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Mitt's Character, and Presidential Virtue

I have a sister with MS, and I live with narcolepsy, so I do have a little experience in the challenges of dealing with chronic, incurable illness. Ultimately, all of us have to make decisions about what’s essential, very important, important, and what can be passed on if needed. On good days, the essentials and very important things gets done, and maybe even some of the merely important ones. On bad days, sometimes it’s not possible to get the essentials done -- and family members or friends need to step in and help.

It’s clear from Mr. Romney’s manner that he steps in whenever needed without complaint because he regards this as just something that needs to be done. And to an Australian, that attitude is admirable. We tend to respect people who do this regardless of whether we agree with their beliefs (with the caveat that those beliefs don’t harm anyone else -- the kind of belief that says Person X is less than human tends to get short shrift).

Mr. Romney’s so-called “wooden” manner is also a factor here, and yes, in my view it’s admirable. The thing about MS is you don’t know what it will take next. There’s no way to predict episodes, no way to guess what area of the brain will be attacked. It can’t be pleasant for Mr. Romney to see his wife suffering this kind of deterioration, and since he needs to be strong for her, he’s built up a pleasant, cheerful demeanor so that she doesn’t see how much her pain hurts him. It also protects him to some extent: the masks allow him to defer his suffering while he deals with the more important matter -- namely supporting his wife. I’d be willing to guarantee that Mr. Romney’s calm assurance is something he only drops in the presence of those he trusts absolutely and knows he won’t hurt when he drops it. After any length of time, something like this becomes reflex: it takes conscious effort to drop it.

So no, I don’t expect to see any spontaneous reaction from Mr. Romney unless he’s badly shocked, and I certainly hope he never finds himself in that position. This is a good thing. No, he will never be spontaneous in politics, but he is also unlikely to throw unseemly tantrums.

Then there’s his tax returns, and the fact that he doesn’t claim all the deductions he’s entitled to. Many politicians would be trumpeting this to the heavens. Mr. Romney doesn’t. He simply does it.

I could spend a lot of time here talking about the many good things Mr. Romney has done for many people, but I’ll leave it at this: not once has Mr. Romney mentioned them himself. Not once.