Of the many stark differences between John McCain and Mitt Romney, the one that gets the most attention from both voters and the press is Romney’s claim that his private sector background uniquely qualifies him to “fix” Washington, versus McCain’s national security/experience argument, “ready to lead on day one.” Press him on economic policy and he’ll tout his time on the Commerce Committee.
But there’s a lot about the world of public policy that doesn’t make much business sense at all. Pressing McCain on this point this morning, I asked him if there was a specific area where private sector experience — “management,” McCain’s flacks, call it — wouldn’t help, but that his own background would:
“I’m pro-life. I believe we need to change the culture [to eliminate abortion]. And I’m not going to convince the American people that we have to respect the rights of the unborn because I’m a great manager, I’ll have to do it as a leader.”
That’s a considerably more dramatic — and definitely more emotional — response than the one I got from Romney when I put a similar question to him to him in Iowa. He pointed out that there are many differences between the private sector and business, primarily because of the need, in government, to come to a compromise; he used the example of working with Democrats (who may represent the “competition” in this analogy) to pass health care reform.