My Thoughts on Mitt Romney, Person

Question from the audience:

I know you won’t vote for him, but what do you think of Mitt Romney as a person?

Well, of course, I don’t know him as a person. I know him as a construct of everything I’ve ever read about him, both positive and negative. I think my first real awareness of him came when he was Governor of Massachusetts, and the opinion I held of him at the time had its positive bits (regarding the universal healthcare he helped to institute in the commonwealth) and negative ones (his opposition to same sex marriage). Basically at the time he struck me as a standard-issue northeastern Republican, which is to say somewhat more moderate than his party as a whole.

As a matter of his personal politics, I don’t think he’s actually changed much from that, and that’s his problem. He’s a bad fit for the current GOP, with its scorched-earth policies regarding anyone who is not 100% in line with its social and political agenda, and his enthusiasm for this particular brand of nonsense is palpably muted. It seems to me that Romney isn’t an ideologue, he’s an administrator: he believes what he believes, to be sure, but I think one of the things he does actually believe in is working for the greater good. I think left to his own devices, he’d rather do something that works, than something’s that 100% politically pure. But as noted before, it’s a bad time for a GOP politician to have that as part of his political makeup.

I have rather less of a bead on Romney as a human being away from the political arena. What does come across to me is this: A man who was born to privilege, and who understands intellectually and agrees with the idea that with privilege comes a responsibility to others, but who does not necessarily understand the problems of those with less privilege on a visceral or personal level, and who is not comfortable with the idea of either having or feigning such an interest. This does not in the least make him a bad person; it makes him an insulated one, who appears to have a very sharp event horizon when it comes to personal relationships. I do not doubt one bit that he is a kind and good person to family and friends; I also believe that out beyond the personal frontier, the problems and concerns of others grow abstract very quickly. This last bit doesn’t make him substantially different from most people.

What does make him different is all that money he has, and the fact that his own sphere of struggle has never centered on its lack, or even the possibility of such a thing. This is a thing that is alien to most Americans. Some of us have been poor, some or much of our lives; most of us know someone in our family or circle of friends who has fallen on hard times, often through no fault of their own; most of us know, in a scary way we don’t like to think about, that we’re a couple of lost paychecks away from real trouble. Americans aspire to be rich, but because they’re not, they’re also sensitive to when those with wealth show obvious disconnects from the reality of their lives. Romney, unfortunately for him, presents all sorts of these disconnects in a public fashion.

Again, it doesn’t mean he’s a bad person, or that in a general sense being wealthy leads to personal failing or political insularity. There’s a fine line in the film Gladiator, in which the Roman senator Gracchus, played by Derek Jacobi, says “I don’t pretend to be a man of the people, but I do try to be a man for the people.” The United States has had its share of presidents who were for the people rather than of them: Both Roosevelts and John Kennedy fit into that mold, for example. I think Romney, through personal temperament and through his personal and religious upbringing, probably very well fits the mold of being for the people. I also think generally speaking, being for the people is more than sufficient, since I tend to judge people with civic inclinations for their actions more than I judge them for their personalities. I’d rather have a politician who does good than means well, in other words.

Romney would never be a perfect fit for me as a politician, but I don’t discount the idea that he desires to do good, and that I suspect in the end he’s not frothing ideologue. In another political time — heck, if it were 2000 and the current Mitt Romney were on the ballot rather than George W. Bush — I wouldn’t likely have voted for him, but I would have been sanguine about a candidate with the experience he has sitting in the White House. I expect in that era he could have run a campaign that lent itself better to his strengths.

2012 is a different era, however, and the GOP is different from what it was even a dozen years ago, and Romney is in himself ill-suited for his party and his time. Romney benefited from the fact that the GOP presidential field this year was manifestly the worst of any in recent memory, but it’s the last break he caught. It’s clear the GOP rank and file does not love him, it’s clear that political independents have not taken to him, and it’s clear that at the moment he’s not doing a very good job competing in an election year he could have been a solid contender. A week short of eight years ago I said here that if John Kerry could not win the presidency, he should be beaten to death with his own shoes; I have no doubt that there are folks who feel the same way about Romney.

Romney deserves the blame if he loses, but I don’t think he will deserve all the blame. At the end of it all, Romney is a reasonably decent man who could have been a reasonably decent president if it wasn’t 2012 and he was dealt the set of circumstances that he has been, i.e., a political party of ideologues who prize purity over practicality. It was Romney’s fault for, in my opinion, choosing to embrace their notions of purity over his own notions of practicality. It’s the GOP’s fault for making him have to do so. As in the end I judge people with civic inclinations for their actions more than their personalities, what I think of Mitt Romney as a person matters less than what he’s promised to do should he be elected, and to whom he’s beholden once he has been.

220 thoughts on “My Thoughts on Mitt Romney, Person

  1. Some notes to aid the discussion:

    1. Remember that the person under discussion here is Mitt Romney, not Barack Obama, so going off on a tangent about Obama (or how he’s a worse human being than Romney, or whatever) is going to be looked upon askance. It’s not to say Obama cannot be invoked and discussed, just remember where the focus of the discussion is.

    2. Likewise, I focused more on Romney as a politician and less (indeed, not really at all) as a businessperson because I think the practices of the two are sufficiently different, and what matters to me as a voter is how he acted in his tenure of public service. You’re free to tell me that I’m wrong on this, but nevertheless in general I think the focus should be on Romney the politician.

    3. Some of you may want to bring up Romney as a teenaged bully, but I want to suggest that as a general rule, we should be given a break regarding the things we do as teenagers. It’s more important what we do as adults. Child is father to the man and all, but you know what? When I was a teenager and in a boarding school, I was just as reflexively homophobic as everyone else, and I did and said some things to other students suspected of being gay that I am now not in the least bit proud of. If you were to judge me by the 14-18 year old me, you’d be missing out on a lot.

  2. John:

    Your thoughts are very much in line with my own. Romney is not the devil incarnate that people make him out to be (Ryan, not so sure). In a different scenario, he might even make a decent President. I attribute many of his public and private gaffes to trying to navigate the waters of the 2012 GOP and specifically their donors.

    The bigger concern with Romney as a person to me is that he doesn’t seem to be willing to stand up for his convictions. It’s fairly obvious at this point he’s in a significant hole, and the current path that he or more likely, his advisors, are heading down is not working. It’s not like they can replace him as a nominee. So why not get out there and show us the ‘Real’ Romney if there is one. If you can’t do that, it means you care more about victory than personal ethics, and THAT’S a sad component as him as a person.

  3. You’re right, 2012 isn’t his year. Niether was 2008. I’m not sure what year would have been his…maybe 2000? Maybe.

    But, I digress. As you say, he probably does want to do what’s right for all Americans, but he has to pitch an identity that he doesn’t believe in, it seems. For a person to make a sale, even of themselves, they have to believe in the product, or the salesperson and the product comes across as phony.

  4. I agree with many of your comments but I feel that Mr. Romney deserves less slack for his failing than you are giving him. When you spend 5 years getting ready to run for president and you can’t learn empathy, I consider that a colossal failure.

  5. “What does make him different is all that money he has, and the fact that his own sphere of struggle has never centered on its lack, or even the possibility of such a thing.”

    As a Mormon, I just wanted to add something that might be relevant to to Mitt Romney’s capacity to understand folks who don’t enjoy the level of privilege that he has always had. Mitt Romney was a bishop for 5 years and later a stake president A Mormon bishop spends at least 20 hours a week (unpaid) seeing to the spiritual and economic welfare of everyone in his congregation, including distributing the local-level welfare assistance and counseling families who are struggling (including referring them to professional help when needed).

