Political Animal


December 04, 2011 10:35 AM What constitutes a ‘career’ in politics

By Steve Benen

I wish Mitt Romney would stop saying things like this.

“Four years as governor does not make me a career politician,” said Romney, who served as Massachusetts governor from 2002 to 2006, but also ran for U.S. Senate in 1994 and for president in 2007. “I’ve spent 25 years in business.”

If the point Romney hopes to convey is that Newt Gingrich has been involved in politics for more years than he has, fine. That’s clearly true. I’ve never been altogether clear why that’s supposed to be an impressive selling point for a presidential candidate — if Romney wins the GOP nomination, he’ll be the least experienced major-party nominee in a generation — but as a matter of arithmetic, Romney isn’t wrong on this narrow point.

But this notion that Romney is some kind of political novice is just silly. It’s a talking point Romney is obsessed with repeating, but the facts keep getting in the way.

In 1994, Romney ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate. In 2002, Romney was elected governor. Two years later, he formed his first political action committee, and two years after that, he became chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

In 2007, Romney abandoned his entire worldview and launched a presidential campaign, and in 2008, after failing, he created another political action committee. In 2010, Romney traveled extensively in support of midterm Republican candidates, just as he’d done in 2006.

I’d like to think we’re beyond parsing the meaning of the word “career,” but when someone seeks statewide and national office four times, serves as a governor, and heads two different political action committees and a national party’s gubernatorial association, that person has a career in politics.

Romney’s job, at this point, is to feel some sense of pride in his record, and convince voters of its merit. Pretending that record doesn’t exist is absurd.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • martin on December 04, 2011 10:47 AM:

    Itís a talking point Romney is obsessed with repeating, but the facts keep getting in the way.

    I'm not aware of the facts getting in the way of anyone in the republican primary, unless you count Herman Cain's mistress.

  • Bernard HP Gilroy on December 04, 2011 10:57 AM:

    Let's be fair. Mitt Romney hasn't made a career of being a politician. He's a career of being a failed politician.

  • g on December 04, 2011 11:12 AM:

    He has a career in politics, all right - albeit with a record of minimal success.

  • c u n d gulag on December 04, 2011 11:15 AM:

    Mitt's been running for President since the day he his father did, and the day he decided that was worth more than the other poor slobs coming home in body bags from Vietnam.

    I think he made the same decision that Cheney, Bush, Perry, Newt, and yes, Clinton, made.

    The publisher of the 'Manchester Union Leader' is with Gregory on 'If It's Sunday, It Must Be Time To "Meet the Republican,"' and he had a great line.

    He said, "The only reason Mitt's able to run as a political outsider is because he keeps losing elections."


  • Grumpy on December 04, 2011 11:25 AM:

    A career in politics is not coextensive with holding elected office. Grover Norquist is a career politician, non-elected variety.

  • jjm on December 04, 2011 11:29 AM:

    The part I don't get is the GOP's steadfast belief that America needs, wants and will elect a 'businessman' or CEO to be president, because after all, they seem to think, CEOs are the very pinnacle of those admired in the USA.

    They fail to recall that GW Bush was our first CEO president, even if he was more of a dud at it than Romney and his vampire capital firm was.

    But isn't the bloom off that particular rose? The public is increasingly disgusted with the truly outlandish salaries of CEOs -- even the egregiously failed ones, who walk away from their messes with millions of dollars in 'severance' pay.

    Hasn't the word 'businessman' lost its allure? Just wondering...

  • Tigershark on December 04, 2011 11:40 AM:

    He is not a career politician, he is a career candidate. If he actually won elections he would be a career politician.

  • c u n d gulag on December 04, 2011 11:43 AM:

    That odious little weasel, Mark Halperin was on "Meet the Republicans" also, and he said, "The Democrats will really attack Mitt Romney."

    Surprisingly, Gregory countered with "And the Republicans will really attack President Obama."

    What does Halperin EVER bring to the table, besides the same conventional "wisdom" readily available from any other Conservative stupid-ass punk with a smirk?

    Yes, CAPTCHA - topics mmittrs
    If only Mmittrs could stick to one side of the topics...

  • T2 on December 04, 2011 12:00 PM:

    Remember, Mitt's father was a career politician, and actually a fairly respected one. So although Mitt himself has only served one term as a "pol", his entire life has centered around politics. With that background, what surprises me is that he has not been an elected career politician. He is like George W. Bush......son of a career pol who took a different path and eventually got back in the family game. The difference was that Mitt actually succeeded in his business life. I don't think either of them was/is suited to an office as high as the presidency. You can't be president just to impress your family......there's more to it than that.

  • Joe Friday on December 04, 2011 12:31 PM:

    Willard: "I've spent 25 years in business."

    As a CORPORATE RAIDER who threw workers out into the street !

    He acts like that's BETTER than a career politician.

  • biggerbox on December 04, 2011 12:49 PM:

    So, then, what?

    He's a hobby/em> politician?

    Doesn't he have enough money to buy himself a basement full of woodworking tools? I'm sure he'd find routing and planing just as fulfilling.

  • jjm on December 04, 2011 1:07 PM:

    One more thing.

    Why is Romney running? I know Mormons are taught that they should aim for top leadership positions in any organization of which they are a part. Is that behind it?

    Speaking of which, did anyone notice the religious overtone to the name of the main money behind Huntsman (his father's PAC)? It's "Our Destiny" -- destiny being the term many religious people mean for the soul's destiny after death.

  • j on December 04, 2011 2:03 PM:

    Mittens seems to be running on his career in business and saying he knows how to create jobs but does a career in slashing jobs count?
    I think one paper has started to mention that -LA Times?

  • Rudy Gonzales on December 04, 2011 8:05 PM:

    Career politicians are those who keep running after their first stint in politics. After four years they are career politicians. But today there is a more important show to watch on CBS. The following program shows why the TEA-GOP-Republican parties want to get rid of the Sarbanes-Oxley and the Frank Dodd Act. These two acts provide guidelines and restrictio≠≠ns put into place as a result the recession of 2007 and 2008! There were major corporate and accounting scandals like Enron, Adelphia, TYCO and Worldcom which cost investors billions. The Frank Dodd Act provided a sweeping overhaul of America's financial regulatory system to consolidat≠≠e agencies, regulate financial markets, implement consumer protection≠≠, provide financial crisis tools for the FDIC and improving accounting processes and tightening credit rating regulations.


  • Anonymous on December 04, 2011 8:53 PM:

    It's a ludicrous talking point. Mitt Romney is obviously one of the most prominent Republican politicians in the country. Furthermore, how can a Romney be both the "next in line inevitable candidate" and a non-politician?

    This talking point only serves to further demonstrate to the Republican base that Romney is a fraud, which obviously LESSENS his likelihood of winning the nomination. It also plays perfectly into the "two Mitts in one body" scenario pushed by the DNC. It is exactly the type of out-of-touch mistake that makes Republicans question Romney's electability.

  • pj in jesusland on December 05, 2011 3:58 AM:

    Mitt's so "mavericky."