With all the fuss about Mitt Romney's supposed love of firing people, it's worth remembering that a business background probably isn't much of a help in the Oval Office. Some of the best businessmen were disasters like Herbert Hoover, an incredibly successful mining executive. Jimmy Carter was a big agribusinessman. George W. Bush had his nepotistic network of oil and baseball. Ike was all public sector. So was FDR. Reagan was an odd hybrid of union leader and entrepreneur. The idea that business per se is a great lift is kind of an invention. What matters is what one learns from the experience. Are you open to getting the bad news? Do you encourage honest dissent among your staff? When you make a decision can you reverse yourself adroitly if the circumstances require? (Lincoln and FDR may have been the biggest flip floppers of all.)
The skills you learn at Bain--analysis, negotiations, measuring risk--all seem like necessary but not sufficient tools for a president. In some ways, the decision to stay in Boston is more intriguing than where Romney worked. It would have been easier to go home to Detroit where he was royalty and go into the car business. It would have been easier to go to Utah. But to go be a Republican Mormon in Back Bay? That shows some gumption. It's not Nepal or even George H.W. Bush hauling it out to Midland. But it is gutsy in some ways and that may be the most interesting part of Bain.
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