August 31, 2012


Now that he’s officially the Republican nominee for president and has an excellent chance of becoming the most powerful man in the world, I feel free to admit, in the full knowledge that nobody cares, that I never liked Mitt Romney. My distaste for him isn’t merely personal or political but also petty and superficial. There’s the breathless, Eddie Attaboy delivery, that half-smile of pitying condescension in debates or interviews when someone disagrees with him, the Ken doll mannerisms, his wanton use of the word “gosh”—the whole Romney package has been nails on a blackboard to me.

But his examination of Romney’s character also sheds light on why the lefties can’t stand him:

The Romneys present a picture of an American family that popular culture has been trying to undo since—well, since An American Family, the 1973 PBS documentary that exposed the typical household as a cauldron of resentment and infidelity.

And now, here, 40 years later, it’s as though it all never happened: a happy American family, led by a baby boomer with no sense of irony! Romney is the sophisticate’s nightmare.

Almost every personal detail about Romney I found endearing. But my slowly softening opinion went instantly to goo when The Real Romney unfolded an account of his endless kindnesses—unbidden, unsung, and utterly gratuitous. “It seems that everyone who has known him has a tale of his altruism,” the authors write. I was struck by the story of a Mormon family called (unfortunately) Nixon. In the 1990s a car wreck rendered two of their boys quadriplegics. Drained financially from extraordinary expenses, Mr. Nixon got a call from Romney, whom he barely knew, asking if he could stop by on Christmas Eve. When the day came, all the Romneys arrived bearing presents, including a VCR and a new sound system the Romney boys set up. Later Romney told Nixon that he could take care of the children’s college tuition, which in the end proved unnecessary. “I knew how busy he was,” Nixon told the authors. “He was actually teaching his boys, saying, ‘This is what we do. We do this as a family.’ ”

Romney’s oldest son Tagg once made the same point to the radio host Hugh Hewitt. “He was constantly doing things like that and never telling anyone about them,” Tagg said. “He doesn’t want to tell people about them, but he wanted us to see him. He would let the kids see it because he wanted it to rub off on us.”

Intolerable. A person like that might make you feel like you aren’t good enough. The comparison might make you uncomfortable. This cannot be allowed. A “sophisticate’s nightmare,” indeed.

UPDATE: Reader Zach Barbera writes:

I’ve lived in MA for 30 years and until last night did not love or feel passionate about Mitt. But, what really won me over is the realization that it’s not that he’s a cold fish, seeing his family and hearing the stories about him makes that plenty clear, it’s just that he’s so [email protected] competent and quietly self-assured. He doesn’t feel the need to put on the displays or make biting partisan points. He means it he wishes Obama didn’t fail, he wants our system to work and be led by competent men and women. That’s why he feels that one of Obama’s worst sins (enough that he mocked it) is his hubris, with the grand claims that his presidency marks the waters receding and the earth healing. Mitt doesn’t need to make those promises, he’s not applying to be our personal savior he’s treating this as if he’s walking into a shareholder meeting and asking us to make him our CEO. Once that’s done he’ll get to work on the job and not be dragged int the personal lives of the board. After all these years, I finally get him. And find that I am starting to think that he has what it takes to become a great president.

Well, it’s about time.

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