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What’s the matter with Romney?

[ 98 ] January 16, 2012 |

As he cruises toward the GOP nomination Mitt Romney can’t seem to stop saying things that, besides being intellectually dubious and morally offensive, are almost certainly going to be damaging to his presidential aspirations:

Romney has made the “class envy” trope central to his message. In his New Hampshire victory speech Romney whined that President Obama “divides us with the bitter politics of envy.”

Romney complained to on Wednesday’s Today show, “Everywhere [President Obama] goes we hear him talking about millionaires and billionaires and executives and Wall Street. It’s a very envy-oriented, attack-oriented approach and I think it will fail.” In maximum Thurston Howell III mode, Romney allowed, “I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms.” But the president is talking about it in public!

How uncouth. Doesn’t Obama know that it’s always best to discuss the unwashed masses over martinis at the gentlemen’s club?

Although Romney doesn’t drink martinis, over the past year or so he’s made a number of remarks that make him sound like a caricature of a country club Republican. Given that Romney is clearly good at electoral politics — giving Ted Kennedy a scare in 1994, getting elected governor of Massachusetts a few years later, and winning the GOP presidential nomination this year isn’t a bad track record for someone who didn’t get involved in electoral politics until his mid-40s — these remarks seem quite mysterious. (When you make Newt Gingrich sound like the voice of reason on an issue you may just have moved a tad too far to the right).

In addition, one would think that Romney — a child of pretty much the most privileged background it’s possible to imagine — would be especially sensitive to charges that he doesn’t understand that financial success and failure in America are not doled out to individuals strictly on the basis of personal merit. Here, the contrast with George W. Bush is instructive: To all appearances Romney is both much smarter and much more intellectually curious than Bush the lesser, yet Dubya at least had enough common sense to burble some banalities about “compassionate conservatism” rather than, as Romney has, throwing an unintentional spotlight on his own spectacularly privileged biography.

Perhaps one clue to Romney’s remarkably tin ear when it comes to his unconditional support for the excesses of our plutocracy can be found in this claim, from the biographical section of his Wikipedia entry: “[Romney] attended Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, a private boys preparatory school of the classic mold where he was the lone Mormon and where many students came from even more privileged backgrounds.” On one level this quote, which has three supporting citations, is simply bizarre. While at Cranbrook, Romney was the son of an extremely wealthy man who was also a major media celebrity (among many other things George Romney was the subject of a Time magazine cover story), not to mention the governor of the state in which Mitt’s high school was located. There were twelve million high school students in America in the early 1960s, and it’s plausible that if one were ranking those students on the basis of their relative socio-economic status, Mitt Romney might have quite literally have finished first.

All this is very puzzling, given that Romney’s aggressive refusal to make any concession to the tropes of noblesse oblige sounds very much like the kind of attitude that many self-made man who grew up in socially marginal circumstances takes on after he’s made it big (Ironically, George Romney, who really was a self-made man from a genuinely marginal social background, had a solicitude for the less fortunate that by comparison to his son seems in retrospect almost communistic).

Mitt Romney’s politically inopportune embrace of the idea that the only reason America isn’t quite yet a perfect meritocracy is because of government interference with the miracle of the free enterprise system requires, I think, some sort of at least partially psychological explanation, which will be rooted, as such explanations are, in his personal biography. And I suspect — I am putting this forward in the most tentative way — that such an investigation might end up focusing on the role that Mormonism and his apparently genuine embrace of his Mormon identity have played in Romney’s life. Instead of playing the role of the generous quasi-aristocrat, which even a egotistical blockhead like Dubya was able to more or less pull off, there is an air of the perpetually bitter outsider about Mitt Romney — of the parvenu who is at some level not quite certain that his exalted status will ever be fully acknowledged by those whose approval he most craves.

Or who knows, maybe he’s just another endlessly entitled rich guy. But it’s a question that will be worth exploring for at least the next ten months.

