Mitt Romney’s relationship with his father was the polar opposite of the non-relationship President Barack Obama experienced with his dad (which I discussed in the first installment of “Presidential Papas” here at PJM). Unlike Obama’s broken paternal bond, everyone could always see the deep love and affection George Romney and his son Mitt shared. They were side by side and when George took a step, Mitt tried to take it too. And that deep connection led to a son who seems laser-focused on finishing what his dad started. But Mitt would later learn that to complete his dad’s work he would have to leave his father’s moderate form of Republicanism and awkwardly move to the political Right. The only way he could fulfill his father’s legacy would be to run away from part of it when the right time came.
Presidential historian Doug Wead has written extensively on presidents’ relationships to their fathers. And he likes to point out that sons either reject what their dads did or they attempt to complete what they couldn’t finish. He writes, “Presidents’ kids had a way of seeking the approval of the parent by ‘completion’ that is, doing the thing that the father hadn’t done…it happened over and over among all sons of presidents.”
George W. Bush was a good example of a completer. His presidential papa didn’t finish off Saddam Hussein and made the error of raising taxes against his pledge. Bush 41 came in and spent much of his presidency making sure Saddam was finished off and that historic tax cuts were enacted. And of course, he won a second term while his father did not.
When Rick Perry decided to run for president, many compared him to George W. Bush. But the Republican candidate who actually most resembles Bush is Mitt Romney. Mitt’s relationship with his own father, and subsequent desire to complete what his dad could not, is quite similar to the Bush father-son combo. It comes as no surprise that the elder Bush has already endorsed Romney; he probably reminds him of his son. And I’m sure George H.W. Bush reminds Mitt a little of George W. Romney. In fact, Bush told the press he was close to George Romney.