    I’m sure that Mitt Romney’s ward (congregation) where he was bishop was probably much more affluent than most, but I’m also reasonably confident it included people who didn’t have near his level of affluence. And, as a stake president (in charge of the bishops for a usually 8-12 individual congregations) he would have had an even more broad exposure to people outside of his usual social circle, and especially to those struggling and in need.

    I don’t think this at all nullifies your analysis, but I do think it may mitigate it to some extent your conclusion of just how insulate Romney’s life has been (he became a bishop at age 34). I grew up in the Richmond, VA area so I don’t have any first-hand knowledge of the Boston-area congregation where Mitt was a bishop, but this WaPo slideshow has some interesting facts about the level of diversity Romney would have been intimately exposed to.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/mitt-romneys-years-as-a-mormon-church-leader/2012/08/19/88360dda-ea40-11e1-9ddc-340d5efb1e9c_gallery.html#photo=1

  6. Apologies for the double post. I just wanted to add that Mormon congregations are geographically-based. Mormons don’t shop around for a congregation that they like. This is why I surmise Mitt Romney’s congregation was affluent: the median income in the Belmont, MA area is $95k Way above average. On the other hand, less well-off Mormons who live near well-to-do Mormons go to the same congregation for the same reason: it’s based on geography. And, as Stake President, he would have had a broader range of responsibility.

  7. Basically agree with you on Romney, though people should know that they’re voting for the candidate and the base that gets them into office, not just one or the other. Many among President Obama’s base has discovered this the hard way, much to their chagrin.

    I also agree, based on my own personal experience with flesh-and-blood Mormons in my own life, that what Nathaniel Givens is likely to be accurate.

    When I was a teenager and in a boarding school, I was just as reflexively homophobic as everyone else, and I did and said some things to other students suspected of being gay that I am now not in the least bit proud of.

    Please be careful waving around that everyone else. When I was a teenager, I was grossed out by the thought of gay sex because I was not as secure about my own sexuality as I am as an adult, but I did not consider it a moral choice and I did not look down on others for not sharing my aesthetic outlook. And no, I’m not judging you by your teenaged self, but I am taking issue with the implication (which may or may not have been intentional in your part) that homophobia is some kind of everyone straight does it at some point condition. Nor am I patting myself on the back, because not being a bigot is the bare minimum that should’ve been expected of me, even at that age. I’m not judging you, but I’m not giving any other teens a pass either.

  8. I found it interesting that in a recent piece about Romney (the tone of which was to make him seem more “of the people”, one of his advisors stated that Romney is always ready, willing and able to help someone in need “when it is brought to his attention.”
    I found that unintended caveat to be extremely revealing.

  9. You’re far more charitable than I am. I see Mr. Romney’s run as an expression of what happens when The Ends Justify The Means. He may wish to do good things for people, to be for the people, but the choices he’s making to get there . .

  10. Maybe I’ve missed something, but nothing has ever given me the sense that he’s “for the people.” On the other hand, no matter how odd the things that I know about the Mormon faith seem to me, I have to say that some of the kindest, most civic-minded people I’ve known are Mormons. That makes me think that maybe there’s something positive to him that I’m not seeing. In the final tally, the hidden positives can’t outweigh the visible negatives when I cast my ballot, but I try to think there must be some good things about him as a person.

  11. Good comments on Romney, and ones I would tend to agree with. At the end of the day, all I’m looking for is someone who’s willing to listen and who will try to meet halfway. Not necessarily saying Romney is that person, but that what you’ve written is. Kudos.

    My biggest problem with the GOP (and I was a republican as a very young man) is with how ideological it has gotten, and how much it has used religion to that effect. While no longer a christian myself, I’m astounded at how the GOP has taken religion and usurped it for their purposes. Few things are as undignified as taking what many hold dearly–with nothing but faith to hold onto–then manipulate as opportunity presents.

  12. I freely admit that, having been raised in the same part of the country as Mitt Romney, I have a rather less charitable view of the “wealthy white-flight suburb” folks and the contempt in which those communities held people not of their elevated class. Setting what he’s said and done in that context, I have a much less charitable view of Romney-the-person than our host.

    That said, whether I would piss on him if he were on fire vs. whether I would vote for him are two different questions.

  13. As I have never dealt personally with Mr. Romney, I have no idea what he’s “really” like. I can say exactly as much of Mr. Obama. But I don’t really need to know.

    We now know that Richard Nixon was a warped, malevolent troll, something we had suspected since his first Congressional race. But as President, he brought in some of the most progressive legislation since the New Deal, constrained as he was by the necessities of politics. Despite his contempt for a large part of the electorate, he served it pretty well.

    Romney, whatever his internal life is like, has an entirely different set of constraints. He won nomination by playing to the worst elements of his party, and they won’t let him move back to the center (which by now is pretty far right anyway).

    As a Jewish atheist, I really care only for a person’s deeds, not his thoughts. If he has a soul, Romney’s mortgaged it to the hilt, and default is not an option.

  14. @ John Scalzi

    Do you think that applied to everyone else at your boarding school, or that it was merely a sentiment people were reluctant to publicly denounce? I’ll freely admit that if I had been less popular in high school, I might have been less vocal in my moral stance, may even have remained silent when someone said something homophobic. Since you broached the subject, I’ll just ask, did you do and say those homophobic things because you were homophobic, or because you didn’t want to make yourself a target by staking an unestablished position?

  15. Gulliver:

    Actually, that’s far off topic to this thread, so let’s not get into it here. That said, a reasonably on-target post on the subject of your question can be found here.

  16. Understood, and thank you for the link.
    Sorry for focusing on an off-topic-y part that wasn’t even technically in the OP.

  17. I think Romney is at his core, and judging solely by his tenure as a public administrator in Massachusetts, the kind of middle ground politician the GOP needs to win the presidency. Like you pointed out, the current GOP is not the party Romney needs at this time. I too think his mistakes and a lot of the criticism of him is his requirement to both seem far enough to the right for his base to show up on election day, and to try to seem middle ground enough that he can attract independents. I don’t think it is possible to do both, and I think that is the reason his campaign has seemed so off the mark so far, and the polls are starting to separate.

  18. Your blind spot is showing.

    Like most rationalists you trivialize religious affiliation. I’m like you, but maybe more religion exposure.

    Romney is a devout man. To know him as a person you must know him in the context of his religion.

    In this regard he is much more like Jimmy Carter and George W Bush than like Reagan, Clinton, or Obama.

  19. Mitt may be a perfectly good businessman. But to become president you must be a good politician. You’d think this would be self evident no? So Mitt’s and the GOP’s practical problem is that he isn’t a very good politician. The GOP is idolizing the ‘job creators’ and keeps pushing them out in front. But generally these folks are not up to the task when presented with any skilled adversary.

    Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown come to mind, and I’m sure you can think of many more.

    What kind of person is Mitt? Judging by his actions he’s someone who will do or say anything to get the deal done. And apparently has never had to live with the consequences of those actions before.

  20. I have to agree with @idiosynchronic in that I think you’re being far more generous to Mr. Romney than he deserves. He really doesn’t strike me as a “for the people” person at all. Well, unless you believe that corporations are people. He strikes me as someone who will do and say anything he needs to to become president, even moreso than one might usually expect. What he came out with while the attack in Libya was ongoing was not an example of someone who would be a good president. And Seamus on the roof of his car? He was an adult when he did that.