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  1. HonorableBob says:

    Conservative voters don’t care about any of this dribble. That’s why you won’t see any questions about any of this on the debate tonight.

    Instead, voters want to know if he will cut spending and taxes? Will he reign in the overreach of the federal government and sell the third of GM it currently owns? Will he stop inflating the currency with ‘quantitative easing’ and will stop the Marxist policies of the current administration.

    These are a few of my favorite things…

    • Murc says:

      So, they want to know if he’ll do a lot of things that are shit stupid, or if he’ll stop nonexistent things.

      Gotcha.

    • Furious Jorge says:

      1. What currency inflation? Please point to the skyrocketing inflation that’s happened under the Obama administration.

      2. What Marxist policies? Please support your argument with references to Marx’s actual writings.

      So yeah, if that’s really what conservative voters want to know, then they are too stupid to breathe, let alone vote.

      • HonorableBob says:

        You will have to deal with those you disagree with if you wish to live here.

        Gallup says there are almost twice as many self-identified conservatives than liberals.

        Just be grateful for your overrepresentation.

        • (the other) Davis says:

          Just be grateful for your overrepresentation.

          Between the House and the Senate, there are 535 voting legislators. 21% of that number would be about 112 people. If you use the Progressive Caucus as a rough measure of the number of “liberals” in Congress, you get 78 (including a grand total of one senator). So please, do tell us all about this spurious liberal “overrepresentation.”

          • HonorableBob says:

            If you use the Progressive Caucus as a rough measure of the number of “liberals” in Congress…

            Those are socialists, they just don’t like being identified as such.

            Such a poor argument you present.

            • Malaclypse says:

              Still can’t answer Jorge’s questions, Bob? Come on, at least try to make ship up, like you did here. Put a little honest effort into your trolling.

            • (the other) Davis says:

              Such a poor argument you present.

              Given that your standard for argumentation seems to be “good argument=making shit up,” I can see why you’d say that.

              • HonorableBob says:

                Errr…I referenced reputable third party (Gallup) to support my assertions.

                You didn’t. You stated stuff made up without support.

                • (the other) Davis says:

                  I referenced reputable third party (Gallup) to support my assertions.

                  Wow, I can’t tell if you’re being dishonest, stupid, or some combination of the two.

                  Allow me to spell this out: You threw out a poll that says that 21% of Americans self-identify as liberal, then asserted that this means liberals are overrepresented. You conveniently ignored the huge gaping hole that you provided no information regarding how many members of Congress self-identify as liberal (hint: that’s not the same as self-identifying as Democratic).

                  Are you even bright enough to understand why that poll doesn’t support your assertion?

                • (the other) Davis says:

                  Just for fun, here’s a list of your unsupported assertions in this thread:

                  1. “your overrepresentation.”
                  2. “Those are socialists, they just don’t like being identified as such.”
                  3. “inflating the currency with ‘quantitative easing’”
                  4. “the Marxist policies of the current administration.”
                  5. “a well established church organization that is so wholesome and pro USA that the CIA prefers to recruit there”

        • Malaclypse says:

          So, you are admitting you can’t answer Jorge’s two questions? Can’t you even try? Back in my day, trolls made an honest effort.

        • And yet there as many self-identified progressives and liberals as there are conservatives.

        • Barry says:

          “You will have to deal with those you disagree with if you wish to live here.”

          We are. Perhaps you should address the issues raised.

    • Conservative voters don’t care about any of this dribble.

      Fortunately for our Republic, there will be a great deal more people than “conservative voters” voting in the general election in November, and this “dribble” matters to them.

  2. bob mcmanus says:

    1) I would need to know about his previous campaign rhetoric, in order to know whether this is a change.

    2) Running on a rhetoric of “class envy” will give some more political capital if he wins for massive regressive tax policies in 2013, which the oligarchy and corrupt congress have made likely. Maybe mandates are bs, but campaign promises and rhetoric do matter. See conflicting discussions of the surplus in 2000. It’s a gamble with a big payoff.

