Romney’s Disqualification

Unlike the circus clowns he’s now forced to share a stage with, Mitt Romney is a plausible candidate for the Presidency. But he’s also a singularly unappetizing one, even putting aside his loyalty to the plutocracy.

Some people think Romney got the better of his set-to with Rick Perry over immigration, though winning a battle of wits with an unarmed man isn’t such a great accomplishment.

But if we get away from the drama and focus on the facts, Romney’s answer was actually a double disqualification for the office he seeks. As Steve Benen points out, Romney engaged in “accidental candor” when he quoted himself as saying to his lawn-care firm, “Look, you can’t have any illegals working on our property. I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, I can’t have illegals.”

In other words, his objection was not to breaking the law, but to how it would play politically.

But that’s the shallower of the two disqualifications. The deeper is embodied in Romney’s claim that he never hired illegal aliens. They were hired, by his contractor, to work on his property, but Romney disclaims responsibility because he didn’t do the deed himself but delegated it to someone else, and can’t be held accountable for his agent’s misconduct. In other words, he’s satisfied that he had deniability, and thinks we should be satisfied, too.

The President does very little himself; most of his actions are through subordinates. The most important skill of a President is giving clear instructions and finding people who will carry them out correctly. If Romney’s idea of delegation is abdication, and if he thinks it’s not his fault when someone working for him does the wrong thing, then he’s profoundly unfit to be President.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Mark Kleiman

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.