  21. I’d say my thoughts about Gov. Romney are the same as yours: probably a decent man, but insulated by wealth and constrained by current GOP politics. Where I grew up, I had a lot of Mormon friends who were conservative Republicans, yet were also some of the nicest and most intelligent people I knew. If anything, I’m actually more concerned with Paul Ryan as a fellow Catholic. I’m mostly concerned that he doesn’t seem to appreciate the Church’s social teachings on caring for the poor. But ultimately, I feel that the key difference between the Romney and Obama campaigns is that, much like McCain did in 2008, Romney is running to the right and away from his own personal politics.

  22. I guess I don’t understand why an issue like gay marriage (which I am for) is more important to people than an economy that is foundering. Romney’s plan addresses that and that is why he gets my vote. I can’t equate being against gay marriage with the level of homophobia and persecution that some do. And if you do think that the economy is the real issue and Romney has the better plan, then join the GOP and try with me to change their view on gay marriage instead of joining the democrats and watching us go bankrupt while we have the perfect position of social issues…

  23. Is bringing up adult-Romney’s response to the story of teenaged-bully-Romney fair game? Because I think that says quite a lot about him as a person.

  24. wow. great post. I have a hard time divorcing myself from the rhetoric of politics. I tend to look at the forest and not the trees. You almost made him human.

    Mitt is a product of the cKoch brother’s agenda.

  25. I was a citizen of the commonwealth when Romney was governor here and he was a competent administrator and not much else. His political skills were only rudimentary and by the end of his tenure he just wasn’t well liked; mostly he spent the last year of his administration looking to run for President and bashing our state in places like Iowa. He would have lost reelection by a wide margin if he ran.

    The one thing he did right was stand behind the health care law that now provides me insurance even though I do not have a job. It’s too bad he’s running away from that now because it’s so awesome.

  26. John Gordon:

    “Like most rationalists you trivialize religious affiliation.”

    Well, no, that’s not even the slightest bit true. I explicitly pointed out in the entry that his religious background has bearing in his makeup. And of course I have written directly on Romney and his religious tradition before.

    What it appears you mean to say here is “Like most people I have lumped into a broad category that I have made up, you have not written something in a manner which I think obviously shows that you have considered the thing I think is the most important criterion in a way that satisfies me that you consider it as important as I do.” And that, I suspect, is true enough.

  27. There are things that I expect from Mitt and there are things that I do not; that’s just how professional politics is and I’ve spent time in that narrow little land. However, the gaffe-fest that was Mitt’s overseas tour to dip his toes in the shallow end of the pool marked “international relations” was truly underwhelming. Even more underwhelming is that the man appears to be choosing his security staff from the dregs of the “national greatness” cheerleaders of the previous administration; if things go as badly as they could in the Middle East I would really prefer not to have fools (I’m looking at you John Bolton) minding the national security shop.

  28. @shainaed I think it is. As are $10K bets over some dumb point in a ‘debate’. It’s a bit like W’s habit of giving people demeaning nicknames.

    Mitt is failing in two aspects. 1) It’s something he should feel bad about but apparently doesn’t and 2) He should be aware that he is supposed to feel bad about it and at least pretend that he does.

  29. Again, a great analysis.

    I don’t hold Romney really responsible for not understanding things as a teenager. He was, mostly at least, a product of his upbringing and seems to have gotten over most of it now. My mother was a racist and religious bigot, and thus in my early teens I believed and said things that would get me beaten up on a street corner in Harlem. But I learned. And I believe Romney has too. As the tea-bag fanatacism fades, and it will, the climate will be right for Romney. But then he will be seen as a loser, and won’t get a fair chance.

  30. I called him a bubble boy on my journal recently, because that’s the only way I can make sense of him: as a person who has lived in such a privileged, sheltered bubble that he fundamentally cannot comprehend the world outside it, and furthermore doesn’t even realize that he needs to. I don’t think Romney spends his time cackling and rubbing his hands like a supervillain — he probably does indeed think he’s trying to help people — but he’s shown little to no interest in understanding anybody else’s perspective, and why they help they need may not be the help he’s decided to give them.

    I’m going to get caught in the moderation queue for multiple links, but there is this article on how he responded to gay couples, and this interview with a Mormon feminist who knew and worked with Romney in that context. The impression I get from those pieces is congruent with the 47% remarks, the dog on the car roof, the casual denigration of the people he meets. Everything I’ve seen of him says he profoundly lacks the ability to empathize in any way other than a top-down, noblesse oblige fashion — which is, in the end, condescending and off-putting to the 99% of us who are “beneath” him. I personally would not be sanguine at all about him as President of the United States, because he would live in a happy little echo chamber of people reinforcing his assumptions about the world, and the consequences for those outside the bubble would not be good.

    (And that’s apart from his demonstrated willingness to say anything and frequently everything, however contradictory, that he thinks might advance him at a given moment. Yes, this is a common trait among politicians, but I’ve never seen it displayed as flagrantly as it is with Romney. He gives a fine impression of having no convictions whatsoever.)

  31. I agree that Romney probably has good intentions toward “doing good for the people”, however I believe he is too focused on “making the deal” it takes for him to first win the primaries and then win the election for President. The problem that is sinking him is that the deal to win the primary is hurting him for the deal to win the election. I see this willingness to do anything for the “deal” as a character flaw which could lead our country into a disaster through unintended consequences, especially in foreign policy.
    For Antonio, I believe the GOP economic policy lead us directly into this economic mess and more of the same would make it worse not better.(As this is off the stated topic I will not respond to replies)

  32. I also agree with @idiosynchronic in that I think you’re being far more generous to Romney than he deserves. lt’s interesting because up until a few weeks ago I argued your same perspective with a friend; that Romney was a basically decent human being with the best of intentions, even if they were often clumsily displayed. Then the 47% tape came out and I had to eat my words.

    I no longer believe that Mitt is a decent human being who has a blind spot. I believe he really does think that people who are struggling or who are poor are leeches on society. I believe that he really does think that they are people who lack personal responsibility or drive or a work ethic. I believe that he not only has no clue what it’s like to struggle for money, but that he doesn’t care to even try to understand. I believe he’s an opportunist who will say whatever it takes to achieve the goal, no matter who gets hurt in the end.

    And it was just the 47% tape, but it was the 47% tape as the culmination of a dozen statements of similar nature that I gave him the benefit of the doubt on; everything from “borrow money from your parents to go to school” to “I’m not concerned about the very poor”. I really did tryto give him the benefit of the doubt for a long long time. I just can’t any more.

  33. nathaniel.givens – thanks for your inside perspective on what being a bishop in the Mormon church means. I am not a mormon. It is my understanding that the Mormon church is a patriarchal hierarchy* so everyone that Mitt Romney helped in his role within his church owed him some deference as a church leader, and had in some manner submitted to the authority of the church. I find that type of exposure to people in other situations to be one that can deepen hierarchical beliefs and, as our host expresses it, limited event horizons.

    In a politician, I look for a policy commitment – like I see from Harry Reid — to take care of all Americans, and to understand the problems of all of us (including those of us who do not have a church community). From his selection of runnning mate to his public statements about access to health care (uninsured can go to emergency room for care, promise to repeal Health care reforms that protect consumers, campaign refusal to commit to policies that provide protection for uninsured people with pre-existing conditions) Romney has failed repeatedly on that front.

