Presidential Temperament: Obama vs. Romney
One characteristic that is usually considered when selecting candidates for the highest office in the land is that of a presidential temperament. It’s also something that is hard to define. From Time Magazine:
A funny thing happens when you sit down with historians and ask them what presidential temperament is and when it matters and whether voters make a mistake to let it count for much. What emerges is that temperament is as elusive as it is essential. George W. Bush probably wasn’t lying in the 2000 campaign when he promised a humble foreign policy. He just had no idea what was coming. F.D.R. probably was lying when he promised the anxious parents of 1940 that “your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.” Always be sincere, Harry Truman said, even if you don’t mean it. The presidency is less an office than a performance: Who saw the gloom and glower behind Eisenhower’s incandescent grin? This is why temperament descends easily into caricature: the feisty Give-’Em-Hell Harry, the cool-as-crystal Kennedy, the Vesuvian Lyndon Johnson. “We’ve taken temperament and turned it,” warns presidential historian Richard Norton Smith of George Mason University, into “vaudeville.”
Before the 2008 election Barack Obama was described as someone who could keep his cool and make the right decisions at the right time. In a crazy world, what more could one ask for? Supposedly conservative pundits, such as Christopher Buckley, embraced Obama’s temperament while chastising that of Senator John McCain.
Most of us who weren’t too impressed with Obama’s charade on the campaign trail remained in doubt. Didn’t he seem a bit too “cool”? And wasn’t he quite a disaster without a teleprompter? Instead we saw a candidate who thought way too highly of himself, surrounded himself with yes-men, and would be a disaster as President of the United States of America.
George Will put it quite well after Obama had his open microphone moment with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev:
“Just as Republicans saw an opportunity when the president, speaking during the  campaign, and he didn’t realize that he was being recorded, spoke about those Americans who cling to their guns and religion,” Will said. “And what this does, what people say when no one is listening, or so they think, gives you some insight into really Mr. Obama is. And this reinforces a narrative, which is he’s kind of slippery, very aloof and mildly disdainful of those people who inhibit his flexibility — aka, the American public.”
So Barack Obama turned out to be an aloof president who rather spends his time on the golf course than actually governing. What about his Republican opponent?
On the campaign trail, Romney surrogates such as Connie Mack III have praised Governor Romney’s presidential temperament. No wonder, unlike the current occupant of the Wihte House Governor Romney actually has real experience from his tenure as CEO of a large company and governor of a state with a largely hostile legislature. Romney has probably learned a thing or two about how to act in stressful situations with a lot of pressure.
And who can ignore this:
I don’t care how many Cadillacs Mitt Romney owns, how many earmarks he requested, or how many individual mandates he approved. This is an extraordinary man.
We first heard about it in the 2008 campaign: how Romney saved the teenaged daughter of a Bain Capital colleague in 1996. Here’s what Mitt did when he learned the girl had gone missing after sneaking from her home in Connecticut to a party in New York City: he shut down the whole office and flew the staff from Boston to New York; he had fliers printed up and got employees at Duane Reade (in which Bain invested) to stuff one into every customer’s bag; he set up a phone hotline; he personally, along with his Bain people and their New York accountants and lawyers, pounded the city’s pavements looking for the girl and asking teenagers if they’d seen her. After a few days of all this – and the publicity it generated – they traced the hotline call of someone asking for a reward and found the girl, who had overdosed on Ecstasy, in the basement of a New Jersey home.