Thin-Skinned Privilege


I am reading Laurence Leamer’s The Kennedy Men.  The author is at a point where Joe Kennedy, a recent Harvard grad is trying to avoid active military service.  Quoting the author

As soon as war was declared and his friends had donned their khakis, twenty-eight year old Joe wangled a fifteen-thousand-dollar-a-year position as the Assistant Manager of the Bethlehem Steel Fore River Shipyard in Quincy Massachusetts.  In peacetime Joe would never have been considered for such a seat, but all across America executives and managers were exchanging their suits for officers uniforms.  Joe was willing to help build warships to be used by men who might die in a war in which he did not believe.

Sound like Romney?  But wait, there is more.

When Joe arrived at his new office in October 1917, he knew nothing about administering a shipyard.  One of the first things he learned was that the craft union had negotiated a new wage scale with his predecessor to go into effect with the next pay cycle.  Instead of honoring the agreement or alerting the union that he wanted to renegotiate, he simply kept the old pay rate.

The workers, many of them immigrants, including a large number of English and Scottish skilled workers, were not that different from the kind of men who had nightly sat in his father’s home seeking advice and aid.  If Joe had observed that scene with any acumen, he would have realized that you could push men like this, and you could push them some more, but if you broke their trust in you, dishonored your word, then they had a boundless fury.

When the men saw their pay envelopes, about 5,000 went on strike.

Within days of his arrival Joe had managed to create a crisis of potentially immense magnitude.  The ships in the dry-dock were crucial to the war effort . . .

Assistant Sec of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Yes, that FDR, sent a telegram to the strikers, appealing to their patriotic duty and agreeing to honor the new pay scale.

In all of this Roosevelt demonstrated the incipient awareness of a great politician who understood that the essence of democratic politics is empathy. A leader must first understand what the other person wants.  Only then can he act.  Joe, for his part, saw life as a brutal Darwinian struggle in which men of will and power imposed themselves on the mediocre, the passive and the slow-witted.

Folks, I see not one whit of difference between Joe Kennedy and W. Mitt Romney.  No empathy, no caring for anyone less off than he, no desire to find any common ground with a common laborer.

Romney is not a politician.  He doesn’t look for, or even understand, the concept of common ground.  He is a CEO who expects his orders to be followed WITH. OUT. QUESTION.

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