WASHINGTON -- Probable GOP nominee Mitt Romney's central argument for his candidacy, his experience as a private-sector CEO, was shredded Wednesday by Bill Daley, President Barack Obama's former White House chief of staff -- a business executive and former Commerce Secretary.
"Being president is not analogous to being CEO," Daley told me in an interview. "That's a fallacy that some people like to continue."
Especially with an independent-minded Congress, the CEO resume "just has no relevance whatsoever to the modern presidency and the way the government has been structured by the different branches over the last 40, 50 years."
Daley, in our interview, also for the first time reacted to assertions by Senate Democrats in the new book by journalist David Corn, Showdown, that he was free-lancing in his dealings with GOP House Speaker John Boehner during the 2011 fiscal battles. "I wasn't ceding anything that wasn't authorized by the entire White House," Daley said.
Romney's tenure at Bain and Company is part of his stump speech; he accuses Obama of being a failed president in part because he lacked private-sector experience before he got the job.
"For 25 years, I lived and breathed jobs, business, and the economy. I had successes and failures but each step of the way, I learned a little more about what it is that makes our American system so powerful," Romney said in Schaumburg on March 20 in a speech marking his decisive victory in the Illinois primary .
Aiming at Obama, Romney continued, "You can't learn that teaching Constitutional law. You can't learn that as a community organizer. The simple truth is that this President just doesn't understand the genius of America's economy -- or the secret of our success."
No matter what a presidential -- or for that matter a congressional -- candidate promises in a campaign, the reality is governing is not a solo act. The White House, Congress and Supreme Court are co-equals -- and not business partners at Bain.
To this point, Daley -- a co-chair of the Obama re-election campaign -- told me, "The CEO has control of your company . . . You don't have that with the president, the Congress and the Supreme Court."
"Congress doesn't view itself as a board of directors of the president. They are equal branches in the eyes of the Constitution. That's a little different from a board and senior management of a company," Daley said.
Corn's Showdown -- a behind-the-scenes inside account of the Obama White House after Republicans won the House in 2010 -- dramatically illustrates the governing challenges Obama faced last year over debt-ceiling and budget negotiations with Congress.
"At the same time, Senate Democrats were worried that a free-lancing Daley might hand Boehner more cuts than they fancied and undermine their negotiating posture," Corn wrote.
"They may have been worried that I was ceding territory, but I wasn't ceding anything that wasn't authorized by the entire White House," Daley told me. "That's not my style." It was "ill-founded worry by people who worry too much about the White House and free-lancing."