Let me give you the lowdown, one overlooked reason why Republican Mitt Romney will lose the presidential race Tuesday: the man Mitt himself. He can’t overcome his own character.
For 11 months of 2012, he had many chances to say something that was charming, witty, funny, or moving. But what a sour and dour vibe all the way.
We Americans don’t like that, especially in tough times—remember Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s jauntiness in the Great Depression? We like to like our presidents, of whatever party. The winning Barack Obama, on the other hand, is generally liked by the electorate, a large advantage in a close contest.
Laughter and light never broke through on Romney’s trail and grail to match the man his father—Gov. George Romney was—perchance to surpass him. It didn’t happen once. His wife Ann tried so hard to humanize him. Yet Romney never bonded with the American people, not even with the base of white men (mostly) who will vote for him tomorrow. Obama, who grew up a fatherless child and spent years searching for dreams from his absent Kenyan father, by contrast, has much more lightness and grace.
Give Romney this: tall, dark, and handsome, the man does look the part—his hair always perfectly parted. We were relieved to see him win the Republican circus freak primary. And yes, we were impressed at his crisp performance at the first debate.
But that’s all I have to say for the uxorious former governor of Massachusetts. The Mormon Organization Man’s excessive greed and ambition barely lurk below the slick surface. He can’t connect with 47 percent of us, by his own admission. A man of the people, he ain’t.
His vexing negativity goes hand in hand with an unwillingness to stick with any bedrock beliefs. The Washington Post ran an excellent editorial denouncing Romney’s “contempt” for voters, and his changing his positions radically over the course of his career. As the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy declared of Romney back in 1994: “I am pro-choice … My opponent is multiple-choice.” The line brought down the house in Boston.
It’s also worth noting that Romney’s peers—men who have vied with him on political stages—can’t stand him. I mean, it’s more than the usual give-and-take, spirited conflict between rivals. Kennedy, famous for having friends and allies on the other side of the aisle, found Romney hard work on a personal level. Sens. John Kerry, Harry Reid, and John McCain—two Democrats and a Republican—are three other senators known to loathe Romney.
The more we got to know you, Mitt Romney, the less we found to like. And in the end, presidential politics is personal.
By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, November 5, 2012
Yes, we know that Mitt Romney thinks almost half the nation is made up of welfare-grubbing leeches unwilling to separate their maws from the teat of Big Government. But what’s honestly more remarkable to me (because the “too many non-rich Americans don’t pay taxes” line is an ancient one, and one that the Wall Street Journal editorial page has been repeating since 2002) is that Mitt Romney actually doesn’t understand, apparently, that he is a child of privilege.
Contending that he is a self-made millionaire who earned his own fortune, Romney insisted, “I have inherited nothing.” He remarked, “There is a perception, ‘Oh, we were born with a silver spoon, he never had to earn anything and so forth.’ Frankly, I was born with a silver spoon, which is the greatest gift you can have: which is to get born in America.”
Being born in America is certainly a much bigger leg up than being born in, say, Haiti. But being born in America is a much better gift, on the whole, if you’re born to well-educated parents with a relatively large household income, as Mitt Romney was. As economic inequity has risen, social mobility has declined relative to much of the rest of the industrialized world. In other words, being born in Denmark, Australia, Norway, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Germany, Spain or France would actually have been a better gift. (Especially Denmark.) Of course, that represents a decline since the days of mass unionization and liberal activist government — being born American in the first half of the 20th century really was a nice deal, as long as you survived the wars.
But the important thing is that Romney considers himself wholly a self-made man. He Built That. Hard work and his own merit are what made him a success, and, by implication, made 47 percent of the population useless mooching parasites.
This is very silly and if Romney actually believes this about himself he’s much more delusional than I thought he was.
It’s technically true that Romney “inherited nothing” when his father died, as various conservatives shouted at me on Twitter last night. He “inherited nothing” because by the time his father died, in 1995, Mitt Romney was already a very wealthy man, thanks in large part to the many advantages he enjoyed as the son of a prominent politician and corporate executive. Romney could afford, at that point in his life, to give away his father’s estate. (To charities and, notably, to his children — both common means of avoiding the brunt of the estate tax.) He gave his father’s estate away because he’d already enjoyed its many advantages.