    * in structure, with room for significant range of diversity of opinion and experience amongst Mormon church members, including the progressive feminist scholar who was in Mitt Romey’s congregation and has publically expressed concern about Romney’s understanding of people not like him – but nonetheless a patriarchical hiererchy that has excommunicated outspoken feminists. My point isn’t intended to be a critique of the church, which has a right to organize as it wishes, only an observation on some of the limits in the structural relationships through which Romney expressed his good deeds and got exposure to those who were different from him but benefitted from his assistance.

  34. That’s it exactly. I was having a similar conversation with friends the other day, and we came to the conclusion that he’s not a bad person, but that he’s clueless about what average people who weren’t born into wealth actually go through. The thought doesn’t even occur to him that many people have to choose between rent and groceries, or even with insurance can’t afford the copays to go to the doctor when they’re sick. It’s beyond his comprehension that many people aren’t rich, and many people’s parents don’t have the money to loan them even if they wanted to.

  35. Personally, the biggest problem I can see with Romney is that he has no ideology. He’ll say whatever the crowd in front of him wants to hear, and then say the complete opposite to another crowd the next day because they want to hear something different.

    Take healthcare for example, when he was governor he put in place a system that’s nearly identical to Obamacare, but because the Republican and conservatives distrust government, he calls it evil and dangerous. Whatever his actual beliefs are, the fact that he’ll say whatever the people in front of him want to hear and then deny saying it later shows how little character and integrity he has.

  36. Sorry John. IMHO, you’re being far to generous to Mitt. It seems pretty clear (at least to me) that he’ll do absolutely anything to win. As best I can discern, he has NO principles, just a drive to win and make money. The only good thing he’s ever done politically was the MA healthcare law, and he only did that because he couldn’t stand the thought of all those freeloaders going to the ER. He ended up as the least popular governor of MA in my lifetime. He was a bully as a child, and he’s strapped dogs to the roof of his car as an adult. I’ve seen /nothing/ from him as policy other hand ‘Hur…less taxed for me, more taxes for you!’ He actually said that the economy would get better simply by his being elected, without his having to do anything whatsoever.

    I’m looking forward to sending him back to civilian life and letting him play with his car elevator.

  37. Mea-

    One of the things I’m proud of as a Mormon is the theological safe-guard against the problem you speak of (personal deference to leaders). A Mormon scripture reads:

    39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

    40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.

    41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

    D&C 121

    So the *theory* is that a Mormon leader can never rely on any kind of a patriarchal hierarchy but must exercise their leadership only in a truly Christian manner using persuasion, patience, and love.

    That’s the theory. The reality? Not always as great. I have no personal knowledge of Mitt Romney whatsoever, so I’ve got no idea how he measures up vs. the theory. As you pointed out: Harry Reid is also a devout Mormon. There’s no straight line from the religion to politics. There’s lots of room for variation.

    I do think that Romney is significantly less insulated that a Bush or a Kerry would be, however, as a result of the role he has played in his Church. That’s all I think we can reasonably conjecture.

  38. Fine analysis. Your observation, John, that he is a bad fit for the current GOP nails the central issue on the head. As a person, and moderate Republican by nature, Romney could make a good President, insofar as Republican Presidents go. All indications are that he will lose in the electorial college as he needs a homerun among the battleground states, that he is highly unlikely to hit out of the ballpark. Which is sad, because over the course of history we’ve not done too badly with centrist Republicans or centrist Democrats in the White House. Often the winner in the electorial college turns out to be the candidate who was closestest to the political center-line, whether on the left or the right side. Not this time, aparently. I see Romney as a good man, with centrist views, that are out-of-fashion right now in the GOP base, and he needs that base to win, so he is being quiet about what he really thinks on a host of issues. Yet, the debates are yet to come. Maybe we will glimpse the centrist Romney therein, if he concludes being himself might rope in the undecided middle voters and a fair number of the Obama voters from four years back that are truly dissapointed with all Obama has done (other than healthcare).

  39. Pretty spot-on about how I feel about the guy. I don’t agree with most of what he’s been spouting, but I also see that as what he’s been forced to parrot by the GOP. My husband and I had a conversation the other night, and we both admitted that if he was the same guy who governed MA, we’d be open to voting for him. But as it stands today, he’s a word apart from that guy. Makes my presidential voting decision easy.

  40. @nathanielgivens:

    I do think that Romney is significantly less insulated that a Bush or a Kerry would be, however, as a result of the role he has played in his Church.

    But by the same token, perhaps more closely aligned to Church doctrine? (Not that doctrine is all that important in Bush’s Church.)

  41. Much of what I feel about Romney lines up with what you’ve said as well. Because of many of the things that you describe (particularly about him being an administrator at heart), I believe that he is someone who is more interested in compromise than the current political climate in either party could easily tolerate (which is a shame but a different discussion).

    I do question the view espoused by some – that since he has grown up wealthy and has a hard time conceptualizing the lives of those who aren’t weathly, he can’t be an effective leader for those 99% of Americans who aren’t. You pointed out that booth Roosevelts came up in priviledge, and from all I’ve read of FDR he was clearly an American aristocrat with scant idea of how “the little people” lived – but that didn’t diminish his vision. Likewise, Bush II was widely viewed as a “regular guy, a guy’s guy”, but he was raised wealthy as well.

    I’m not arguing that Romney would necessarily be able to translate his desire to do well into the needed actions, but I think that automatically assuming that he can’t because of his background is a flawed belief.

    On a ligher note, I’m reminded of the exchange in the Kiera Knightly version of “Pride and Prejudice” when Lizzy tells her uncle that she’d rather not go to see Pemberly because she doesn’t care for Mr. Darcy: “He’s so…he’s so rich.” “Good heavens, what a snob you are,” her uncle replies. “The poor man can’t help it.”

  42. As I was recently informed by a friend who has lived in Massachussetts for nearly two decades, “Mitten” as he is known to those less enamored of his “moderateness” was a problematic governor. He won running against an opponent everyone knew was corrupt. He did not in fact live in the sate during his tenure (he used one of his sons’ address) and the healthcare mandate he passed was a hollow thing designed as a boon for the insurance companies: the state assistance for those who could not afford it was by his pen repeatedly vetoed and the program as it currently exists was fixed by his successor. Apparently—and I’m surmising here—he was only interested in being a governor in order to prep for a run for the presidency.

  43. ” . . .appears to have a very sharp event horizon when it comes to personal relationships.”

    Forgive me if I give credit for a statement that is more or less in the public’s vernacular dictionary and has simply escaped me, but this, sir, is stated vividly, originally, and startlingly well

  44. I appreciate your civil tone and the benefits of the doubt you gave Romney. Having worked as a state employee in Ma when Romney was governor, I have first hand experience of his management style. I’m not going to place blame or good guys versus bad guys because we are talking about MA politics. His MBA/JD training (fair disclosure, I am a business professor) focuses on measurable outcomes in a defined time period relative to a small set of stakeholders. This is ok for private equity, but terrible for public administration. In private equity, you can get rid of difficult to deal with issues and let someone else (usually the government) clean up the mess. I wonder who does Romney have in mind to pass all the American problems to. China?

  45. As other folks have mentioned, his high school bullying isn’t as much of an issue as his adult reaction to it. He didn’t even remember that he assaulted someone, and his reaction was a classic pro-forma nonpology combined with an unsubtle shout-out to “traditional” families. Also as noted, the Seamus incident was as an adult.

