Friday, April 25, 2008

Why Did Mitt Romney Keep Boy Scouts From Volunteering at the Olympics?

Remember the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah? Of course, that was what helped put Mitt Romney on the map nationally and internationally. Financially, the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) was deep in the hole. Then the bribery scandal surrounding the bid hit the news in a big way.

The foundering committee turned to Mitt Romney, a guy with a great track record in turning around failing businesses. Romney came in and made everything better than even the most optimistic had hoped. The games went well (except for the ice skating scandal) and made money. Romney, who had previously failed in a 1994 bid for Ted Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat, went home to Massachusetts and became governor.

I have been (slowly) reading Texas Governor Rick Perry’s book On My Honor. (I am not commenting here about Perry’s handling of the FLDS fiasco.) The book is about Perry’s experiences with the Boy Scouts of America. Perry particularly discusses the vendetta by some on the Left to purge the BSA from American public life.

On pages 90 and 120-121, Perry specifically discusses yet another Salt Lake Olympic scandal. The Great Salt Lake Council of the BSA had been in a number of meetings with Olympic officials focusing on how the Boy Scouts could help the Olympic effort through volunteerism and use of BSA facilities, similar to what had been done in Georgia for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Shortly after the Supreme Court decided in 2000 that the BSA was constitutionally permitted to exclude activist homosexuals from leadership positions, SLOC shut down all communication with the BSA. Romney, who is an Eagle Scout and has been a Scout leader, refused to return calls. The entire SLOC staff acted as if the BSA had suddenly ceased to exist.

Finally, a SLOC spokeswoman was asked directly by a reporter whether the Boy Scouts had been shut out of volunteering to help with the Olympics because of gay protests over the court decision. She responded that any Scout was permitted to apply to volunteer, but only as a private individual and not as a Boy Scout. Moreover, boys would have to be 18 or older. This effectively cut off any official BSA involvement.

Romney and other former SLOC officials have since avoided any discussion of the Olympic shutout of the BSA. So it’s not truly known what caused the shutout. But Perry works to build a case that it was retribution for the Supreme Court ruling. He finally cites Romney’s statement during a 1994 debate with Sen. Kennedy, where Romney said, “I feel that all people should be allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of the sexual orientation.”

Of course, it is well known that Romney changed many of his liberal positions in an attempt to appeal to conservatives during his presidential candidacy. He has left himself wide open to the accusation that he would say anything to get elected. I think that his view is more likely something along the lines of, “It’s nothing personal. It’s just business. That’s the way the game works in business.”

Romney has been mentioned as the ideal running mate for John McCain this fall. Whether that happens or not, you can bet that Romney will be gunning for the GOP nomination next time the position is actually open (2012 or 2016). GOP voters might question whether a businessman would actually be superior to a politician as president.


Bradley Ross said...

Interesting thoughts. Your post spurs a question for me about pragmatics.

You seem to allow for the possibility that excluding the Boy Scouts had some practical benefit in the operation of the Games. I can only speculate what the pragmatic benefit might have been. Perhaps it made it easier to secure coporate participation in the Games to shore up financial support.

The question that leaves us is this: How far can we go in being pragmatic? Should the principle of inclusiveness have been upheld, even if that had narrowed the chances for the financial success of the Games?

It certainly isn't an easy question. In this case, it seems plausible that excluding the Boy Scouts might have been the right decision. The alternative might have been longer term harm to the institution of the Olympics themselves.

Scott Hinrichs said...

Bradley, I speculate that excluding the BSA was payoff to some group or other. Perhaps it was to secure certain corporate sponsorships, as you speculate.

But I do believe this action was morally wrong. Even if people agree that it was probably just the cost of doing business, the BSA at the very least deserves a fair explanation of their blacklisting.

Romney's track record in business is actually a testament to his flexibility. He has explained how he would go into a situation with no preconceived notions, examine the data, and determine a course of action based on that. Those were the guiding principles.

While that kind of approach may work well in business, I do not believe that it is the best approach to political issues. Leaders that come into a position unanchored will find themselves easily swayed by those that are strongly anchored.

Romney seems to be strongly anchored with respect to his private life. But that type of resolve appears to be nearly nonexistent in his public life.

Bush I approached public life similarly. That's why he was easily pushed into agreeing to tax increases after promising to not increase taxes. Are we sure we want another leader like that?

I'm not saying that political leaders should be so inflexible as to be unable to achieve any kind of compromise. Politics is all about compromise. But Romney seems to be so unanchored policy-wise that voters cannot be certain of anything he might do.

Hyrum said...

A quick google search brought up this site:

It would appear that the Boy Scouts allegation is neither new, nor exactly accurate. The article states that the SLOC couldn't afford to recognize every organization, and the 18 year old restriction was across the board. It also says that Romney sat on the local BSA council committee as well.

From what I've read about Perry (I live in Texas, so he's more in the news here) he's no more conservative than Bush - and may be less so. I'd take what he says with more than a grain of salt.

Scott Hinrichs said...

I can appreciate that we should take anything any politician says with a grain of salt. Perry supported another GOP candidate, so Perry may have had an axe to grind with Romney.

But I live in Utah. The 18-year-old restriction was not across the board, although SLOC claims that it was. I personally know minors that were official Olympic volunteers. Also, SLOC refused to allow adult BSA members to volunteer in their capacity as members of the BSA, although, this restriction was not applied to other volunteer groups.

SLOC also began negotiations to use BSA facilities free of charge, but abruptly dropped this pursuit. SLOC never even told the BSA that it was no longer considering any of these volunteer efforts. It simply stopped communicating with the BSA altogether with no explanation whatsoever. SLOC only later claimed that it was adhering to standard policy when reporters asked direct questions about it.

That One Guy said...

I can't see the Repubs asking him to be on the fall ticket. It's a kiss of death for them. On the other hand, go ahead, great idea!!


Besides, I heard he recently took a fall and broke his hair. Unfortunate.

Salt H2O said...

I know you men love the BSA- but as a woman I couldn't care less.

This was the first International Event after 9/11 on US soil. I'm sure Mitt and everyone else involved was doing the best they could to make this move smoothly.

Don't be so quick to judge. We have no idea what went on behind closed doors.

If this is the size of issues we have about Mitt Romney- so be it.

This is trivial in comparison to others.

Scott Hinrichs said...

TOG, love the broken hair bit.

Salt, it's not just the BSA. The idea is that this is a sampling of the way Romney approaches issues. If his principles are malleable dependent on the goal being pursued (which might work in business), he will be equally malleable on policy issues. I don't think anyone from any party would want a 'leader' like that.

Cameron said...

Salt, women can be involved in Boy Scouts too.

And who knows, maybe someday you'll have a son, or 2 or 5, that's a Boy Scout. Then you'll care.


Salt H2O said...