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Why Is Mitt Romney So Incredibly Weird?

Everything you need to know about Willard Mitt Romney. An excerpt from Salon's new e-book, "The Rude Guide to Mitt"

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In his  2007 New Yorker profile, Ryan Lizza refers to it as “one-upmanship.”

After a voter at the New Hampshire diner told Romney, “My daughter goes to Michigan State,” he replied, “Oh, does she, really? My brother’s on the board of Michigan State.” When another patron said that she was from Illinois, Romney told her, “I won the straw poll at the Illinois Republican convention!”

His off-kilter interpretation of casual conversation also involves guessing at the ethnic background of strangers, poorly (“are you French-Canadian?”), and awkward joking (pretending a waitress pinched his ass). And he enjoys congratulating people, seemingly for the feat of existing and being in the vicinity of Mitt Romney.

If Nixon was epically, operatically weird — the sort of president the nation that produced Charles Manson should expect, let’s say — Romney is uninterestingly weird. First reel of “Blue Velvet” weird, without a hint of that subterranean layer of rot and perversion underlying the whole thing. Upon returning to his childhood home in Michigan for a 2012 campaign event, Romney noted that the trees were “the right height.”

Another fun — and weird — Romney fact: He models his hair not on that of his father, or that of Leland Palmer, but on his father’s top religious aide in Romney’s boyhood. From  the Globe:

Mitt had grown up hearing people comment on his father’s sweep of slicked-back black hair, white at the temples. But since his early teens, Mitt had patterned his own hairstyle after a man named Edwin Jones, who served as his father’s top aide in running the Detroit operations of the Mormon Church.

“He sat up front, to the side at a desk, keeping records,” Mitt would recall years later. “I remember that he had very dark hair, that it was quite shiny, and that you could see it in from front to back. Have you looked at my hair? Yep, it’s just like his was some 40 years ago.”

“Have you looked at my hair?” There is perhaps some psychological insight there: Romney is worshipful of his father, and has apparently modeled himself on a man his father trusted.

Romney’s commitment to clean living is less an individual quirk than one prescribed by his religion, but it is always amusing when a grown adult acts like a character in an Archie comic. A 2003 Boston Magazine piece has the new governor pouring Diet Vanilla Coke and regular Vanilla Coke for a family taste test. (I can only assume the sodas are caffeine-free, though there is some debate in LDS circles about the letter versus the spirit of the prohibition against “hot beverages,” which does not explicitly mention caffeine.) It also notes Romney’s regular breakfast: “cereal, egg whites, and toast without butter.” At Bain Capital, he refused to put his own money in a company that produced R-rated movies. (He did consent to allow Bain to invest.)

Even the stories of Romney’s supposed temper are ridiculous. He was arrested, in June of 1981, for disorderly conduct while attempting to launch his family boat in Cochituate State Park. He got in a heated argument with a cop who noted that the boat was not displaying its registration. Romney was hauled in in his swim trunks. Charges were dropped when he threatened to sue for false arrest. At the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics Romney got in a public confrontation with a volunteer police officer directing traffic outside an Olympic venue. Police allege Romney said “fuck” multiple times while berating the cop. Romney declined to apologize to the cop, Shaun Knopp, and while the public berating did happen — he mentions it in his book — Romney made a big point of specifically denying that he used a bad word. (In fact, Romney insisted at the time that he specifically said “H-E double hockey sticks.” Like a child. A remarkably well-behaved child speaking in earshot of his second grade teacher.) He told the Boston Globe that he had two witnesses to corroborate his denial. “I have not used that word since college — all right? — or since high school,” he said.

 
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