Search results for the tag, "Mitt Romney"

July 12th, 2007

Romney’s Too Perfect? You’re Too Envious

Romney Family

One of the less-analyzed refrains about Mitt Romney is that he’s flawless. Whether it’s his Liberace locks, George Washington probity, Norman Rockwell family or Bill Gates success, “Romney may ironically turn off some voters by being too, well, perfect,” writes Matt Lewis.

The reason for this topsy-turvy attitude, Matt argues, is that Americans have always been anti-elitist. This is true, but we disdain privilege over merit, not success itself. We frown upon those who are born rich, but we “want to be like Mike.”

Leaving aside anti-Mormon bigotry and Romney’s lack of spontaneity and warmth, the root explanation for the “too-perfect” sneer is more insidious. People are naturally drawn to people like ourselves, for both positive and negative things. But since Romney’s life has been so strikingly charmed, it’s hard to identify with him. Instead, we cling to a Bill Clinton who snacks at McDonalds, or a Michael Bloomberg who rides the metro, or a Jimmy Carter who tells Playboy that he has “looked on a lot of women with lust.”

Such shortcomings reveal humanity, but they also bring down our icons to a “real” level. As Matt puts it, “To some people, extraordinary is creepy.”

Consider: Was Martha Stewart convicted of insider trading? See, Mrs. Perfect isn’t so perfect, after all! Did Britney Spears shave her scalp and then attack an SUV with an umbrella? See, America’s sexkitten is really a nutcase! Did Mitt Romney strap the family dog to his car roof for a 12-hour ride? See, the square family man abuses animals!

Such schadenfeude exhibits what novelist Ayn Rand termed “hatred of the good for being the good.” The corollary is that only when our stars fall from grace—only when we can see them behind bars or in tears or simply squirming—do we open our eyes.

That’s a shame, because the candidate who’s truly inspiring is already before us.

Addendum (7/15/2007): Here’s an elitist custom Americans rightly disdain: when the Queen of England finishes her meal, everyone’s meal is finished.

June 16th, 2007

Mitt’s Words That Work

Mitt Romney’s various changes of heart demand a ready repository of finely tuned explanations. Rhetorically, if not factually, his answers are brilliant, employing what pollster Frank Luntz calls “words that work.” This does not necessarily mean answering the question, but reframing it onto common or comfortable territory. Some examples:

1. On abortion, from the third GOP debate:

Q: You made . . . this decision on abortion, opposing abortion, relatively recently. Why should conservatives out there, people who oppose abortion believe you?

A: I’m not going to apologize for the fact that I became pro-life.

2. On his changes of hearts, from his announcement for president:

I haven’t always been a Ronald Reagan conservative. But then again, neither was Ronald Reagan.

3. On abortion, from an address earlier this week to the National Right to Life organization:

I proudly follow a long line of converts—George Herbert Walker Bush, Henry Hyde and Ronald Reagan, to name a few. I am evidence that your work, that your relentless campaign to promote the sanctity of human life, bears fruit.

4. On being Mormon, from the third GOP debate:

Q: [T]here was a recent poll here in New Hampshire. Ten percent said they wouldn’t vote for you because you’re a Mormon. And last week we saw that picture of that man who refused to shake your hand because you are a Mormon. What would you like to say to the voters out there tonight about your faith, about yourself and about God?

A: Well, President Kennedy some time ago said he was not a Catholic running for president; he was an American running for president. And I’m happy to be a proud member of my faith. You know, I think it’s a fair question for people to ask, What do you believe? And I think if you want to understand what I believe, you could recognize that the values that I have are the same values you’ll find in faiths across this country. I believe in God, believe in the Bible, believe Jesus Christ is my savior. I believe that God created man in his image. I believe that the freedoms of man derive from inalienable rights that were given to us by God. And I also believe that there are some pundits out there that are hoping that I’ll distance myself from my church so that that’ll help me politically, and that’s not going to happen.

Addendum (6/25/2007): One glaring exception was Romney’s answer to the question, “Knowing everything you know right now, was it a mistake for us to invade Iraq?”

Well, I answered the question by saying it’s a—it’s a non sequitur, it’s a null set kind of question, because you can go back and say, if we knew then what we know now, by virtue of inspectors having been let in and giving us that information, by virtue of if Saddam Hussein had followed the U.N. resolutions, we wouldn’t be having this—this discussion. So it’s a hypothetical that I think is an unreasonable hypothetical. And the answer is, we did what we did; we did the right thing based on what we knew at that time. I think we made mistakes following the conduct—or the collapse of Saddam’s government.

May 20th, 2007

Another Romney Flip-Flop?

Mitt Romney

Although I prefer the old Mitt Romney to his newfound presidential persona, it’s hard not to like the guy. He’s cheerful, charming, convincing, telegenic—in short, a lot like Ronald Reagan (sans the cowboy hats and boots).

But at least in secular terms, Romney faces a hurdle—of his own making, to be sure—which has grown so high that people automatically assume the worst. Consider the latest. According to a recent cover story in Time:

The closest he has ever come to a personal religious crisis, he recalls, was when he was in college and considering whether to go off on a mission, as his grandfather, father and brother had done. Mitt was deeply in love with Ann, his high school sweetheart and future wife, and couldn’t bear to spend more than two years away from her. He says he also felt guilty about the draft deferment he would get for it, when other young men his age were heading for Vietnam.