    I don’t know him personally either, but I think there’s good reason to wonder if the lack of empathy goes deeper than cluelessness about anyone outside of his social circle. I don’t think he’s an evil monster and I don’t know whether he’s a “bad person” … but I do suspect that there’s something very wrong with him.

    On a side note, he was a more-or-less adequate governor of my state … until he started positioning himself for his first run at the presidency. Among other things, mocking the state that he was still governor of in order to score cheap political points was an asshole move.

  46. I do question the view espoused by some – that since he has grown up wealthy and has a hard time conceptualizing the lives of those who aren’t weathly, he can’t be an effective leader for those 99% of Americans who aren’t.

    Christy — for my part, the fact that he has grown up wealthy and has demonstrated difficulty conceptualizing the lives of those who aren’t means that I require evidence that he can be an effective leader for those outside his bubble, before I give him credit for being able to do so. I’ve been watching the campaign fairly closely, and thus far I’ve seen no evidence for that at all, and a great deal against it.

    And I’m not the only one. Despite the Kenyan-socialist-Muslim-etc accusations leveled at Obama, he polls higher than Romney on “this man understands the problems of the average American.” Again and again, Romney’s proposed solutions to those problems come across as “give more to the people who have a lot already (the 1%, insurance companies, oil corporations, etc) and that will magically fix everything for the rest of you.” It’s a bogglingly tone-deaf response, even apart from my belief (shared by many others) that it is also wrong.

    When I ask myself, what can I point to that gives me reason to think Romney would be a good leader, everything I can think of is essentially a title — a static thing — rather than anything he’s done. Businessman; bishop and stake president; governor; etc. But when I dig down into the actions associated with those titles, I find detail after detail that make the opposite argument.

  47. “Romney is a devout man. To know him as a person you must know him in the context of his religion.”.

    I would hope that his religion doesn’t encourage men to lie so frequently and easily as though they suffer from chronic mouth flatulence. Granted the GOP is in a la-la land of their own making but one needn’t capitulate all of one’s ideals to the rabid mob. But that’s just it: Based on his history (he was my state Governor once), he’ll sell out anything to make a deal. He’s the ultimate administrator. That makes him great as a second or third in command but lousy as the head guy who really needs to demonstrate true vision.

    Health care was a good accomplishment. But after his second year as governor, he turned his entire focus toward the Presidential race, disowned his earlier positions and started throwing the state under the bus. So we have to ask, ‘Why does Romney want the Presidency so much that he’s willing to sell his integrity, his past accomplishments, and his previous commitments?’ And what does that say about the character of someone who would do that? We know that he desperately wants to be President but there is no glimmer to indicate that he’s seriously thought about what to do if he gets there. I do know that the people he’s surrounded himself with as policy advisers are the same hacks that helped create this current mess. To me that suggests that he’s got serious deficiencies — To be a leader in these times you’ve got to be better than an administrator. You’ve go to know your sh*t about the world.

  48. I should add… I think Romney’s father provides a stark counterpoint to Mitt. And the boy learned the wrong lessons.

  49. On reflection, I’d like to expand on this statement I made earlier:

    I personally would not be sanguine at all about him as President of the United States, because he would live in a happy little echo chamber of people reinforcing his assumptions about the world, and the consequences for those outside the bubble would not be good.

    I say that because of (to pick one example) his choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate — the man who claimed his budget was based on his “Catholic values,” prompting the U.S. Conference of Bishops to issue a statement saying that actually, its callous disregard for the poor was in direct contravention of Catholic values. Romney shows a strong tendency to stay in his comfort zone, listening to people who reaffirm his ideas as the right ones (e.g. wealth means you’ve done right and God loves you; poverty is your own fault). And yes, that’s a human tendency . . . but given the influence people in his comfort zone have had, and want to continue to have, on this country, I’m not okay with putting them in the driver’s seat again.

    And that brings me back around to this comment of John’s:

    At the end of it all, Romney is a reasonably decent man who could have been a reasonably decent president if it wasn’t 2012 and he was dealt the set of circumstances that he has been, i.e., a political party of ideologues who prize purity over practicality.

    I find I only agree with that insofar as I think Romney would have changed his tune to suit our hypothetical Other GOP, and thus been singing a song the rest of the country was more willing to listen to. He’s not a frothing idealogue, no; but he gives a strong impression of being the other, and in my opinion equally bad, end of the spectrum: the guy who will say whatever you want him to say, so long as it gets him the result he wants. At least with somebody who holds strong convictions, I know what those are. As it stands, I have to worry about not only Romney, but everybody he’s listening to. I don’t know whether I can trust that he wouldn’t start advancing a Christian dominionist agenda if wholeheartedly embracing the evangelical theocon strand of the GOP would guarantee him the presidency. I’d like to think his own Mormon convictions would stop him from going that far, but I don’t know. And that kind of uncertainty is deeply disturbing to me.

  50. I agree with Marie Brennan @ 2:13 pm. Romney’s flip-flopping of his positions have left me with the feeling that he has no opinions and beliefs — than he’s just a hollow narcissist.

  51. Speaking as a person who’s had spontaneous apologies from several of the now-decent folks who long ago either bullied me directly or aided and abetted those who did, Romney’s response seemed to me to be severely inadequate. If I remember correctly, at least one of the other guys who participated in the hair-cutting incident DID apologize to the victim later, and another said it still troubled him that he had ever done such a thing. Those guys I could forgive. Romney didn’t even remember it had occurred. Or said he didn’t. Either one is indicative of a serious character problem in my opinion.

    Maybe I’m particularly sensitive because a similar thing happened to my brother in high school. I don’t know whether the guys responsible thought he was effeminate or just a hippie (he’s straight, as it happens), but it didn’t much matter. The long blond hair had to go regardless.

  52. I think you are very wrong about Willard being a man of the people. His career in politics is littered with examples of his being what he thinks voters want. At the time he got the health bill passed in MA it was a a Republican proposal. The original came from the Heritage Foundation and was the GOP counter to the Clinton initiative. It wasn’t until President Obama offered it as a compromise that it became poison to Republicans.

    He was in favor of choice and gay marriage but there is no evidence he ever actually believed in those things other than as a way to win a Senate seat in MA. Once he moved to the national stage he threw those positions out the window for their opposite. I have no idea if he believes in these new positions either. Its possible to find sound bites of him taking the opposite position on topics on the same day during this campaign.

    That, in my opinion, is his real failing. He has no core, no principled beliefs or ultimate ground on which he will stand. His beliefs are fungible, changing to fit what suits him at the moment. My feeling is if you had dinner with him you would be left with no impression. Willard is not interested in anything but himself.

  53. @ mfenn0762

    And Seamus on the roof of his car? He was an adult when he did that.

    The guy supports treating human beings as second class citizens. But what pisses the electorate off? Making his dog ride in a rooftop kennel for the family vacation. Talk about ass-backwards priorities!

    @ Alex Willging

    But ultimately, I feel that the key difference between the Romney and Obama campaigns is that, much like McCain did in 2008, Romney is running to the right and away from his own personal politics.

    That’s what getting the GOP base to vote for you means in this era of neo-conservative purity.

    @ Antonio Licata

    Romney’s plan addresses that and that is why he gets my vote. I can’t equate being against gay marriage with the level of homophobia and persecution that some do.

