Authenticity Kills? What Romney Learned From His Dad
Perlstein has a great piece on Mitt and his daddy in Rolling Stone that is not to be missed:
In my first weekly online column for Rolling Stone, I'm here to write about another loser and son: George and Mitt Romney – both almost-certain Republican presidential nominees. Pollster Lou Harris said late in 1966 that George Romney, then governor of Michigan, "stands a better chance of winning the White House than any Republican since Dwight D. Eisenhower." Then, just over a year later, he was humiliated with a suddenness and intensity unprecedented in modern American political history (of which more below). His son was 19 years old. What makes Mitt – né Willard – Romney, run? Much, I think, can be understood via that specific trauma.
I wrote a Los Angeles Times op-ed four years ago, just before Romney dropped out of the 2008 race, arguing that he would "go down as the most robotic big-ticket presidential candidate in history." I chalked it up to psychobiography: Even more than most kids, Mitt couldn’t help but view his dad as a messiah – because much of America did, too. George Romney's first appearance on the cover of Time, in 1959, came just before Mitt's twelfth birthday. As CEO of the Americans Motors Corporation, he had single-handedly set Detroit on its ear by calling its products "gas-guzzling dinosaurs." The first full biography of him came out in 1960. Soon after, he became Michigan's James Madison, heroically leading a bipartisan effort to redraft the state's messed-up constitution. By 1963, he was governor, a Republican in a Democratic state, a politician so beloved that John F. Kennedy was terrified at the thought of running against him in 1964. After his reelection in 1966, he ran 54-46 in a hypothetical 1968 match-up with Lyndon Johnson.
His calling card was his shocking authenticity; his courage in sticking to his positions without fear or favor was extraordinary.Read on ...
This is some fascinating history that, I think, probably gets closer to what makes the Mittbot tick than anything I've seen. The way he sees it is that daddy lost by being too principled. He is determined not to make that mistake:
Mitt learned at an impressionable age that in politics, authenticity kills. Heeding the lesson of his father's fall, he became a virtual parody of an inauthentic politician. In 1994 he ran for senate to Ted Kennedy's left on gay rights; as governor, of course, he installed the dreaded individual mandate into Massachusetts' healthcare system. Then he raced to the right to run for president.
Perlstein points out that the one area in which he seems to be utterly authentic is his fealty to wealth and capitalism --- and that's a reaction to his father too.
Read the whole thing. It's all good.