Guy Benson

In concurring with Sean Trende's recent column urging Republicans to start making an affirmative case for Mitt Romney, I posited that such an undertaking wouldn't be particularly difficult.  Romney's magnificent leadership of Bain Capital and the 2002 Winter Olympics are fonts of compelling and illustrative leadership nuggets that are practically begging to be plucked and dropped into positive ads.  At last, Romney's SuperPAC is introducing a wider audience to Mitt Romney the hyper-competent manager, using the current Olympic season as a hook:
 


This spot hits all the right notes.  First, it's purely positive.  No mention of Barack Obama, or even partisan politics.  Second, it stars a trio of American gold medalists -- including a broadly popular household name in Kristi Yamaguchi.  America loves happy, smiling winners.  Third, it underscores Romney's masterful economic stewardship, which transformed a scandal-tainted and deficit-riddled enterprise into an unvarnished, in-the-black success.  Fourth, it invokes 9/11 in an appropriate and respectful way.  The 2002 games played out just a few months after the terrorist attacks; a humiliating logistical debacle or a significant security breach in Salt Lake City would have delivered a fresh blow to the American psyche.  Romney's leadership ensured a "safe and secure" Olympic experience for athletes and spectators alike.  Finally, it successfully casts Romney as a can-do accomplisher of big things.  Voters are weary of this president's endless speeches and futility in the face of grave challenges.  While Obama offers a cyclone of words and blame, Romney's biography is packed with tangible results.  For more context, read this Reuters account of Romney's Olympic-sized achievement:
 

In 1999, three years before the 2002 Winter Olympics, the Salt Lake City games were mired in a bribery scandal and facing a $400 million budget shortfall. Utah's capital city, home of the straight-laced Mormon Church, had won its bid to host the Games with a shower of cash and presents on International Olympic Committee officials, bringing disgrace upon itself and the global sports organization. Then Mitt took over. When five gargantuan Olympic rings lit up the mountains around Salt Lake in 2002, they burned away the last hint of scandal, healed a nation recovering from the September 11 terrorist attacks, and made Romney into a household name. Massachusetts voters who had snubbed him in a 1994 Senate race elected him governor later that year, setting the stage for two presidential bids in which he has frequently invoked the Olympic turnaround.

An examination of the three years Romney spent in Salt Lake reveals a man somewhat different from the often-wooden candidate on the stump this year. Back then, according to interviews with colleagues and friends, he joked easily with his staff and showed a warm personal side. But Romney also displayed sharp, even ruthless, political instincts as he worked to salvage the Games. Critics say he stage-managed these efforts to burnish his own image, at the expense of others. He calculated the effect of every action, from urging his senior staff to smile to cancelling the five-star lifestyle that went with Olympic management. He also worked behind closed doors to pressure the man who had organized the city's bid for the games to plead guilty on charges that eventually were tossed out of court. No one disputes that, in the end, the 2002 Winter Games were a brilliant success. But some argue that Utah's deep tradition of volunteerism, widespread support for the Olympic bid in the state and in the Mormon Church, and the global outpouring of goodwill -- and cash -- that followed the tragedy of the 9/11 terror attacks deserve much of the credit.

When Romney arrived in Salt Lake City, federal officials were investigating whether bribes had been paid to get the Olympic bid, and staff and volunteers were demoralized. A budget review had found a $400 million shortfall, and potential sponsors had stopped in their tracks. "It was really ugly, ugly, ugly there," said Cindy Gillespie, who had worked for the Atlanta games - tarnished by disorganization and a homegrown terror attack - then moved on to Salt Lake. Romney approached the job as both a consultant's case study and a marketing exercise.  He had to clean up operations and also clean up the image. Garff and local reporters remember an impressive performance at his first press conference, facing a barrage of questions with conviction and aplomb. "We came away from that with the momentum changed," said Garff, who felt that performance revealed Romney's political savvy. Ever the business consultant, Romney started with a basic question -- what is the mission of the Olympic Games? It was not to goose the local economy, and it was not to teach youths about peace and goodwill, he concluded. It was about the athletes, and the measure of success would be whether the events went off well for them, Gillespie said. With that decision, the team had a clear goal -- and Romney could proceed to methodically separate essential expenditures from nonessential ones to close the $400 million budget gap. Youth camps, which would have brought kids from around the world to study each others' cultures, for example, became part of $200 million in cuts, Gillespie recalled.


Read the whole thing.  It offers insights into Romney's leadership style, describes the challenges his team inherited, and details how he engineered a massive turnaround.  It also dredges up quotes from nattering critics, who offer an peevish preview of how some will try to dismiss and minimize the scale of Romney's 2002 success.  They'll basically argue, Mitt didn't build that.  Because, you see, Mitt Romney and small business owners aren't responsible for favorable outcomes they've earned -- just as President Obama isn't responsible for "the worst economic recovery America has ever had."  Funny how that works, isn't it?  And since we're highlighting a thoroughly positive pro-Romney spot here, now seems like a good time to bring you this fun Hopenchange flashback from 2008:
 


 

"Do we want to have the same old attack politics we've become accustomed to? This is a different time.  This is an extraordinary time...so we're not going to go around doing negative ads."


He violated that promise many times over four years ago, and has bludgeoned it to death in 2012.  Why?  Because this an extraordinary time, guys -- as it always is when Obama is campaigning for something.  Just ask him.


Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography