we're getting the best possible slice, sign and profit!'

    This whole 'President of the US' thing is just Too Much Work.

  • c u n d gulag on September 24, 2012 2:36 PM:

    The campaign's got to keep moving forward, or the narrative becomes "Even Mitt's campaign staff knows it's going to lose - they've suspended their seach committee that's supposed to look for staffers in case they do win."

    And yeah, Ed, I agree, if Mitt does win, there'll be a legislative blitzkrieg to undo as much of the 20th Century as possible.

  • bushworstpresidentever on September 24, 2012 2:48 PM:

    Why even bother with a White House staff or Cabinet. Just remember what Grover Norquist said, Rmoney's only job as President will be to have a working hand to sign whatever the lunatics in a Republican controlled Congress send him to sign.

  • boatboy_srq on September 24, 2012 2:49 PM:

    This whole 'President of the US' thing is just Too Much Work.

    Nail. Hammer. Impact.

    It never ceases to amaze me that the same people who think the ni-CLANG doesn't work hard enough at Presidenting, are in turn able to tolerate folks like Shrub and Rmoney who seem fixated on how being pResident will let them play so many more rounds of golf.

  • Tom Hilton on September 24, 2012 3:09 PM:

    Is there a Fantasy Presidential Appointment league? Because that would actually be lots of fun. Anyone can play, and nobody gets hurt.

  • T2 on September 24, 2012 3:17 PM:

    sure, if Romney wins the Koch Bros and Rove/Norquist will immediately begin to implement their policies, declaring a "clear mandate" to do so. Anyone who thinks otherwise is an idiot. And don't schedule any Iranian vacations either.

  • biggerbox on September 24, 2012 3:47 PM:

    There are a lot of details they really need to start figuring out before the election. For example, how many assigned to Refalca's Secret Service detail? Are the car elevators rated to take the weight of the armored limos? Now wonder Ann says it's hard work.

  • Renai on September 24, 2012 4:46 PM:

    Do we get names? I picture the same cast of characters that slimed out of the White House when Bush left are readying themselves to slime back in if Romney wins, sans the ones that never left. Of course Darth Cheney may just send Liz, Mitt will make that Daddy, I Love You personality feel wonderfully needed.