    I humbly submit that that is because you are not one of the people whose life-long commitment to a loving partner is being denied the same legal standing, benefits and protections extended to straight couples. This is not about semantics, and the social conservatives know it and are disingenuous to suggest otherwise. This is about equal protection under the law. Marriage, that covenant with a the life-partner one may spend their whole life with, grow old with, and share their days on this earth with more deeply and in a way far more profound than with anyone else, is being denied to a minority because they were not born wired the same way the deniers were. Moreover, this is being done in the name of one particular interpretation of one particular religion, by “Christians” who have taken it upon themselves to impose what they understand to be God’s will upon any and all whom they can, irrespective of faith, in a usurpation of what their revelation tells them is God’s sole prerogative, the judgment of sin against one’s own soul. That many Churches have usurped the role of Divine Judge for themselves makes it no less a demonstration that those who would appoint themselves God’s adjudicator worship themselves and mistake their own arrogance for righteousness.

    All the wealth in all the world is worthless without justice and liberty for all.

    And if you do think that the economy is the real issue and Romney has the better plan, then join the GOP and try with me to change their view on gay marriage instead of joining the democrats and watching us go bankrupt while we have the perfect position of social issues…

    If you think Republican policymakers aren’t Keynesians…well, I suppose you’re not in for a surprise, because if you haven’t figured it out by now, you probably never will.

    @ Marie Brennan

    And that’s apart from his demonstrated willingness to say anything and frequently everything, however contradictory, that he thinks might advance him at a given moment. Yes, this is a common trait among politicians, but I’ve never seen it displayed as flagrantly as it is with Romney.

    I guess you missed the last POTUS election season, when McCain couldn’t backpedal fast enough.

  54. I think you’re being too fair to him. He’s been running for president for 6 years, and yet he still seems completely unable to connect with people outside his bubble. The Seamus thing was wrong to do, but when he told the story, it was worse – he thought it was funny. I suspect that he grew up surrounded by yes men, as a product of privilege and power, his business career was the same, and has never developed empathy to anyone as a result of being in that environment for so long. You’d think 6 years practice would have at least smoothed off the rough edges, but the foreign gaffe tour was completely ridiculous – to me it shows a total failure to be able to see things from a point of view other than his own.

    His embracing of the birther lunatic Trump and the stump speech about no one asking for his birth certificate is a sad contrast to John McCain, who at least called out the ignorant in his party when they stated that Obama was a Muslim and not born here. To me, Romney appears to lack any shred of integrity – especially spending his entire campaign running away from the MA healthcare reforms.

    I’m actually pleases he is such a useless candidate, as the worst thing that could happen would be the GOP managing to hide the full extent of their insanity prior to getting a sort-of moderate elected President. Having chosen (or forced to chose) Ryan as his VP brings the fairy-dust tax cuts and consequent exploding deficits front and center, which is great.

  55. John,

    I find your characterization of Mitt Romney remarkably incisive and spot on. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party has spun Romney’s pragmatism as flip-flopping (some of it deserved), much as the Republican Party did something similar to John Kerry in 2004 (some of it also deserved).

    At this time, the United States government needs pragmatic politicians more than ever. Ideologues on both sides are destroying this country, especially since the philosophies of the Democratic and Republican Parties have some severe flaws. The Democratic Party seems incapable of confronting the demographic time bomb of exploding entitlement spending, while the Republican Party seems incapable of ever conceding that balancing a budget requires tax increases.

  56. I also think you’re being too nice. Along with the other things people have said, I was deeply disturbed by this from Judy Dushku (yes, Eliza’s mom!):

    “Yes, I’m definitely for choice,” he said. And I said, “Great, we agree on that.” Then, he said, “In Salt Lake, they told me it was okay to take that position in a liberal state.”

    Anyone interested in the subject should read the whole thing, she talks about his performance as bishop and stake president too. She’s a feminist and is some sort of international dynamo, professor of politics at Suffolk University.

    So actually the flip-flop was back then, not now about abortion. You can read the horrendous thing he did to one family in that line in the article. He’s not pro-choice and has never been, but took that stand to be in the race.

    And I’m sorry, but it creeps me out he asked the Church’s permission and got it. I’m up there with the most Mormons you meet seem to be really nice people, and the all religions believe ridiculous and horrible things. But asking your church for permission to lie and getting it really creeps me out.

  57. @ Sean Patrick Hazlett

    Kerry flip-flopped. I doubt if he really had or has a coherent political philosophy worked out, and he had the bad habit of letting everyone know it by airing his mental dialogue following every question.

    Romney just flipped, IMHO. I think he does have a coherent philosophy, but is saying what he believes will win the support of the national Republican base, which is, frankly, way to the right of the Massachusetts Republican base.

  58. @ Gulliver

    Thanks for the thoughtful response to the first part. You’re right, I haven’t lived through what others have had to deal with as far as the policies of social conservatives go. And I haven’t had candid conversations with my friends who have. But I do what I can to fight for their rights.

    And just when I thought we understood each other, you add my other quote and act like I must not have a clue as to what I am supporting. I am trying to make the best of what we have to deal with.

  59. @ Frankly:

    Romney never supported same-sex marriage. At one point, he grudgingly supported civil unions when the opposition to marriage equality in Massachusetts desperately tried that dodge, as their only remaining chance to block full marriage equality. He’s always been a supporter for “traditional” families, up to and including blatantly ignoring his own faith’s history (and history in general) to trumpet the supposedly universal history of marriage being only one-man-one-woman.

  60. @ Gulliver
    I think your points are fair. I think that’s the fundamental problem with Romney. He strikes me as a good administrator, but a terrible campaigner. As a pragmatist, he says things he believes provide him with the greatest chance of winning the election. Unfortunately, this approach rings hollow to many voters. Unfortunately, the American election process favors superior campaigners over strong administrators.

  61. @ Antonio Licata

    And just when I thought we understood each other, you add my other quote and act like I must not have a clue as to what I am supporting. I am trying to make the best of what we have to deal with.

    I wouldn’t go that far, and I apologize if that’s how I came across; it was not my intention to insult your awareness. I just find it strange that, election after election, so many fiscal conservatives (which, in some regards, I am myself) continue to believe the fiscally conservative rhetoric of Republican politicians who, with so few exceptions I can count them on my hand, never practice what they preach. One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. And no, I’m not saying you’re insane, but I submit that one thing you are doing may be insane.

    I’m all for trying to normalize the GOP away from the extreme right-wing anti-liberty purist Bible-thumping fringe that seems to have it in their thrall. But as long as they maintain their insistence on socially conservative policy, I cannot, as a civil libertarian, vote for their candidates in good conscience. The exception would be in the candidate bucked that trend, but doing so doesn’t win GOP nominations on a national (or, in stalwartly red states such as mine, local) scale. Since Republican and Democratic presidents invariably perpetuate and amplify the unsustainable fiscal recklessness of their predecessors, I am left with a choice over social policy. And as much as I am not entirely on-board with the Dems social platform, I am far more aligned with it than that of the GOP. In the end, whether I vote for the incumbent or cast a protest vote for a third party will depend on my estimate of how well I think Obama will work to live up to the civil liberties he stumped for in 2008.

    @ Sean Patrick Hazlett

    Unfortunately, the American election process favors superior campaigners over strong administrators.

    More to the point, the average American voter favors superior campaigners over substantive policy debate. In the final analysis, we, as a democracy, have only ourselves to blame for the mess that is our government.

  62. Romney’s biggest problem is that it’s impossible to say what he believes. Because what he currently says appears to be a bone tossed to those more conservative than he is. At least, that is what I see based on his past.

