Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Slate

September 28, 2012

Slate: Why we want presidents like LBJ

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

Other politicians notice this. "I think one of the problems with the White House is that it's been too set apart. It's been too Chicago-centric, and it needs to get out," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told the Hill newspaper. "Clinton didn't just talk to four leaders, he picked up the phone and he kind of said, 'I really need your vote on this.' " Emanuel tells the story of being woken in the middle of the night by Clinton, who was asking for another list of names to lobby for votes on his crime bill.

Romney shares Obama's aloof temperament. He was forced to overcome it a little more than Obama because, as the governor of Massachusetts, Romney needed the Democrats in the legislature to get anything done. But it was a synthetic interaction. In Texas, George W. Bush developed a lifelong friendship with his Democratic Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock. Romney did not make those kinds of connections. He had little interest in the lawmakers themselves or the cosseting that was required to move legislation.

Massachusetts Democrats found his corporate style off-putting. In Michael Kranish and Scott Helman's "The Real Romney," the authors recount Romney's first meeting with lawmakers. "My usual approach has been to set the strategic vision for the enterprise and then work with executive vice presidents to implement that strategy," Romney said. He seemed to be suggesting state lawmakers worked for him. "My take on it was, here is a person who is well-intentioned and competent, but unclear on the basic concept," Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., then a state senator from western Massachusetts, told the authors.

When asked how he is going to get anything done in Washington, Romney points to his work with Democrats in Massachusetts. But his crowning achievement, health care reform, illustrates how difficult it will be for him to match that record as president. Romney worked with Democrats to impose an individual mandate without much ideological opposition from his own party. He'll have less room to move in Washington where conservatives are on guard for his first break with orthodoxy. To reach a budget deal in Massachusetts, Romney agreed to raise at least $331 million in new revenue through increased fees for permits, licenses and services — about a 45 percent jump. He's already signed a pledge never to do such a thing as president.

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