If we must begin talking about presidential
candidates, let me tell you about Mitt Romney.
Personally, I hardly know him.
When he was Massachusetts governor, I knew a
lot of people in his administration so I worked with them on
taxation issues, but met Mitt himself only a few times over the
years, and never engaged in private conversation with him. So
the picture I am about to paint is only my impression of what
he's really like, created from flash-photos in my head.
I see Mitt as "Mr. Can Do," as in "Why the
h-e-double hockey-sticks is everyone standing around doing
nothing?" There are so many stories of this nature that the
attitude must be part of his basic psyche.
I didn't read his book about his experience
with the Salt Lake City Olympics, but recall reading somewhere
that he once jumped from his car to clear a traffic jam in
Olympic Park. We all heard about his rescuing foundering boaters
near his waterfront home in New Hampshire. We saw him striding
angrily from the Big Dig tunnel after the tile collapse that
killed a woman — and it didn't happen again.
During the New Hampshire primary, Granite
State Sen. Judd Gregg and I were discussing which of us should
walk first to the stage to introduce the candidate, when Mitt
charged past us with a grandchild on his shoulder, leapt onto
the stage, and reached a hand down to help me up.
I thought of this event early in Deval
Patrick's administration, when Easter Sunday drivers were
stalled on the Turnpike because of a shortage of holiday
toll-takers. Patrick said he could relate to their frustration
because he was stuck for awhile too.
I imagined Mitt being in that same position.
He would have leapt from his car and removed the tollgate (with
an axe from the trunk of his car if necessary), and waved
drivers through while using his cellphone to order all toll
booths opened. I can't imagine him passively sitting there in
traffic for even 10 minutes while an agency of the commonwealth
was screwing things up for people.
With this attitude in mind, let's talk about
the Romney family dog, whose temporary intestinal problem made
it impossible for him to ride in the station wagon during the
annual vacation trek to the Great Lakes. Mitt put the Irish
setter in his carrier on top of the car for the day-long drive,
which got them all to Michigan, albeit with an unpleasant brown
substance occasionally running down the outside of the windows.
Here is how I imagine the event. Mitt saw a
problem. The dog could be left behind, maybe boarded with a vet,
thereby missing the vacation fun with all the kids and other
dogs — or, he could get to the beach by riding on top, instead
of inside, the car. Mitt solved the problem, attaching a
windshield to the carrier. The eventually happy dog got to
vacation with his family.
Keep this story in mind while we talk about
RomneyCare, which RomneyOpponents hope to use to defeat him in
This time, I myself was there closely
watching the discussion about The Problem: An expensive health
insurance system that was subsidizing the uninsured through what
was called the "uncompensated care pool" which imposed
higher-than-necessary premiums on us insured citizens to pay
hospitals to provide free care, much of it taking place in
overcrowded emergency rooms.
My own organization insured four of us who
were subsidizing people who did not have insurance. We heard
stories about long, often painful waits in emergency rooms that
are required by the federal government to treat everyone.
Various administrations and interest groups had been trying to
find a solution for years.
Then along came Mitt. ("Why the
h-e-double-hockey-sticks is everyone standing around?")
He got "everyone" together for very public
hearings and forums, legislation was drafted, proposed, amended
and passed. Mitt vetoed some sections he found problematic, but
was overridden by the Democratic Legislature.
Still the new health insurance law worked the
first year. My organization's premiums actually dropped, as has
the money for the uncompensated care pool. Mitt moved on,
leaving a competent lieutenant, Kerry Healey, to run,
unfortunately unsuccessfully, for the job in 2006.
The necessary follow-up phases to the new
law, like cost containment, weren't done; while the Legislature
added mandates like a prescription drug benefit that my
organization didn't want but was forced to buy. I complained to
my legislators (for all the good that does; though as governor,
Mitt also tried to get new legislators elected to advance other
aspects of his reform agenda).
Sometimes, in Massachusetts, "Can Do" doesn't
get done because voters prefer that "D" stand for Democrat
instead of decisive action.
I wish Mitt had won the 2008 Republican
presidential nomination and then the election, because there are
a lot of things that badly need to be done in America. Voters
should read his new introduction to the paperback version of his
book, "No Apology," and imagine what it might be like to elect
someone in 2012 with the right ideas and the right attitude, for