    If you don’t walk into that office with a clear vision that you personally believe in, you are going to get tossed about by various factions. And you will likely make decisions that are soft or arbitrary.

    Every candidate molds at least some of his spoken platform to the expectations of his base, but Romney seems to be lost in words and it’s hard to say what he really means.

  63. I think being pragmatic is one thing, and having no principles is another.

    I agree with those who have said he should have responded better to the story about the guy he abused in high school. He still thinks it was just a bit of fun, clearly. He doesn’t see why that was wrong. There’s something profoundly wrong with that man.

    I think he’s a Grover Norquist “just hold the pen” candidate, and he scares the fuck out of me, not because he’s scary himself, but because he’s nothing but a figurehead…and I don’t know who his Karl Rove is. And then of course there’s Ryan, who’s genuinely evil.

  64. nathanielgivens – thanks for that bit of information on church doctrine. Frankly, I’m glad that Harry Reid is available as such a convenient example of the diversity of political belief in the Mormon church, because it is important to remember the broad range of folks in every faith group and I don’t want my criticism of an individual to be taken as a slam on a whole group. As a feminist and a supporter of equal rights for all, I really value reading about the feminist activists who are still within the Mormon church, and Mormons for Marriage (group working within the Mormon church for marriage equality formed in opposition to California prop 8).

    I agree that Romney’s experiences in the Mormon church probably put him in touch with people in a way that George Bush the younger was lacking. I don’t agree with your conclusion regarding John Kerry, however. John Kerry was in harms way in Vietnam, and it is my understanding that his service would have put him together in close proximity under incredibly stressful conditions with a cross-slice of the subset of American men who went to Vietnam. I haven’t myself served in the military, but popular culture tells me that such an experience creates a bond of fraternity that is deep, and can be transformative. I see evidence of such a transformative experience in Kerry’s actions after returning from Vietnam, and the political policies he has pursued.

    I agree that service in the Mormon church certainly has the potential to open new horizons, and I appreciate learning about the particular doctrines that are designed to foster the positive aspects of your religious experience. In the specific case of Mitt Romney, however, I do not see evidence that his service has caused his particular world view to be expanded in the way I find necessary for politicians I support.

  65. And if he did come in contact with a broad cross-section of the population, that’s actually worse than if he’d just lived in a class bubble his whole life. Someone having no exposure is…well, not great, but understandable. But he HAS come in contact with other economic classes and remains oblivious! That’s so much worse, and we’re in for more Dubyaesque horrors if he gets in.

    Not to mention the fact that he’s a disaster on the international stage.

  66. I think Romney, like many well-off Republicans, suffers from two misconceptions:

    1. The needs of people who have fallen on hard times can be met via a combination of private insurance and charity (particularly faith-based.)

    2. Giving people like him more money to work with (via lower taxes) will help make #1 more possible by a) employing more people who can then purchase private insurance of various sorts and b) giving charity more funds to work with.

    These assumptions, of course, ignore several key elements of reality, among them outsourcing, the lack of living-wage jobs, for-profit insurers that deny coverage, the fact that business can’t legitimately expand in a demand vacuum, the fact that people shouldn’t have to get religion to get food and housing assistance and the inability of a loose network of private companies and religions to consistently provide reliable service to everyone in all 50 states.

    The biggest element it ignores, however, is the fact that the rich already ARE taxed at some of the lowest rates in history, and yet we’ve not seen anywhere near a comparative percentage uptick in reinvestment or charity donations. The top-end cash that the Bush tax cuts were supposed to pump into the economy and charity simply never showed up.

    It’s odd how Romney and folks like him seem to think that giving more funds to the working/consumer class is just throwing money down a hole, when it’s actually the opposite that’s true. They’ve simply not done the sort of reinvestment they promised to do when they asked for money last time. They just squirreled most of it away somewhere (offshore, in many cases) and dumped the rest into personal perks.

    I think Romney is a true believer in the misconceptions above. I don’t think he intends the kind of shameless reverse Robin Hood that many in his party intend with their policies. I don’t think he truly believes that the working class are best suited only to be cogs in a machine that generates profit for the chosen few (As a Randian, Ryan probably does believe that, though.) But I do think that Romney’s so convinced that he and the philosophy he’s been flogging for the past two decades are right that he’s absolutely closed off to any evidence showing otherwise. Supply-side economics with a dollop of church-based charity is conventional wisdom in his world, and he can’t conceive of any reality in which that conventional wisdom is wrong.

  67. Like many others, I think you’re being far too generous in your reading. His wildly changing views on every possible policy aside, what continues to baffle me is this: here is a man whose wife has had and continues to have serious medical conditions, both chronic and acute. Surely he is aware of how much money it has cost the family for therapy, for medicine, for specialists, even with the gold-plated insurance they must have.

    So how, as someone who is presumably able to do math, can he possibly think that the average American family isn’t likely to be economically crippled at best, or driven into bankruptcy and poverty at worst should something similar happen to them? His lack of empathy, his inability to imagine anyone in circumstances even slightly different from his own is completely incomprehensible to me. Instead he radiates contempt for those nameless masses who have ‘chosen'(!?) to be so poor they can’t afford everything he can. He may be nice to those people he knows personally (and given some of the anecdotes related by his family, I even wonder about that), but I do not find him to be for people in a general sense.

  68. A Mediated Life:

    It’s apparently not uncommon among the less well-off (hell, outright poor) GOP base to believe both 1) and 2), at least in my experience (anecdata alert!). I’m not sure if this is an example of propaganda working or what.

  69. As someone who doesn’t live in the USA, and who (officially) doesn’t have a dog in this fight, I’d still be incredibly leery of what’s likely to happen should Mr Romney be elected as president. Mostly, I have to admit, because of his lack of empathy for and understanding of the condition of people who aren’t in his exact situation.

    Mitt Romney strikes me as an example of the type of clueless “USAlien” I sometimes see online. The type of person who really doesn’t understand how it’s possible to do things differently to the way they do them in $THEIRTOWN_USA, and who sees any such difference as a very personal, very visceral threat. A highly educated example, I’ll grant you; an example who has spent time in at least one other country; but an example none the less. There seems to be a certain degree of pig-headedness about him, a refusal to adapt to changing circumstances, a refusal to believe there could possibly be a better way of doing things than the way he is doing it now.

    Plus, of course, he comes into the position from a business background. I don’t want my Prime Minister to be in negotiations with a US President who sees such things as an opportunity for a hostile takeover.

  70. I generally agree with John here, but like lots of folks, I’m not QUITE as charitable toward Romney as he is. After all, he’s made many, many conscious choices to run his campaign exactly as he has and those choices reflect, badly I think, on who he is as a person. I once told friends that Reagan would prob’ly have made a pretty good neighbor, even been fun to have at a party, as long as he could leave Nancy at home.
    I wouldn’t really say that about Romney as he wouldn’t appreciate (and probably be condescending towards) the social circles I roam in.

    I like what Bill said towards the beginning of this thread: “When you spend 5 years getting ready to run for president and you can’t learn empathy, I consider that a colossal failure.” only I’d modify it to “can’t even learn to at least fake empathy”. As John alluded to, politicians are NOT businessmen, at least not the best ones (has there ever actually been a great American president who WAS successful at business, before becoming president?). I don’t think very highly of Bill Clinton as a person, but he’s a great politician, not least because he HAS learned to fake empathy.