  3. Malaclypse says:

    And I suspect — I am putting this forward in the most tentative way — that such an investigation might end up focusing on the role that Mormonism and his apparently genuine embrace of his Mormon identity have played in Romney’s life.

    The Mormon doctrines involving the Preexistence hold that we are born in certain societies, and to certain patents, based on our actions during Lucifer’s revolt. Liberals snark about choosing parents wisely; Mormons believe that we actually did exactly that in the Preexistence.

    • orygunian says:

      Is this true? It has quite a wow factor.

      • Malaclypse says:

        Here is one example.

        Also
        :

        “From this revelation [ Abraham 3:23 ], we may infer two things: first, that there were among those spirits [in premortal life] different degrees of intelligence, varying grades of achievement, retarded and advanced spiritual attainment; second, that there were no national distinctions among those spirits such as Americans, Europeans, Asiatics, Australians, etc. Such ‘bounds of habitation’ would have to be ‘determined’ when the spirits entered their earthly existence or second estate. . . .

        “Now if none of these spirits were permitted to enter mortality until they all were good and great and had become leaders, then the diversity of conditions among the children of men as we see them today would certainly seem to indicate discrimination and injustice. . . .

        “. . . Our place in this world would then be determined by our own advancement or condition in the pre-mortal state, just as our place in our future existence will be determined by what we do here in mortality.

        “When, therefore, the Creator said to Abraham, and to others of his attainment, ‘You I will make my rulers,’ there could exist no feeling of envy or jealousy among the million other spirits, for those who were ‘good and great’ were but receiving their just reward” (David O. McKay, Home Memories of President David O. McKay, 228–30).

        • Holden Pattern says:

          Excellent. So we know that the Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons have all been sorted by Almighty God in advance in great detail, thus providing an incontestable justification for the powerful and wealthy to keep their power and wealth.

          Divinely mandated caste systems are execrable religious doctrines, wherever they arise.

        • I don’t have any sense of what the laity believes and how devoted they are to things like this. My inclination is to be mean about it given how embarrassing the origins of the religion are, and certainly we all pick reasons to be smug, but maybe you’d get some funny looks regarding this one, like asking people if Jesus really put demons into a pig.

          • Malaclypse says:

            I don’t have any sense of what the laity believes and how devoted they are to things like this

            The belief in a literal Preexistence is absolutely central to Mormon theology. The degree to which our actions in the Preexistence determine our lives here is something there is disagreement on.

            That said, one of the many weird traits about Mormonism is that, because so much of the Church hierarchy is semi-untrained laity, much training involves repetition. To this day, I can hear a Mormon prayer and recognize it as being Mormon, not doctrinally, but because of verbal patterns, in a way I could never do with, say, a Baptist or a Catholic. And Sacrament Meetings are the same kind of thing – three talks from congregation members, all following the same sorts of subcultural tropes, all with the same verbal patterns.

            Then I read Mittens’ gripe about envy, and I hear David O. McKay. There are these weird subcultural verbal things, and I’m sure I’m not explaining it well, but it is all just so very Mormon…

            • HonorableBob says:

              How funny you are!

              All of a sudden, a candidate’s religion is an issue.

              Last cycle, Rev Wright and his ‘Hate America First’ Black Liberation theology wasn’t worth mentioning….

              • Deggjr says:

                So you saw (Marine Corps veteran) Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s name on a ballot? That would explain alot.

                • HonorableBob says:

                  Lesseee….Obama sits and listens to commie preacher denounce the USA for 20 years or so……Nah…..it’s not important

                  Now, a well established church organization that is so wholesome and pro USA that the CIA prefers to recruit there….now *THAT’S* something worth our scrutiny!!