Mitt Romney attended maybe the most prestigious private high school in the Midwestern United States. He was not a scholarship student. His father was an automotive company executive and eventually the governor of Michigan, and, by the early 1960s, a millionaire. (And one who had legitimately started from practically nothing.)
If a theoretical non-rich Mitt Romney had gone to college (57 percent of male high school graduates enrolled in college in 1965), a prestigious private school like Stanford might’ve been out of reach. When Mitt Romney attended Stanford, tuition was $1,575 a year, which is more than $11,000 in today’s dollars, and this was just at the cusp of the age of financial aid. (If Romney were black, going to college in 1965 would’ve been significantly less likely.) And if theoretical working-class Romney had managed to bootstrap himself into a good school, it would’ve almost certainly been with the assistance of the federal government, in the form of the National Defense Education Act or the Higher Education Act of 1965 (the year Romney enrolled in Stanford).
Romney spent only a year at Stanford, and finished his degree at the less prestigious Brigham Young, at which point he was accepted into Harvard Law and then the very exclusive joint law/business degree program. When that happened, his father, by the way, was a cabinet secretary. I’m just saying.
And of course while Romney was getting his degree, he didn’t have to do anything rash like “go into debt” or “work,” because, as Ann Romney helpfully explained in 1994, the young couple survived by selling stock Romney received from his father. At BYU: “Neither one of us had a job, because Mitt had enough of an investment from stock that we could sell off a little at a time.” At Harvard, Ann was able to stay home with their children despite neither parent having a job, because “we had no income except the stock we were chipping away at.”
So, yes, self-made man, no inheritance, only silver spoon was the good old red, white and blue. It’s understandable that rich men enjoy the delusion that their own inherited virtue and work ethic are solely responsible for their success, but in men like Mitt Romney, it’s a particularly bizarre delusion.
By: Alex Pareene, Salon, September 18, 2012
This will not be Mitt Romney’s first Republican National Convention. Forty-eight years ago this summer, 17-year-old Mitt went with his father, Michigan Governor George Romney, to the party’s 1964 convention in San Francisco. As the party prepared to nominate Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater for the presidency, and to embrace a platform that was even more extreme in its positions than those taken by its standard-bearer, Mitt watched as his father fought a valiant battle to prevent the party’s lurch to the right.
It was a battle of ideology, idealism and honor. George Romney, a committed supporter of the struggle for racial justice that he traced to Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, believed that Goldwater’s opposition to federal civil rights legislation meant that the presumptive nominee’s “views deviate as indicated from the heritage of our party.” He argued that the party needed to fully embrace the civil rights struggle and to explicitly reject the extremism of far-right groups such as the John Birch Society.
“There is no place in either of our parties for the purveyors of hate,” George Romney argued to no avail. The Republican Party rejected platform planks proposed by the elder Romney and the moderate wing of the Republican Party and went all-in for extremism. With that, he walked out of the convention, displaying the resolve that would lead the future president of the United States, Gerald Ford, to say “(George Romney) has never let the temporary glitter of expediency obscure the path which his integrity dictated he must follow.”
Even allowing for the overheated rhetoric of nominating speakers, there will be no such pronouncements this year regarding Mitt Romney. Nor will there be any meaningful efforts to dial back the extremism of a platform that one of its drafters, Oregon delegate and Tea Party activist Russ Walker, says “appears to be the most conservative platform in modern history.” The Washington Times echoed that assessment, as Republican U.S. Senate candidates such Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Laura Lingle of Hawaii scrambled to distance themselves from a platform defined by its:
* no-exceptions approach to abortion and a “personhood” section that seeks “legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children”
* militant opposition to marriage equality and a refusal even to acknowledge civil unions
* call for limiting the role of women in the military
* celebrations of election suppression schemes such as Voter ID laws and proof-of-citizenship requirements
* endorsement of Arizona-style anti-immigration laws
* support for overriding popular democracy and local lawmaking in the District of Columbia
* proposal to constitutionally restrict the ability of Congress to write budgets, with “exceptions for only war and national emergencies”
* pining for a return to the Gold Standard
* full embrace of soon-to-be vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s proposals to begin the process of undermining Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — along lines advocated in 1964 by Goldwater but opposed by George Romney.
