President Obama made good on a promise to meet with Mitt Romney, his vanquished opponent in the recent election, on Thursday. And judging from the White House's characerization of the meeting, it's seems likely he also fulfilled a pledge to pick Romney's brain on the subject of government management and organization.
In his press briefing today, White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked about the specifics of the lunch meeting, which was still underway at the time of the briefing. In response, he said the president "is very interested in [Romney's] ideas." Asked exactly what ideas, Carney answered this way:
The president is -- as I know, because I've sat in the room and heard him go into detail on this and get very passionate about it -- is very interested in creating greater efficiencies in this government, making it run better, making it more effective in the 21st century, because we have a lot of agencies and institutions that were created long ago and they can be improved upon. And that's reflected in the proposal for government reorganization that the president put forward.
And he can be pretty wonky about this stuff. And somebody with Governor Romney's experience clearly would have insight into how to maximize efficiency in an operation like the federal government. Again, I just know that's what interests the president. I can't guarantee you at this stage that that's what they're talking about, but I know that is a subject that interests the president.
Asked if that might translate into a job for Romney in the Obama administration, Carney demurred. "I don't think that's what this conversation is about," he said.
In a post-election press conference, Obama said he was interested in Romney's thoughts on “how can we make the federal government more customer friendly, how can we make sure that we’re consolidating programs that are duplicative, how can we eliminate additional waste.”
Update 11/29, 8:52 a.m.: Here's what the two actually talked about -- and what they ate -- according to a White House summary of the lunch:
This afternoon, President Obama and Governor Romney visited for an hour over lunch in the Private Dining Room adjacent to the Oval Office. Governor Romney congratulated the president for the success of his campaign and wished him well over the coming four years. The focus of their discussion was on America's leadership in the world and the importance of maintaining that leadership position in the future. They pledged to stay in touch, particularly if opportunities to work together on shared interests arise in the future. Their lunch menu included white turkey chili and Southwestern grilled chicken salad.