                • Dude, if you haven’t squirmed uncomfortably in a pew while a clergyman said something stupid about politics, than you don’t go to church. I’m sure as hell not on the same page as the US Conference of Bishops when it comes to politics.

                  The reason we’re treating the two cases differently is that Barack Obama has, in word an deed, demonstrated quite convincingly that he doesn’t share the opinions of Rev. Wright, while Mitt Romney (an actual officeholder in his church) has very visibly aligned himself with its politics.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Now, a well established church organization that is so wholesome and pro USA that the CIA prefers to recruit there….now *THAT’S* something worth our scrutiny!!

                  You just can’t manage to be right about anything, however trivial, can you?

                • (the other) Davis says:

                  Now, a well established church organization that is so wholesome and pro USA that the CIA prefers to recruit there…

                  While it’s true that the CIA recruits Mormons, the reason they do so is because so many Mormons have “have language or foreign culture experience” from their time abroad on mission.

                  Do you even bother to verify your factual claims before checking them, or do you just believe everything you think?

              • JMP says:

                Well it was important to the mainstream media, which wouldn’t shut up about the attacks on Rev. Wright despite them being bullshit.

                • Ed says:

                  Dude, if you haven’t squirmed uncomfortably in a pew while a clergyman said something stupid about politics,

                  Obama must have done a lot of uncomfortable squirming in twenty years. That said, not all these cases are equal and Reverend Wright was of a generation of black men who were routinely referred to as “boy.” I doubt Obama ever found anything he said all that offensive.

                  As it happens, Wright is also of a race that was the object of official discrimination by the Latter-Day Saints until the late seventies (can’t trust those Lamanites). I wonder what side of the fence Oven Mitt was on in that matter? Has he even been asked?

                • Malaclypse says:

                  The American Indians were the Lamanites. Blacks were simple cursed by the Mark of Cain.

            • Malaclypse says:

              And, also in things I can’t verbalize well: the idea that things get decided in quiet rooms, then people need to accept those decisions, is a lot like the way Mormons “vote” to sustain their leaders.

              Finally, those spirits that were the least valiant in the Preexistence come back as internet trolls.

              • stickler says:

                Malaclypse is clearly speaking from a place of far higher experience with the LDS church than I am.

                However, I would add — Willard Romney is not a “lay member” of his church. He’s a bishop, unless I’m mistaken, and one would certainly expect a more sophisticated knowledge of the faith from such a leader.

                • Thanks to you and to Mal.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Sort of. To translate, a Mormon Bishop is responsible for a single ward (congregation) much like a Protestant minister or Catholic priest. Mittens, however, was a Stake President, which is more like a Catholic Bishop – Mittens oversaw multiple wards within his Stake.

                  However, both ward Bishop and Stake President are still lay positions. Outside of the Council of the Seventy, the Quorum of the Twelve, and the First Presidency, there is very very little non-lay leadership within Mormonism. You hold these “callings” for a period of time, then move on to a new calling. Oh, and your callings are never actually chosen by you. And training really does consist largely of what Harold Garfinkel, in a very different context, described as secret apprenticeship.

                  So when Mittens was Stake President, his day job was still at Bain.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Also worth reading: Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s account of her excommunication, which is funny, and horrible, and has the following which I find relevant, and funny:

                  Now, Mormonism has a lay ministry, which means that there is no professionally trained clergy; for instance, I think that Bishop Lee is a builder or contractor or some such thing. And though services are generally heartfelt, they are not graceful. One peculiarity this breeds is that everyone learns to pray by listening to everyone else, and certain phrases get repeated over and over, prayer after prayer, until they lose their sense. So, sure enough, when the Ward Secretary stood up to pray, he started with “We thank Thee, O Lord, for bringing us together on this occasion–” and down at the foot of the table I almost lost my composure. It was so dumb and familiar, and so completely inappropriate.

