10/18/2012 09:40 am ET Updated Dec 18, 2012

Obama to Romney: A Nation Is Not Like a Company

Smooth-talking, good-looking Mitt Romney made a forceful depiction of both the failure of President Obama to keep Candidate Obama's promises to improve the economy, and of his own presumed knowledge of how to create jobs that will heal our economy. Left unchallenged, the apparent validity of these two assertions may well lead to Romney's election as our next president. But there is a challenge to them that Obama can make when Romney predictably raises both points again in the next debate:

"Did I foresee the depth and complexity of America's economic plight when I campaigned for president? As it turns out, the answer is 'absolutely not.' As it turns out, nobody understood how horribly the policies and the unfunded wars of the previous administration had ruined our economy and how close they had driven us and the other major economies of the world to the brink of an actual Depression.

The truth is that you just can't see all that from the outside. It isn't until you sit down as President of the United States at that desk in the Oval Office and a tsunami of problems blows into the room that you have any idea whatsoever of how complicated and intransigent the biggest of those problems actually are. And so when I stated my intent to drive U.S. unemployment below 6 percent in four years, it was as ignorant a statement as your claiming that you're going to create 12,000,000 jobs just because, because, what, because you hope you can. But the fact is that I couldn't foresee ahead of time that what I hoped for would be impossible.

And I suspect that you can understand that, Governor. At Bain Capital, you invested in many companies, and some of them disappointed you and your fellow investors by not performing very well, right? In fact, some of them actually went belly-up, right? Your portfolio had plenty of failures in it. Failures despite your having done due diligence on investigating their condition and their prospects. Failures despite your having assured your fellow investors that each one had all the makings of a big success. Failures, despite the fact that assessing a company and its problems and its prospects is actually not all that difficult. One set of books. Some plant and inventory. A cadre of customers, suppliers, and some well-understood competitors. This is not rocket science. Investors size companies up dozens of times every day.

And companies with problems are also not all that difficult to fix. Once you controlled those companies, you had total control over them: You could fire people who displeased you, as you've told everyone you like to do; you could recapitalize them and invest in new equipment or personnel; you could change strategies and make sure all your employees followed it or else; you could merge them; and when all else failed, you could foist them off on less discerning investors. And still you had failures.

Well, I have news for you, Governor. Taking over a company, running a company, is not even remotely like assuming responsibility for a nation. There's no amount of due diligence that will reveal all the problems. You can't fire Congress, and you can't fire the Supreme Court. You can't tell troublemakers in the Middle East to be nice and leave us alone. You can't invest new capital without the cooperation of some other elected officials -- officials who may have decided they'd rather see you fail than save the enterprise.

So you can go on all day about how you know how to create jobs in a business enterprise, but -- hear me now -- the United States of America is a nation, not a business enterprise. It is an integral part of an international community of nations. Neither it nor they will bend themselves to your plans. It has values beyond profiteering at any cost. And it has obligations to its citizens who can't be fired. I know, you would like to fire about 47 percent of them who you think are loafing on the job. But guess what: they don't work for you. You work for them.

So frankly, despite all your boasting, there's no reason to believe that you know the first thing about how to grow this nation's economy and get those folks good jobs any faster than our administration has been able to. You know it, and I know it. And we also both know that businessmen don't make good presidents. All five of the businessmen who became president in the last hundred years did a pretty sorry job of it. Maybe that also accounts for why your own approval rating in your last year as governor was 34 percent, third worst of all 50 governors.

Governor, I see this stuff from the inside now. I'm four years older and wiser, and what I see is that your five-point plan is nothing more than five steps backward into the failed policies that caused this mess we have been digging our painful way out of for the last four years.

So make no mistake: We are working our way out of that mess. Slowly, but surely. Four more years of consistent growth will put us on sound footing for the future -- the long-term future for America. And with even a modicum of bipartisan cooperation from the Republicans in Congress, that growth can be accelerated. So I'd say, the best thing you could do right now is to encourage your party to get on board with the recovery of our economy that we have going and contribute to our momentum.

Do a good job of that, and I may even consider you for Secretary of Commerce when that job opens up."