Unlike his father, Mitt Romney will make no effort to guide his party back toward the mainstream. The man who just a decade ago was identified as the brave new champion of the centrism, even liberalism, that his father once espoused will make no demand for moderation. There will be no stance on principle. No show of integrity.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus admits that the platform is frequently at odds with Mitt Romney’s stated positions — if not with those of Paul Ryan. “This is the platform of the Republican Party; it’s not the platform of Mitt Romney,” says Priebus.
But isn’t Mitt Romney effectively the leader of the Republican Party at this point, in the same sense that Barack Obama is (as Republicans so frequently suggest) the leader of the Democratic Party? Why isn’t Romney exercising leadership? Why isn’t he saying that he will not run on a platform that is at odds with his stated positions on critical social policy, economic policy and international policy issues? Why isn’t he objecting to stances that “deviate… from the heritage of our party”?
The answer is not that Romney, who once declared “I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I’m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush,” who began his own political career as an enthusiastic supporter of abortion rights and gay rights, whose Massachusetts health-care reforms laid the groundwork for “Obamacare,” is some kind of right-wing purist.
Romeny’s lack of a coherent conservatism going into the 2012 race is what scared conservatives so much that they supported, literally, Anyone-But-Romney — from Michele Bachmann to Herman Cain to Newt Gingrich to Rick Santorum. Ultimately, Romney bent enough to the demands of the right to secure the nomination. And he threw conservatives a bigger bone with the selection of House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan, who is a true believer, as the party’s vice presidential nominee.
It is that determination to make himself acceptable to the right that distinguishes Mitt Romney from his father. And it is what would distinguish a Romney-Ryan presidency, were the ticket to prevail in November.
Mitt Romney defers to the extremism that George Romney battled as a matter of principle. Where George Romney defended the heritage of a great American political party, Mitt Romney will this week “let the temporary glitter of expediency obscure the path which his integrity dictated he must follow.”
By: John Nichols, The Nation, August 27, 2012
Now that we’re having a real debate about the fundamentals of capitalism and success, it’s worth considering another part of the now-infamous “You didn’t build that” speech President Obama recently gave. When he was accused of taking Obama’s words out of context, Mitt Romney’s defense was that “The context is worse than the quote.” As evidence, he cited not the actual context of “You didn’t build that” but what Obama said a paragraph before, about the role of fortune in success. And it’s that idea—that success has to do not only with hard work and talent but also with luck—that really got Mitt Romney steamed. Here’s the passage in question:
There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there
You might think that this would be hard to argue with, but as David Frum observed, many successful people find the idea that luck played a part in their success to be deeply offensive. And it makes me wonder whether Mitt Romney himself believes that the fact that his father was a wealthy industrialist and governor had nothing to do with his financial success. Does he think that if he been born to a poor single mother in backwoods Appalachia, he would have grown up to be the same private equity titan he turned out to be?
I’m guessing he does, but it would be interesting to hear what he said if someone asked him, “Governor, what role do you think luck played in your success? Do you think you had more of a chance to succeed because of who your parents were?”
Don’t know about you, but I’m happy to admit that luck played a large part in whatever success I’ve had. I was fortunate in my parents; we weren’t rich, but they valued education highly, created an environment with lots of opportunities for learning, and moved us to a town with excellent public schools. Had I been born in more deprived circumstances, I’m quite sure I wouldn’t have had anything like the opportunities I did, and I seriously doubt I would have pulled myself up by my bootstraps unless some other piece of luck fell my way. Luck played some part in getting most of the jobs I had, even if it was just knowing someone who knew someone who had an opening. I work hard enough, but I’m not such a jerk that I don’t understand how lucky I am to have a career as a writer, which is absurdly cushy compared to the jobs of people who stand on an assembly line or run around a distribution center or change bedpans. In my youth I had just enough exposure to a series of not-particularly-pleasant jobs like waiting tables and working a cash register in a supermarket to make me never forget how absurdly lucky I am to make a living doing what I do.