                • Amanda in the South Bay says:

                  Outside of the Council of the Seventy, the Quorum of the Twelve, and the First Presidency,

                  I instantly thought of BSG while reading this.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  I instantly thought of BSG while reading this.

                  Glen Larson is Mormon, and based much of the original series on Mormonism. I can go on ad nausem about the Ship of Lights, Count Iblis, and Eternal Progression.

                • Ben says:

                  I don’t want to get in the middle of a BSG discussion, but just wanted to say, Malaclypse, that all those comments were well-worth the reading. If you see a Mormon connection to future events, please speak up.

              • Ed says:

                The American Indians were the Lamanites. Blacks were simple cursed by the Mark of Cain.

                Correction appreciated. Thanks.

  4. DrDick says:

    It simply reveals that Mittens, like many business leaders and most conservatives, really just isn’t all that smart. I don’t think you need to go any deeper than that.

    • LKS says:

      This is my position, although I would add that “not smart” doesn’t necessarily mean of low raw intellect. In Romney’s case, I suspect it’s more a lack of intellectual curiosity and discipline, combined with ego and lack of self-awareness, than plain old st00pids. If it’s not spoon-fed to him, he doesn’t learn it.

      • DrDick says:

        Agreed completely, which is why I phrased it as I did. He (and they) are not actually stupid, they just are not particularly bright, certainly no more so than the average college grad.

    • BigHank53 says:

      Did you ever read this Slate bit on Romney’s attack on Obama’s arms control treaty? If I had stated on a paper in high school that ICBMs could be mounted on a bomber, I would have failed. Romney isn’t even smart enough to find someone to check his work.

      • mark f says:

        But he is smart enough to know that the extent to which most people (read: well over 99%) care about arms treaties is limited to “more weapons = good” vs. “more weapons = bad”. The number of people who give a crap whether he actually knows anything about what certain types weapons actually do is too small to matter. I suspect he accomplished his goal with that op-ed: establishing hawkish bona-fides in contrast to the feckless hippie Obama.

        That said, it’s still funny.

  5. efgoldman says:

    The compare and contrast with all three Kennedy brothers is instructive.
    Catholicism was very much a minority, “risky” religion in national politics in the 1960s. The Kennedys most certainly came from money and privilege, going to all the “correct” schools and running in all the “correct” social circles. Yet, especially Bobby and Ted, stood for the less advantaged, Bobby until he was killed, Ted for his whole life and career. They also lost a brother in WW2, and another served was nearly lost.

    No Kennedy ever would have dreamed of saying some of the tin ear bullshit that Mittster says.

    The contrast couldn’t be starker/

  6. MAJeff says:

    It’s funny, I played Willard’s clip with Matt Lauer, where he decried the “politics of envy” and there was an audible gasp from my clasp. They don’t envy his wealth, they’re just terrified of their own student loan debt.

  7. Romney’s record at electoral politics is less than meets the eye. The closer you look at the individual races the less impressive his performances look.

    The Senate race: He lost by 17 points in 1994, in a year in which two Republicans were elected to Congress from Massachusetts.

    The Governor’s race: the candidate he beat, Shannon O’Brien, was an exceptionally awful candidate (Martha Coakley before Martha Coakley, except more of a Beacon Hill insider).

    This year’s Republican nomination: none of the decent Republican candidates ran.

    Mitt Romney is a terrible, terrible candidate. He really is the guy who couldn’t keep up with John McCain in 2008.

    • Murc says:

      This year’s Republican nomination: none of the decent Republican candidates ran.

      I can’t help but think that Mike Huckabee, a consummate politician and better than average debater with loads of charisma, is kicking himself for not running.

    • rhino says:

      Very true. Also, I fear that he won’t need to be much of a candidate: Between Citizens United, Vote Suppression funded by the 1%, a Terrible Economy, and the Disillusioned Sparkle Ponies for Obama Win, at this point I am predicting Romney in a landslide and god have mercy on all our souls.

