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George H.W. Bush and Mitt Romney were absentee, not great fathers

Posted by John T. Reed on

I also keep hearing that G.H.W Bush was a great father, the world’s best father.
Bull! And I said the same about Romney.
How so? How would I know better than their own children?
If you pay close attention to the children of G.H.W. Bush or Romney, you will hear the profound contradiction.

To be a good father, you must be present—duh

Their fathers were often absent—REAL often and REAL absent.

100 hours a week and travel

Romney and I are Harvard MBAs. After graduation in 1975, the year I entered, he worked for Boston Consulting Group, one of the top management-consulting firms in the world. His bio notes one of his colleagues there was Benjamin Netanyahu.


Netanyahu graduated from the MIT (across the Charles River from HBS) MBA program in 1976 when I got my first writing job between my two years at HBS. My British section mate (85 students with whom you share the same classroom all day every day during the first year) Fleur Cates was another colleague of Romney and Netanyahu at BCG. She became Netanyahu’s second wife. He is now on his third.
Generally, the most sought-after jobs coming out of HBS were famous consulting (e.g., BCG, McKinsey) and investment banking (e.g., Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns, Salomon Brothers) firms.
We could sign up for interviews with any of the recruiters who came to HBS and we would automatically get one. I guess it was a rule. And that was how 99% of the first interviews happened.
When I heard about the 100-hours a week, especially after two years at HBS which itself was also about 100-hours a week of classes and homework, I was appalled. So I did not sign up for interviews with any investment banks or consulting firms.
To my surprise, two of them contacted me and said they wanted to interview me. Each class at HBS creates a resume book containing the resumes of all the class members in the spring of their senior year (it’s a CD now). Apparently, Salomon Brothers (the subject of the book Liar’s Poker) and Bain Consulting (where Romney worked in 1977-84, private equity at Bain Capital where he was CEO from 1984 to 1990 and 1991 to 1992 and 1994 to 1999) found my resume interesting in spite of my lack of interest in interviewing with them.

Highest salary; lowest per hour

At the interview, I told each, “If I got an offer from you, it would probably be the highest salary offer I got. But I understand you expect me to work 100 hours a week, and when you calculate the compensation per hour, that would be the lowest offer I got And I do not care for the idea of working that many hours a week. Why would I want to get the lowest pay per hour and devote such a huge amount of my days to work?
They said there was typically a substantial bonus each December in addition to the salary, but they did not state the amount in advance because it depended on how the firm did that year. They both also said consulting and investment banking were often springboards to being hired by clients at very high levels, maybe CEO or leading to CEO.
I already knew both of those things at that time, so I terminated each interview on the grounds that I did not want to work 100 hours a week even if there was a bonus and a possible entre into high levels of the Fortune 500 companies.

From Ivy League football to Goldman Sachs

Later, my oldest son Dan was about to graduate from Ivy League Columbia in NYC where he had played football for four years. If he wished, he could have signed up for interviews with Goldman Sachs or other investment banking firms. The first interview would have almost certainly been with a football teammate who had graduated the year before. He did not pursue that, but many of his teammates did and all got hired by those firms. He probably could have easily gotten hired by one of those companies.
Hank Paulson, head of Goldman Sachs and later Treasury Secretary during the Subprime Crash was a former Dartmouth football player. The investment banking firms were full of Harvard MBAs and Ivy football players.

14 hours a day

I told Dan about the pros and cons of investment banking, including the 100 hours. He did a mental calculation and exploded, “That’s 14 hours a day!” “Yes, it is and it is NOT an exaggeration. Same at the Manhattan white shoe law firms. When Paper Chase was a TV series—a story about the first year at Harvard Law School—Harvard Law grads left work early on Wall Street to watch it. There were no VCRs or DVRs then.
Paper Chase aired at 10PM—on Sunday night!!”
So Dan did not seek employment on Wall Street.
Romney not only sought management consulting, which is pretty much the same plus extreme traveling, he stayed there forever, pausing only to do such “lots of leisure-time activities” as run for Senate and President unsuccessfully and governor of Massachusetts successfully.
Bush did not go to Wall Street, although with his preppy background and preppy father and grandfather, he could have. He started an oil business in TX, which probably took MORE than 100 hours a week.
Then he ran for Senate and lost—campaigning was probably another more-than-100-hours-a-week job. Then he ran for the House and won two terms. Then a series of 200-hour-a-week, super high-profile jobs: U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Chairman of the Republican National Committee, first U.S. envoy to Communist China, CIA director, Presidential nomination candidate 1980, VP of the U. S. eight years, President of the U.S. for four years, unsuccessful presidential candidate 1992.
His son George W. Bush graduated from HBS same year as Romney, so you get an idea of Bush’s involvement in his children’s lives when they were growing up—like nada—in spite of the many family photos seemingly to the contrary.
The truth is Romney and Bush I, both of whom are called world class dads, were, in fact, working 100 to 200 hours a week mainly pursuing extreme personal ambition, sleeping, eating, traveling. That leaves very little actual time with children. You used to hear that such parents were spending “quality” time with their kids, if not quantity time.
Bullshit! There is only one kind of time.
One more thing: Neither of these two guys were naive about the course they chose. Romney’s father George was CEO of Chrysler, governor of MI, and a presidential candidate. Bush’s father Prescott was a U.S. Senator and the family business was Wall Street investment banking. Both Mitt and George H.W Bush knew exactly how much time they would NOT be spending with their many kids—yet they went down those paths to an even greater extent than their fathers did.

I was Mr. Mom

I was a Mr. Mom home office writer. My wife worked in offices in San Francisco as a Harvard MBA banker career mom. I changed more diapers, fed more bottles and spoon fed more meals by far than my wife. My son Dan has also been a Mr. Mom working out of his house as a computer software consultant for a number of years. (He usually had babysitters in the house also; not me.)

The shadow of the father

I love an old agricultural saying: “The best fertilizer is the shadow of the farmer.”
The same is true of fatherhood. The Romney and Bush kids had great “fathers” named Anne and Barbara whose shadows fell on their kids day in and day out.

What would the Bush and Romney kids say about this article? They would be loyal to their dads. But if you pressed, they would admit I am correct about the basic issue of time and the fathers’ shadows falling on their kids.

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