Mitt Romney is right about one thing: it’s hard to start and maintain a business. And it’s particularly hard if, unlike someone like Mitt Romney, you can’t live off your stocks when you do it. So I understand why some business owners would get their backs up when Romney tells them that Barack Obama told them they didn’t actually build their business. I’d hope they’d take the time to figure out that Romney is actually lying to them about that, but what can you do. But what I struggle to understand is the rich guy who thinks that luck played absolutely no part in him getting where he is. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t hear that coming from a guy who built up a construction business from the ground up. People like that have usually had exposure to enough bad luck to know good luck when they see it. It’s only the people whose entire lives have been nothing but a string of good luck who so angrily assert that there’s no such thing. It’s the Wall Street tools who got six-figure jobs in their uncle’s firm fresh out of Wharton who insist so vehemently that everything they have is because of their own talents. Only if you think that could you genuinely believe that an increase in your income tax of a few points constitutes some kind of communist attack on success.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 30, 2012
Once upon a time a rich man named Romney ran for president. He could claim, with considerable justice, that his wealth was well-earned, that he had in fact done a lot to create good jobs for American workers. Nonetheless, the public understandably wanted to know both how he had grown so rich and what he had done with his wealth; he obliged by releasing extensive information about his financial history.
But that was 44 years ago. And the contrast between George Romney and his son Mitt — a contrast both in their business careers and in their willingness to come clean about their financial affairs — dramatically illustrates how America has changed.
Right now there’s a lot of buzz about an investigative report in the magazine Vanity Fair highlighting the “gray areas” in the younger Romney’s finances. More about that in a minute. First, however, let’s talk about what it meant to get rich in George Romney’s America, and how it compares with the situation today.
What did George Romney do for a living? The answer was straightforward: he ran an auto company, American Motors. And he ran it very well indeed: at a time when the Big Three were still fixated on big cars and ignoring the rising tide of imports, Romney shifted to a highly successful focus on compacts that restored the company’s fortunes, not to mention that it saved the jobs of many American workers.
It also made him personally rich. We know this because during his run for president, he released not one, not two, but 12 years’ worth of tax returns, explaining that any one year might just be a fluke. From those returns we learn that in his best year, 1960, he made more than $660,000 — the equivalent, adjusted for inflation, of around $5 million today.
Those returns also reveal that he paid a lot of taxes — 36 percent of his income in 1960, 37 percent over the whole period. This was in part because, as one report at the time put it, he “seldom took advantage of loopholes to escape his tax obligations.” But it was also because taxes on the rich were much higher in the ’50s and ’60s than they are now. In fact, once you include the indirect effects of taxes on corporate profits, taxes on the very rich were about twice current levels.
Now fast-forward to Romney the Younger, who made even more money during his business career at Bain Capital. Unlike his father, however, Mr. Romney didn’t get rich by producing things people wanted to buy; he made his fortune through financial engineering that seems in many cases to have left workers worse off, and in some cases driven companies into bankruptcy.
And there’s another contrast: George Romney was open and forthcoming about what he did with his wealth, but Mitt Romney has largely kept his finances secret. He did, grudgingly, release one year’s tax return plus an estimate for the next year, showing that he paid a startlingly low tax rate. But as the Vanity Fair report points out, we’re still very much in the dark about his investments, some of which seem very mysterious.
Put it this way: Has there ever before been a major presidential candidate who had a multimillion-dollar Swiss bank account, plus tens of millions invested in the Cayman Islands, famed as a tax haven?
And then there’s his Individual Retirement Account. I.R.A.’s are supposed to be a tax-advantaged vehicle for middle-class savers, with annual contributions limited to a few thousand dollars a year. Yet somehow Mr. Romney ended up with an account worth between $20 million and $101 million.
There are legitimate ways that could have happened, just as there are potentially legitimate reasons for parking large sums of money in overseas tax havens. But we don’t know which if any of those legitimate reasons apply in Mr. Romney’s case — because he has refused to release any details about his finances. This refusal to come clean suggests that he and his advisers believe that voters would be less likely to support him if they knew the truth about his investments.
And that is precisely why voters have a right to know that truth. Elections are, after all, in part about the perceived character of the candidates — and what a man does with his money is surely a major clue to his character.
One more thing: To the extent that Mr. Romney has a coherent policy agenda, it involves cutting tax rates on the very rich — which are already, as I said, down by about half since his father’s time. Surely a man advocating such policies has a special obligation to level with voters about the extent to which he would personally benefit from the policies he advocates.
Yet obviously that’s something Mr. Romney doesn’t want to do. And unless he does reveal the truth about his investments, we can only assume that he’s hiding something seriously damaging.
By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, July 8, 2012