      God how I wish I could see any light at the end of the tunnel, because trust me, with an american city as my birthplace, and living only a few hundred miles from your border, you guys are starting to scare the shit out of me.

  8. It’s actually quite easy for a Republican to get elected Governor of Massachusetts. Usually, it’s just a matter of clearing a bar of acceptability.

    Massachusetts is such a one-party state that, before the first vote is counted, it is clear that the Democratic legislative leadership will have a veto-proof majority in both houses of the legislature. As a result, the Speaker of the House is the most powerful politician in the state. What voters in Massachusetts want in a governor is someone sufficiently independent of the Beacon Hill Democratic machine, with sufficient ability and spine, to act a check on the Sals and Tommies and Bobbies in the State House.

    When the Democrats nominate someone who doesn’t fit the bill, someone who looks too likely to roll over for the legislature, the voters feel like it’s safe to vote for a Republican who will stand up to the legislature, because there’s no way that a Republican governor can advance a conservative agenda anyway. Deval Patrick was acceptable because he wasn’t a Massachusetts Democrat at all, but a Chicago/DC Democrat. Shannon O’Brien was a longtime pol whose father was a longtime pol.

    • snarkout says:

      And Romney’s term was the tail end of 16 consecutive years that the Republicans held the governor’s office.

      • mark f says:

        And he staked his reputation on increasing the number of Republicans in the state legislature through the magic of his personal campaigning in the 2004 election (his midterm). It was just about the lowest risk move he could’ve made; Joe’s not exaggerating–both houses were something like 90% Democrats, so it was virtually mathematically impossible not to achieve something that could be spun as a success. Republicans actually lost seats in that election.

        • There are currently a grand total of four Republicans in the Massachusetts State Senate.

          The rules of the body call for four leadership positions for each party’s caucus.

          The Republican Senators in this session have been dubbed the “Every Kid Gets a Trophy” Caucus.

          • efgoldman says:

            I find it interesting that Mittster and his [not direct] GOBP predecessor, Bill Weld, neither of whom had held elective office before, both completely lost interest in their jon as governor once they actually realized how politics actually worked [i.e. can't wave a magic wand from the governor's to get anything done].

  9. Law Spider says:

    To paraphrase Ann Richards about W., Mitt “was born on third base and thinks that he hit a triple.” Whereas many — although plainly not all — people who struggled to third base on their own are able to recognize both the occasional helping hand and the sheer luck that got them there, instead of heading back to the dugout (to beat the metaphor). George Romney’s comparative sympathy seem wholly unsurprising.

    Why Marie (Antoinette) — sorry, Mitt – can’t even fake sympathy, however, is bizarre. I’m just relieved.

    • Charlie Sweatpants says:

      “To paraphrase Ann Richards about W., Mitt “was born on third base and thinks that he hit a triple.””

      Don’t forget that Bush the Younger’s formative political experience was getting his head handed to him in a U.S. House race by an good ole boy Texas Democrat who lambasted him for being a country club Yalie not fit to wear cowboy boots. He learned a harsh lesson about the value of at least appearing to be one of the people. Romney, not so much.

    • John says:

      Ann Richards was speaking about Bush the Elder, not W. And Romney actually seems a lot like a Mormon version of Bush the Elder, when you think about it.

  10. jeer9 says:

    Country club Republicans, while irritating, have always seemed the least evil of the species and fairly pragmatic on any number of issues. I’m not sure Mittens actually fits this description (though it may have been useful in his Massachusetts campaigns) and there are certainly very few of that variety in his party these days. He seems to be just flailing about trying to strike a chord in voters with whom he has little in common and who doubt his authencity (which makes the performance only more amusing and confirmative). I suspect he’ll run the whole rhetorical gamut without finding much that sticks to BHO. He reminds me a high school debate kid who’s been given the more difficult side of the issue, hasn’t fully prepared himself for the competition, and thinks tossing out a few Luntz-tested phrases, combined with his personal attractiveness, will win him the trophy. I don’t think it’s any deeper than that, though I’d like to see some evidence that he’s smarter or more intellectually curious than Dubya.

