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Mitt Romney, Private Equity and Apples and Oranges

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Attacks against Mitt Romney and his private equity background with Bain Capital continue and are likely to be a cornerstone of the Democratic and media dialogue during the remainder of the campaign. President Obama lamented that at Bain, Romney worked to "maximize profits" for investors, not to benefit communities. As a high school history teacher of mine used to say, "Do you walk to school or bring your lunch?"; the comparison is as relevant as comparing apples and oranges.

In evaluating the merits of a leader and his success, shouldn't the relevant benchmark in that evaluation be the job that he was hired to do, not other extraneous factors that weren't the focus of that job? If so, how do we evaluate Mitt Romney's -- or anybody else's -- track record? We base it on whether he did the job for the people who depended on him in that position. That record is nearly impossible to dispute.

The leadership of any a private equity firm works for the benefit of their stakeholders. Yes, they are investors taking their hard-earned money and handing it over to other people to put it to work, but their objective isn't particularly relevant other than to find out if such an objective was met by their leader. Under Mitt Romney's leadership at Bain, his stakeholders, based on industry expectations, were well taken care of. Romney and his team not only did the job the stakeholders asked, but one would surmise, based on the returns that he generated, that he exceeded their expectations.

Plus, there is another group of stakeholders in the private equity equation. Those are the management teams and companies with which the private equity firms partner when an investment is made. If a private equity firm doesn't do right by its partners, their reputation becomes tarnished, making it difficult for the firm to find other companies to invest in down the road. Bain Capital has a stellar reputation in the financial community and has so for a long while because of its treatment of those stakeholders.

Romney's track record for his stakeholders is not just strong at Bain, but also within the other leadership positions he took on. When he was appointed to take the helm of a struggling and expected to fail Salt Lake City Olympics, Mitt Romney turned it from a loss to a profit, doing the job he was asked to do. Romney demonstrated a similar track record as the Governor of Massachusetts, where again, he took a projected deficit and created a surplus, amongst other successes.

So, each time Mitt Romney was put in a position of substantial leadership, he did the job that was expected of him and was effective as a leader. That is how he should be evaluated.

Three and a half years ago, Barack Obama was granted a position of leadership by the citizens of the United States. We are his stakeholders and should judge him on the job that he was elected to do as well. Under his tenure, the government has spent the taxpayers' money each and every year -- and then some. That "then some" amount has left us with $16 trillion in debt that we, as taxpayers and stakeholders, are on the hook for. Not to mention that when interest rates rise, which is inevitable, we will start owing some very hefty interest payments on top of that $16 trillion amount. That is hardly emblematic of the vision of "hope and change" that was promised by President Obama during his last campaign.

President Obama, in a jab at Romney said, "If your message is, 'I knew how to make a lot of money for investors,' then you're missing what this job is about." I think the clear message is that a leader gets done what he sets out to do, and does it well, for the benefit of those stakeholders who granted that position of leadership.

I think the track record of Mitt Romney as a leader has been very clear. I also think that President Obama's is as well. Perhaps it's our current president who doesn't understand what the "job" of president "is about."