But in 1994, Romney was seemingly singing a different tune. Ryan Sager unearths a quote he gave to the Boston Herald:

Romney . . . acknowledged he did not have any desire to serve in the military during his college and missionary days, especially after he married and became a father. ‘I was not planning on signing up for the military,’ he said. ‘It was not my desire to go off and serve in Vietnam, but nor did I take any actions to remove myself from the pool of young men who were eligible for the draft. If drafted, I would have been happy to serve, and if I didn’t get drafted I was happy to be with my wife and new child.

Soren Dayton sees this as “further proof that Romney isn’t “[serious],” but, like Ryan, I see no contradiction here. One can feel guilty about getting a deferment while simultaneously being thankful for it. Guilt is a complex emotion, and to Romney’s credit, he acknowledges the nuance.

April 8th, 2007

Reagan’s Heir Need Not Be a Reaganite

Ronald Reagan Shaking Hands With John McCain














In the past several years, as the GOP has labored under the “compassionate conservatism” of George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan has become our collective lodestar—all things to all conservatives.

Libertarians claim him as one of their own, owing to his rhetoric about government as the problem, not the solution. Christians view his conversion to the pro-life agenda as his strongest legacy. Neocons uphold his ending of the Cold War.

The biggest hurdle facing the current crop of our presidential candidates is the inability of each to unify these three wings of the party.

All three support the president on Iraq, especially, and crucially, the surge. But despite McCain’s voting record, the religious right doesn’t trust him. Nor do they embrace the pro-choice, pro-civil union New Yorker, Rudy Giuliani. On paper, Mitt Romney is the Christian candidate, except that he’s only recently become so, and he’s Mormon.

Rudy is the libertarian candidate, save for his elevation of security over liberty. Romney’s language about deficits and vetoes is attractive, if you minimize health care. Ditto for McCain’s bona fides on pork and waste, if you overlook McCain-Feingold and tax cuts.

So who will be Reagan’s heir? At this point, no one. Still, it behooves us to remember, as George Will has written, “that insisting on perfection in a candidate interferes with selecting a satisfactory one.” Or, to use another cliche, politics is the art of compromise.

March 20th, 2007

The Romney Lovebirds

One of the most revealing moments of the 2004 Bush-Kerry debates came at the end of the third one, when moderator Bob Schieffer asked, “We’re all married to strong women. Each of us have two daughters that make us very proud. I’d like to ask each of you, what is the most important thing you’ve learned from these strong women?”

Bush answered first, with the perfect blend of warmth and sincerity that conveyed love for his better half. He cited a few anecdotes, including the way they met, and concluded, “I guess you would say it was love at first sight.”

Kerry, on the other hand, began with a tribute to his recently deceased mother, inserted a line about being humbled and “blessed” by his daughters and wife, and then concluded by lauding not his family but the guy he was running against.

If you’re wondering why Bush carried the soccer mom vote, look no further.

I was reminded of this exchange in watching a recent clip of a Larry King interview with Mitt Romney and his wife. It’s only two minutes, but when Romney’s not praising his partner—“She’s . . . my best counselor. . . . There’s no personnel-type issue that I don’t ask Ann’s advice [about]. . . . She’s very good at assessing qualities of character and heart”—he’s gazing at her, torso tilted, as enraptured as he was the day he proposed. He beams with pride, both of her and to be in her presence. This is a man who adores his wife.

It’s worth noting that the two times I’ve seen the Romneys in person (both in DC), they were holding hands. Similarly, in contrast to the other candidates, most (all?) of Romney’s TV spots end with a picture of them both.

Indeed, of the 2008 Republican presidential front-runners (once, current and future)—George Allen, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and Fred Thompson—Romney (the Mormon, no less) is the only one who’s only had one wife. They were high-school sweethearts and have been married for almost 40 years.

Addendum (1/5/2012): In their new book, The Real Romney, Michael Kranish and Scott Helman tally the evidence of Mitt’s love for Ann:

“To Mitt, the special one in the house was Ann, with her wide smile, piercing eyes, and steadying domestic presence. And woe was the boy who forgot it. Tagg said there was one rule that was simply not breakable:

“’We were not allowed to say anything negative about my mother, talk back to her, do anything that would not be respectful of her.’

On Mother’s Day, their home would be fragrant with lilacs, Ann’s favorite flowers. Tagg didn’t get it back then, but he came to understand. From the beginning, Mitt had put Ann on a pedestal and kept her there.

‘When they were dating,’ Tagg said, ‘he felt like she was way better than him and he was really lucky to have this catch. He really genuinely still feels that way’. . . .

Mitt and Ann’s relationship would grow and change as their family entered the public eye. But she has remained his chief counselor and confidante, the one person who can lead Mitt to a final decision. Though she did not necessarily offer detailed input on every business deal, friends said, she weighed in on just about everything else.

‘Mitt’s not going to do something that they don’t feel good about together,’ said Mitt’s sister Jane. Tagg said they called their mom ‘the great Mitt stabilizer.’ Ann would later be mocked for her claim that she and Mitt had never had an argument during their marriage, which sounded preposterous to the ears of many married mortals. Tagg said it’s not that his parents never disagree. ‘I know there are things that she says that he doesn’t agree with sometimes, and I see him kind of bite his tongue. But I know that they go and discuss it in private. He doesn’t ever contradict my mother in public.’ Friends of the Romneys’ back up that account, saying they cannot recall Mitt ever raising his voice toward Ann.

Nowhere was Ann’s special status more evident than on long family car trips. Mitt imposed strict rules: they would stop only for gas, and that was the only chance to get food or use the restroom. With one exception, Tagg explained. ‘As soon as my mom says, ‘I think I need to go to the bathroom,’ he pulls over instantly and doesn’t complain. ‘Anything for you, Ann.’