  11. Murc says:

    He reminds me a high school debate kid who’s been given the more difficult side of the issue, hasn’t fully prepared himself for the competition, and thinks tossing out a few Luntz-tested phrases, combined with his personal attractiveness, will win him the trophy.

    I saw that strategy work out perfectly well in more high school debates than I care to recall without alcohol handy.

  12. Gwen Dallas says:

    I think a lot of Mitt being Mitt this cycle is him attempting to say what he thinks the tea-partiers want him to say.

    I think Mitt is someone who desperately wants to win, and someone who is so narcissistic and arrogant that he believes he can get away with trying to being all things to all people.

  13. Martin says:

    there is an air of the perpetually bitter outsider about Mitt Romney — of the parvenu who is at some level not quite certain that his exalted status will ever be fully acknowledged by those whose approval he most craves.

    Exactly like Richard Nixon.

    • DocAmazing says:

      I think that comparison may be apt. Certainly Nixon (incidentally a Quaker, another minority religion) felt slighted by the elite; it’s entirely possible that Romney felt put down during his prep school days because he was Mormon (which might well have been looked at as strange in such a WASP setting). When Romney emits one of his “I know what it is to suffer” utterances, consider that it may be a teenager with an unpopular religion talking.

      Or he might just be an asshole.

      • FMguru says:

        It doesn’t have to be either/or…

        • R Johnston says:

          And, of course, it could also just be that Romney’s kind of an idiot. Contrary to popular belief in some quarters, there’s nothing he’s accomplished in life that excludes rampant idiocy.

      • rea says:

        I frankly do not believe that the son of a president of an auto company, and later the son of the governor, faced any real difficulties at a rich kid’s private school.

        • Anonymous says:

          When everyone‘s rich, they can pick on you for secondary characteristics — like being a flaming tool.

          • rea says:

            “I know what it is to suffer,” says Mitt. “Everyone picked on me in high school just because I was a horse’s ass.”

          • Yeah, but I doubt that his religion was an issue. Back then people were a lot less inclined to flaunt it, and Mormonism was more obscure. George Romney’s religion wasn’t an issue at all when he was running for President.

            • rea says:

              Actually there was a bit of a flap, not so much directly about Mormonism, but about him being born in Mexico and whether his parents really were US citizens, making him eligible for the presidency. George Romney’s grandfather was a polygamist who started a colony in Mexico to evade US law against polygamy, and there was some suggestion tht he had renounced his US citizenship. The Romnney family, including young George, fled back to the US during the Mexican Revolution.

              • Malaclypse says:

                To be fair, this is good evidence that gay marriage will lead inexorably to polygamy, followed by violent revolution. Well, maybe not good evidence, but evidence that Bob will nevertheless find convincing.

                • rhino says:

                  Since I have two wives, it is in fact my fervent hope, that Gay Marriage will lead inexorably to polygamy.

                  Having two wives and all, I often wonder how long that’s going to take. I’m not optimistic that I will live to see it, but perhaps my life will be, someday, as acceptable as a gay marriage was ten years ago?

                  And I should add that my polygamy has nothing to do with religion, since the closest I come to religion is meditating after a yoga class, and hating the Pittsburgh Steelers.

      • efgoldman says:

        But Nixon, whom I hated, was anything but a silver-spoon dilettante. He was born to working-class parents, basically put himself through school, served in WW2, and worked his way up in politics (basically by red-baiting) through the House, Senate, VP and the rubber-chicken circuit, doing thousands of events for local and state candidates. He earned his shots.

        • Ed says:

          It wasn’t just red-baiting. Nobody ever accused Nixon of not working hard at his job. He was also bright, well read, and well informed, qualities unfortunately offset by a number of others.

