Politics: 'The Real Romney' by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 October, 2012, 4:51pm


The Real Romney

by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman


Katha Pollitt

When Mitt Romney was preparing to run in the Republican presidential primary in 2008, a campaign adviser summed up his problems: Mormon, Millionaire, Massachusetts.

Four years later, Romney faces those same problematic Ms, and more. There's Mistrust: lots of people think Romney is a phoney who'll say anything to get elected. There's Mislike: he comes across as detached and wooden, and his gaffes are legendary ("corporations are people too, my friend").

Who is the real Mitt Romney? This well-researched biography by two Boston Globe reporters offers useful clues. There's much about his close relationship with his father, Michigan governor George Romney, a moderate Republican who torpedoed his own 1968 presidential campaign when he said his support for the Vietnam war was due to "brainwashing" by the military. Romney's sister Jane thought that watching their father's downfall because of a single word made Romney, by nature reserved, "more cautious, more scripted".

Pundits have suggested his gaffes might represent a Freudian wish to share his father's fate. But they may just be the result of being too insulated - by hereditary privilege, wealth, class and his tight-knit Mormon social world - from ordinary people's concerns. After all, Romney made millions of dollars as head of Bain Capital, a leveraged buyout firm that purchased troubled companies, firing people and closing factories while reaping enormous profits.

Readers curious about his views on social issues will not get much help from Kranish and Helman, who avoid drawing conclusions.

Before Romney entered politics, he tried to bully a young woman into putting her baby up for adoption because she was unmarried; around the same time he berated a mother of five who was scheduled for a medically necessary very early abortion. But in his failed 1994 race for Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, he presented himself as passionately pro-choice. By 2005, as his governorship was winding down and his thoughts turned to the presidency, he had turned anti-choice. Now, he's totally anti-abortion. He's made a similar about-face on gay rights. These flipflops are now coming back to haunt him.

To win the nomination, Romney moved so far to the right he came across as insincere and alarming to the centrist voters he needs. Asked if Romney could appeal to moderates, an aide said he would simply "hit the reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes." In other words, there may be no real Romney after all, just someone who really, really wants to be president.

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