Monday, August 13, 2012

Now That Olympics Are Over, What Do Romney's Olympic Predictions Tell Us?

On the eve of the Olympics in London, as everyone knows, Mitt Romney, when asked his thoughts, told the Prime Minister that he had concerns about London's readiness.  Now that the Olympics are over, and were very successful if the press can be believed,  it seems appropriate to consider what this might reveal about the candidate.

1.  Social Graces

Romney clearly has trouble with his sense of appropriateness in interpersonal relationships.  He appears to be much more task oriented (thinking about the games) and lacking in his people orientation (not understanding this was like asking "how are you? or that as a guest you should say positive things when you first meet, not criticize.)

Asked a ritualistic question about the Olympics, which any guest should know is supposed to be answered politely and positively  - "Oh, it looks to be a great Olympics!" he took the question literally, and gave an negative assessment.

This insensitivity to non-verbal communication, to social customs, is a serious problem for a president.  Much of the job is to ceremonially represent the United States.  Much of the job requires the ability to assess the character, sincerity, and capacity of people advising you as well as inspiring their confidence in you.  This is hard to do when you are tone deaf to social signals.

2.  Assessment Skills

The lack of social skills is problematic.  For some people, this is made up in other skills.  But Romney, someone who has worked on a previous Olympics, was wrong in his assessment of the London Olympics.  The Olympics went well and there was no security breach, something he specifically noted as a concern.  So his assessment on a topic he is a reputed expert on, was wrong.  I must acknowledge that we don't know if there were no terrorist issues because of how good the security was or simply because no one attempted to disrupt the Olympics.  But ultimately, his assessment - inappropriate as it was to share at that moment - was wrong.

Some might argue shouldn't jump to conclusions here.  Was this something he had studied or was he just reflecting the media accounts?  But what we do know is that his inability to read the human aspect of the situation, led him to think that his opinion was being seriously sought.  And, again, due to his lack of sensitivity to basic etiquette, instead of praising his host's efforts, he criticized them, implying that there were likely to be problems - a prediction of sorts.  A prediction he never had to make.  One that now turns out to be wrong. 

If he was wrong about the odds of a successful Olympics, what does that tell us about his assessments of things like the economic crisis, health care, tax policy, etc.?

In terms of the social problems, this is just one more in a long series of such incidents.  In terms of his assessment of the Olympics this doesn't tell us too much, but we learn about people by adding up bits of information over time.  So I'm just taking notes that can be compared to his other pronouncements. (We could, say, add this to what we know about someone who set up a health care  plan as a governor that is remarkably similar to Obama's national plan that Romney tells us is terrible.) 

But I think this episode tells us, at least, this much:
  • His sense of appropriate behavior and etiquette are out of synch with most folks
  • He takes things literally, missing the social meaning
  • His first response was to point out the potential negatives
  • He was wrong 
[As I reread this, I realize that it sounds like I'm pussy-footing around here, treating Romney way too gingerly.  My rationale is that much of the debate going on over the presidential candidates has been about things which are difficult for the average no-too-involved observer to assess.  But this Olympics incident, thought not big, is something where we can look at the facts and come to a pretty clear conclusion that most people can understand easily.]


  1. I agree with so many points in your post. There is a level of social cues and interactions that seems to elude Mitt Romney. Although, it may be a biased interpretation, an ex- Mormon (one of Brigham Young's numerous great great grandchildren) extrapolates that Romney has been raised in such a rarified atmosphere of money, privilege and an LDS hierarchy that believes him to be the one they were waiting for. He came of age in an atmosphere where no one questioned him about much of anything or brooked opposition to anything that he did.

    I could tell by the astounded look on his face early in the campaign how shocked he seemed that anyone would question him. He of course still doesn't want to be questioned (tax returns). He is a man that has given his opinion all of his life and it seems no one openly questioned him. If he once had a more socialized visage when he was younger (I'm thinking not as we here the horrifying stories of his youth) it was doomed by non-use.

    It seems Mitt is more comfortable with data than people. Well that works well when you are amassing a billion dollar fortune---running a country full of 300+ million diverse people---not so much.

    That said, I believe Romney to be a psychopath---and I do not throw that term around loosely having lived with a dangerous one for years. The lying, the lack of empathy, what we now about his initial start up money from people who funded death squads and throwing people under the bus (He did this to his own wife about her horse at the Olympics and he immediately did it to Paul Ryan after the announcement.)

    He also said something after picking Ryan that most people took as a joke; but I find the very first things out of Romney's mouth fascinating.
    He said he was so glad that there were two of them now (meaning Ryan
    and him) so he wouldn't be the only one drawing fire. It was said with a smile on his face--but not in his eyes.

    The day before he announced Ryan as his pick he actually begged the Obama campaign to ease up on him . . . . Frightening. When desperate Mitt's fall back position is ducking and covering and of course deceit . Again, frightening.

    1. Annette: You said, "throwing people under the bus (He did this to his own wife..."

      I missed that one. What did he do or say?

    2. When asked if he would be watching his horse in the Olympics---he immediately stammered that it was Ann's horse and he knew nothing about it. He didn't know when the event was etc.

      Of course he only did this because he had gotten pummeled in the media about how expensive the upkeep of the horse was. He decided to suddenly know nothing about the horse and act as if it was just a hobby for his wife that he was completely disconnected from. Nice man.

  2. It's Romney's "Don't hit me" smile that makes me cringe. It's at odds with his ruthlessness or evidence of a guilty conscience? ...nah. Horrible combination. Certainly psychotic. He will do anything to win. We & Democracy are the losers if this election is bought for him.

    And if his smile and wooden walk didn't tell me all I needed to know in his body language, the way he treated his dog was the first strike against him for me. All else I've heard and seen is just further confirmation of one very twisted mind.

    (Dan Ackroyd thinks he wears a girdle.)

    Maybe it's his magic underwear, binding.

  3. Well, I also lack some social skills. For example I rarely speak even when I am asked. When there is a topic that I don't really know then I just say that I don't have sufficient knowledge to give a proper answer. I also take things literally and too seriously sometimes. I can be annoyingly precise. However my most challenging task has been to organise a secondary school class trip so far, so I am far from affecting a nation's life.

  4. Oh, and I read that his Vice-president candidate is a budget expert. My university course is closely related to government finances (though I could work somewhere else as well).

    I remember 4 years ago you compared me with Sarah Palin. Time is flying.


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