  14. Auburn 2004 says:

    Romney is “good at electoral politics” the same way that that Greg Robinson is good at coaching defense. Give Romney a 6-1 resource advantage over his opponent and his good looks and solid voice can get him elected; give Greg Robinson a two deep filled with future NFL starters and he’ll give you a top-30 defense (see Texas, 2004).

    Without massive advantages (or even sometimes with them; see Romney, 2007-08, GERG 2009) both fail miserably at their jobs (see Kennedy’s big win in 94, despite a Republican wave election; or GERG’s reigns of terror in KC and Syracuse). Romney won’t have a major resource advantage over the President. He’s a low end candidate who can win if any generic Republican could win.

    Actually, the most similar politician I can think of is Gray Davis. Both of them served as governors of major states yet were unpopular in decent economic conditions, and made virtually no mark with their service.

    • Auburn 2004 says:

      …Also, (replying to my own comment), other than “being rich,” what political skills has Romney ever shown? He was incredibly unpopular in Massachusetts for the better part of his governorship despite a pretty strong economy. He’s never initiated any notable policies. He’s never brokered any groundbreaking coalitions. He didn’t create a machine or change any narratives. His skill is being rich and handsome in the second gilded era, when the public can conflate those two things with competence and merit (at least long enough to win an election or two).

  15. Tucker says:

    Who cares?
    Ocam’s Razor….
    He’s a d**K.
    Nixon was at least interesting as on a cultural level, he was just a guy; Romney, not so much.

  16. DivGuy says:

    It seems to me that the obvious cause here is being ignored in favor of the more complex one.

    Romney made his fortune in finance. He was a corporate raider. He’s now finding it difficult to tamp down the instincts and emotional/intellectual tendencies he developed while working in finance. The belief that your massive success has nothing to do with pre-existing privilege, just about everyone at his level in finance believes that. Romney saying that criticism derives from envy, again, about as common a bit of banker-think as you’ll ever see.

    He’s a banker, one of the first of the new school, the guys who ruined the economy, pulled down big paychecks, and have zero remorse about it. This is all of a piece with that.

    I’m not saying his Mormonism isn’t a major aspect of his identity, but I think the simpler explanation fits the facts better.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Or who knows, maybe he’s just another endlessly entitled rich guy.

    I vote for this explanation.

  18. Davis says:

    Well, Mitt’s dad was CEO of American Motors, so he may have felt inferior to the son of GM’s CEO, or one of the Ford boys. AMC made Ramblers, GM made Corvettes, and Ford made T-Birds and Mustangs, so the cool factor was a problem, too.

  19. Ian says:

    playing the role of the generous quasi-aristocrat, which even a egotistical blockhead like Dubya was able to more or less pull off

    W did better than that – he tried to create a hard workin’ cowboy image. Clearing brush, getting his hands dirty. An ordinary working stiff who just so happens to be a very rich man from Connecticut. He did more physical labor than any president since rail-splitter Lincoln. Some people bought it.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Whatever.
    The imprtant thing is that Romney is turning into a valuable teaching too.
    First, Americans have learned (to some extent) how private equity works.
    Now it appears that we’ll soon be getting a lesson in effective tax rates and capital gains taxes.

    Win!

  21. jackd says:

    Way late, but I’m flabbergasted by Mitt’s characterization of his income from speaking fees as “not much”. How much is “not much” to Mitt Romney? Try $374,000.

    • R Johnston says:

      Oddly enough, $374,000 in extra income is not much for Romney, but somehow $374,000 in extra taxes would be a monumental disaster spelling the end of capitalism. If you drew up a utility function like that in an economics class, you’d fail.

      Reality is, of course that $374,000 in extra income isn’t much at all for Romney; the marginal utility he gets from it is so close to zero as to not matter at all. But of course that’s just one of many reasons why his taxes have to be much, much higher.

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