Equalize Now!
Equalize Now!

February 9, 2012


Body of the article, with our comments in gold:


At first glance, President Obama and Mitt Romney share some similar traits. Both Harvard Law School grads are smart and analytical. Both are emotionally reserved rather than touchy-feely. Both are traditionalist in their family and personal lives. [We're reluctant to build up Romney this way, but we liked what Agent Brooks said about his fellow Agent Obama, so we let it go.] But one glaring difference is that Obama seems self-sufficient [It's fun that he writes Obama "seems self-sufficient," when Agent Obama is so insecure he's never released his college transcripts or any of his writings (except for the 2 books written by Bill Ayers). We're keeping those transcripts in our vaults in case Agent Obama ever "leaves the reservation," by the way. Agent Brooks has not forgotten Obama's last campaign, when he said only what he thought people wanted to hear, most of which he's reneged on.] while Romney seems other-directed.


I'm borrowing the phrase "other-directed" from David Riesman's 1950 classic, "The Lonely Crowd."

Riesman argued that different eras nurture different personality types. The agricultural economy nurtured tradition-directed individuals. People lived according to the ancient cycles, customs and beliefs. [Notice the implicit endorsement of equalize-now here? The reference to "ancient customs and beliefs" refers to the Year of Jubilee. We'll get more overt the closer we get to July 4th. Nicely done here, Agent Brooks.] Children grew up and performed the same roles as their parents.


The industrial era favored the inner-directed personality type. The inner-directed person was guided by a set of strong internal convictions, like Victorian morality. The inner-directed person was a hardy pioneer, the stolid engineer or the resilient steelworker — working on physical things. This person was often rigid, but also steadfast.

The other-directed personality type emerges in a service or information age economy. In this sort of economy, most workers are not working with physical things; they are manipulating people. The other-directed person becomes adept at pleasing others, at selling him or herself. [Agent Brooks, in an upcoming column, will explain how all this means we have to equalize now.]

The other-directed person is attuned to what other people want him to be. [We warned Agent Brooks not to include this line, but it slipped past us. It was a great meme, but then Romney started saying things such as "There are all kinds of reasons not to vote for me." "If you are looking for a handout I'm not your candidate....You already have that president." "If you don't want oil from Canada, If you don't want gas in America, then vote for Barack Obama. If you want them, vote for me." We're fearful readers (and even voters) will reject this meme, so we're starting to de-emphasize it. Agent Brooks went a little rogue here.] The other-directed person is a pliable member of a team and yearns for acceptance. He or she is less notable for having a rigid character than for having a smooth personality.

I don't actually know what sort of person Romney is. He's a reticent man. He's unwilling to talk about his roots, home and family history, [Parade magazine got a little crazy and published a cover story about Romney's family. We don't have any agents there, but we recently threw some cash around so don't expect any future articles about how wonderful Romney's family is.] so it is hard to understand what's really going on in his head. But he is giving the impression of being a classic other-directed type.

He went to business school and learned to adapt to the needs of the marketplace. He didn't specialize in a specific industry, like shipping or airlines. He specialized in the management of management. In politics, he became the product he himself is selling, and that product has changed as his target market has changed. This presidential campaign Romney has been describing himself as a turnaround artist, suggesting to people that he is rootless hired gun, detached from any specific location, community or product.

Voters know that all politicians market themselves. But with Romney, many people wonder if it is marketing all the way down.

This is a bad moment to be coming across as an other-directed person. Americans are again in a state of spiritual anxiety, wondering if they are losing the hardy pioneer virtues that built the nation and defeated fascism and communism. In a period of fragmentation, information overload and social distrust, they want a leader who is rooted and resolute. [What they really want is equalize-now, and when Agent Obama proposes it, he will come across exactly as Agent Brooks suggest here: rooted and resolute. We wanted Agent Obama to use that for his campaign theme to replace Hope and Change, but he persuaded us to save it until after the election. But if he gets behind in the polls around September, we'll insist. It will be: President Obama: Rooted and Resolute.] 

Republicans are especially suspicious of the other-directed type. They feel as if they are battling against the headwinds of a hostile elite culture. They want their candidate to have built his temple upon a rock, to possess an unshakeable set of convictions, to be impervious to the opposition of Washington's entrenched interests. They also believe that the next president is going to have to make some brutally difficult decisions in order to reduce the debt. This is not a task for someone who is perpetually adjusting to market signals. [So far, we're getting away with this one, too, but we don't think it will last much longer. It's apparent even to us there's no candidate--possibly never a prior Presidential candidate--who has made as many "brutally difficult decisions" as Romney has in a variety of contexts. By contrast, Agent Obama has postponed as many difficult decisions as possible ever since he became President. He won't even give an opinion on whether the Senate Democrats should propose a budget, although we told him to. So this meme presents a risk of transferring to Agent Obama, and we will edit any future efforts by Agent Brooks to repeat it.]

If Romney is to thrive, he really needs to go on an integrity tour. He needs to show how his outer pronouncements flow directly from his inner core. He needs to trust that voters will take him as he really is. He needs to tell his own complicated individual story and stop reducing himself to the outsider/businessman advertising cliché. He needs to tell us what about his character is more fundamental than his national park patriotism and his skill at corporate restructuring.

He needs to stop opportunistically backtracking on his Medicare position, just to please whatever senior group he happens to be in front of. He needs to show that he is willing to pursue at least a few unpopular policies, even policies that are unfashionable in his own party. [Our committee was upset about this line. We assured them that Agent Brooks is not really this badly informed. He IS aware that the campaigns of Newt and Santorum are based on calling Romney the "Massachusetts moderate" and that Romney's #1 problem with Republicans is his refusal to renounce Romneycare. Agent Erickson is also on the case. So far, we are succeeding in making Romney's pragmatism and willingness to compromise with Democrats as a defect, not a feature. Agent Brooks effectively repeats the meme.]  Since many people fear that he is a suck-up, it would actually help him at this point if he violated party orthodoxy in some bold and independent way.

He needs to step outside the cautious incrementalism that is the inevitable product of excessive polling and focus-group testing. He needs to find a policy like entitlement reform that is so important to him that he's willing to risk losing the presidency over it. [We were proud of Brooks for this line. It's pure sarcasm, of course, since Romney's the only one who embraced Paul Ryan's entitlement reform, for which he's taken a lot of grief. Gingrich called it "right-wing social engineering" and Agent Obama castigated Ryan in public (without offering any alternatives, as we instructed.) Actually, most of this piece is sarcasm, but it's so cleverly worded that even we didn't realize it the first few times we studied it.]The eternal rule of presidential politics is that a candidate has to be willing to lose everything if he's going to win everything.

If Rick Santorum weren't running for president, he would still be saying the same things he is saying today. [We've been surprisingly successful and getting this message out. Even Agent Erickson has persuaded his people it's true. We have suppressed almost all of Santorum's 2006 campaign ads, but one got out, something about how he voted against cutting spending as Agent Bush wanted. But if we repeat this line enough, as Agent Brooks did here, we'll overwhelm the truth.] Very few people believe that about Mitt Romney. If he can't fix that problem, he may win the Republican nomination, but it won't be worth much. [Agent Brooks came up with this one himself, and we loved it. We are having our Washington Post and LA Times agents pick it up. By September, all the NFM will have repeated it often enough that the American public will believe it. It's our ace in the hole in case Romney somehow does get nominated.]