I wrote about the think time habits of Lincoln, Clinton and President Obama in “Consider.” As the 2012 campaign unfolds, I have pulled a few quotes from Romney and Obama on the subject. It turns out that both men are end of the day thinkers. Not sure that this habit will turn the election, but their late day thinking speaks to the bias towards action that drives their day. The demands on these two men relegates reflection to the sidelines and at a moment when they are most tired; what we ask of them as they make the case for the most important job in our country tells us a lot about the insanity of the process and the forced tradeoffs that they both make. Mitt Romney was recently asked about his habits by Scott Pelley on “60 Minutes” and here is what he said:
PELLEY: Presidents and presidential candidates are booked down to the minute. And I wonder if you ever have a moment to be alone with your own thoughts. If so, when? And what does that mean to you?
ROMNEY: Well, at the end of the day, usually at about ten o’clock, things have finally wound down. And I’m able to spend a little time. I talk to Ann. She is on her own schedule. And we — we spend fifteen or twenty minutes on the phone. And then I read. And I think. I think about the coming day and think about what I want to accomplish. I pray. Prayer is a time to connect with — with the divine, but also time, I’m sure, to concentrate one’s thoughts, to meditate, and — and to imagine what might be.
OBAMA: Well, you know what? I try to make time during the course of the day. I mean usually I’ve got some desk time during the course of the day where I can review materials that I think are important for decisions that I’m going to have to make later in the day.
I tend to be a night-owl. So after I have had dinner with the family and tucked the girls in, then I have a big stack of stuff that I have taken up to the residence. And I’ll typically stay up until midnight, just going over stuff and sometimes push the stack aside and just try to do some writing and focus on not the immediate issue in front of me, but some of the issues that are coming down the pike that we need to be thinking about.
And there are a whole host of those issues. I’ll give you a good example. We don’t have I think the kind of comprehensive plan to deal with cyber security that the country needs. Now, there is not a cyber attack right now. There is not some emergency virus right now. But that’s a big critical system that is vital to our economy. It’s vital to our public health infrastructure.
And so you’re figuring out how do we set up systems where government is working with the private sector in a way that doesn’t put a crimp on innovation and discovery, but also make sure that the data is secure and the American people are protected. That’s something where you got to get the wheels turning now. And so we’re doing that.
There are a range of examples like that that if you don’t build in some thought time, end up being pushed aside by the constant churning of events.