By Karen Hughes
Ten years ago, I walked into the White House press room and shocked the reporters there by announcing that later that summer, I would be leaving my job as counselor to the president to return to Texas. The decision was agonizingly difficult and purely personal. I believed in President George W. Bush, was committed to serving my country and loved my challenging job. But its constant demands did not allow me to be the engaged wife and mother, and I felt that was my foremost responsibility then.
But once you’ve worked in the White House, the challenges are never far from mind. Throughout this primary season, I’ve assessed the candidates. While many of my fellow Republicans understandably focus on which Republican is the best candidate to defeat President Barack Obama, I’ve looked through a different lens: Who is most capable of being a good president?
I’m interested in who has the judgment, temperament and ability to make the many difficult decisions that land on the desk of the president. I am mindful of an admonition a friend gave me when I arrived in Washington. “Don’t worry about easy decisions,” she said. “Those get made at the Cabinet agencies. Only the really hard ones come to the White House.”
Having seen the demands of the job as closely as anyone can without being the president, I’m convinced that Mitt Romney is not only the best Republican but also the best general election candidate to serve as president for four key reasons.
First, he has extensive experience making executive decisions. As governor of Massachusetts and in the private sector, Romney had to make tough choices affecting people’s jobs, lives and futures, preparing him for the world’s highest executive office. Obama is a legislator and it shows. Too often he sublets decision making to Congress, with the bad results we saw in the pork-infused trillion-dollar stimulus, the massive mess of the health care law and the regulatory morass of the Dodd-Frank financial reforms.
Second, Romney specializes in turnarounds – and Washington is in desperate need of a dramatic turnaround. When he arrived at the Salt Lake City Olympics, the organization was in chaos, in debt and tarnished by scandal. He turned it around, unifying diverse coalitions with competing interests and turned the games into a financial and diplomatic success.
He did this in the private sector as well. He rescued a number of struggling companies and brought them back to profitability and growth, creating many new jobs in the process.
Third, he’s lived a life of faithful commitment to his family and his church. He doesn’t talk about this much, probably because his Mormon faith is unfamiliar to many Americans and some view it with suspicion. But a Christian pastor friend of mine recently emailed that he is impressed that Romney lives his faith through service and significant financial contributions, and he apparently demonstrated great caring and compassion as a church leader. This tells me Romney will not be moved by the latest polls or the most effective lobbyists. He serves something greater than himself – and it’s important for a president to know that.
Finally, the No. 1 issue is jobs and the economy – and Romney understands how jobs are created and how government policies affect economic growth. Under Obama, America not only has too-high unemployment and too-low growth, but it also now has the highest corporate tax rate in the world. It also faces the prospect of job-killing record individual tax increases at the end of 2012.
People who know Romney well tell me he’s a good listener – another important quality in a president. He needs to be able to consider advice from a wide range of experts on a given subject to make informed decisions.
Romney’s been steady, well-organized and disciplined throughout the primary process. I’m convinced he’s the leader America needs to restore our confidence, our economy and our leadership in the world.
Karen Hughes was counselor to President George W. Bush. She’s now the global vice chairwoman for Burson-Marsteller.