  71. WRT: favors superior campaigners over strong administrators.

    What else is anyone left to judge a candidate on? And I don’t think this is really a new situation. Back in the good ‘ol days everything was filtered through the newspapers and political machines.

    Obama’s takedown of Hilary in the primary was an excellent demonstration of how he’s done as president. Slow and steady, and let your opponents self destruct.

    Todays presidential campaigns are massive nearly billion dollar efforts. That Mitt’s campaign is floundering so badly is a pretty strong reflection on him as a leader. Much like Gore, Kerry and McCain.

  72. Many people have pointed out that Romney is lacking in empathy for the poor, but ultimately, I believe his lack of empathy for women will doom him.

    Honestly, right now is a tough time for us ladies; from events like Readercon to anti-family planning legislation, culture and politics are making life frustrating and more difficult for anyone who doesn’t live like Ann Romney. Mitt isn’t the only one who doesn’t seem to understand that in this economy, women are the ones keeping many many families out of the charities he touts so highly. His pick of Ryan for VP, his lack of empathy for single mothers, and his misunderstanding of how little money the average family makes are his conscious choices, but combined with the traditional family structure, which the Mormon church seems to be able to hold together better than most of this country, in his subconscious, these make me wonder if he has any respect or empathy for a single working mother in this country.

    I’m a scientist, a bread-winning wife, and pretty obviously very socially liberal, and I would never want to be put in the position that Romney and his 250K/year “middle class” advocate for women. He and Ryan, along with the rest of the rabid Right, seem to be ignoring the economic realities in this country in favor of 1950’s idealism, and that ignorance of the forces in real economy speak poorly of their financial acumen. That alone should be the death knell of their authority as fiscal conservatives.

  73. Antonio Licata @ 1:57 pm

    I guess I don’t understand why an issue like gay marriage (which I am for) is more important to people than an economy that is foundering. Romney’s plan addresses that and that is why he gets my vote.

    What plan? I haven’t heard Romney articulate a plan. Is he planning on using Ryan’s plan? ‘Cause if so I think that would be a disaster. Is he planning on using the GOP “plan” that got us into this mess? ‘Cause those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

  74. @Antonio Licata: Marriage is an economic issue, particularly in a depressed economy . If you “don’t understand” why anyone would consider it such, you’re displaying the exact flaw many people here are ascribing to Romney: an issue is only important if it impacts my life, and who cares about yours?

  75. @KB:

    “So how, as someone who is presumably able to do math, can he possibly think that the average American family isn’t likely to be economically crippled at best, or driven into bankruptcy and poverty at worst should something similar happen to them?”

    As a mathematician, I can say confidently that most Americans, no matter how smart they are (and in some cases no matter how mathematical they are), cannot, in fact, do math. At least not in any real world sense. I can’t actually fault Mitt Romney for this more than anyone else because he’s not alone by a long shot. (It’s very annoying.) But in lieu of doing math most people can gather reasonably correct conclusions through context and emotional responses. In the case you cited, for example, someone might observe others in difficult circumstances and feel empathy, even if he can’t do the math to realize why the circumstances are so bad.

    Mitt Romney seems to be neither type of person (sufficiently rational OR sufficiently empathetic). In terms of personality, he strikes me as someone who thought it would be fun to be President someday so he thought he’d buy it, kind of like a little kid who fancies a shiny toy. I’m not commenting here on whether that would make him a better or worse *President,* but that is how he strikes me as a person from his media appearances.

  76. I’m from Massachusetts. And my opinion of him is that, during his governorship, he shoved all the actual work onto Kerry Healey (his leut. gov.), who did all the “work” parts, then grabbed credit for anything she did, and shoved off blame for everything that went wrong onto other people.

    And he left Massachusetts to campaign for President WHILE he was still governor, and started bashing Massachusetts and making fun of us WHILE STILL GOVERNOR.

    That just lacks class. He was ditching his job and shoving it onto Lt Gov Healey, and trash-talking us at the same time.

    As far as the “he can’t be THAT much in a bubble — as a bishop, he was responsible for people who were poor, too” — I suggest reading the piece by Judy Dushku that erikagillian mentions. She’s one of the less-rich people who were in his region, and, well, no — he really didn’t understand her life, or the lives of any of the other people who weren’t just like him.

  77. Kevin at 8:03: Pretty much, yeah.

    Back during the Abramoff scandal, they basically admitted as much. Their strategy (going back to the Southern Strategy, even) has been to make poor, religious white folks resentful of everyone else with whom they might be competing for resources. Romney’s 47% remark was completely wrong, on every factual measure, but it resonated with the base because it fed into their belief that their tax dollars are going to support people who don’t want to work or live moral, responsible lives.

    There’s a contingent, of course, that simply hates being “forced” to help others, period (these are usual young, proto-Randian males), but mostly, the working poor who buy into the supply-side economics lie do so because they’ve been led to believe that the opposition just wants to support the lazy. It’s Reagan’s Welfare Queen thing, alive and well after 30 years.

  78. Mea-

    In the specific case of Mitt Romney, however, I do not see evidence that his service has caused his particular world view to be expanded in the way I find necessary for politicians I support.

    Yeah, trying to convince anyone to vote for him wasn’t my objective. My only point was really just that I think he’s probably more in touch with ordinary Americans than most people would realize.

    John Kerry was in harms way in Vietnam, and it is my understanding that his service would have put him together in close proximity under incredibly stressful conditions with a cross-slice of the subset of American men who went to Vietnam.

    It’s plausible that that might have created an emotional bond between John Kerry and folks outside his usual social range, but there are a couple of drawbacks. First: they may have been young men who were poorer than John Kerry, but they were still young men. Not older folks, not children, not families, and not women. Secondly: they were in a warzone. No matter how tight the emotional bond, my point was more that Romney would have counseled families dealing with real-world hardships that arise at home as opposed to on a battlefield.

  79. Sorry John, my comment came out really badly. Trivialize was totally the wrong word. I should have written that you omitted his religious beliefs as a guide to who Romney is.

    I think that’s important. I’m an atheist myself, and I suspect you’re not too different, but Romney is a very religious man. Your best guide to Romney the person is to think of Romney the Bishop. What are the conventions and beliefs of the particular segment of the Mormon church he inhabits? That will tell you a lot about his core beliefs, perhaps more than anything else.

    Anyway, I botched the expression of this idea, but I do think you can’t understand Romney the man unless you understand Romney the believer.

  80. Given is “47% of Americans are moochers” speech, I don’t really care for Romney and am glad he’s going to lose. Having said that, I’m sure he’s an excellent father and grandfather and a wonderful husband. Just not meant to be President and all the money in the world cannot help him buy the Presidency.
    Funny because when he won the Republican Primary, I actually thought he had a decent shot at winning, The debates are his last hurrah.

  81. All I can say is that Mitt Romney was my governor for four years, and I can say without doubt or hesitation that he was the worst person, in every single way, to occupy that office in the thirty-six years that I have lived in Massachusetts. And if anyone truly thinks that he would be either a good or honorable President, or that he is running out of a sense of altruism and public service….

    Well. I understand that there’s this bridge in Brooklyn that’s for sale….

  82. Yeah, trying to convince anyone to vote for him wasn’t my objective. My only point was really just that I think he’s probably more in touch with ordinary Americans than most people would realize.

    He’s had the opportunity to be in touch. I am not convinced he’s taken advantage of that opportunity, judging by his behavior.

  83. A surprisingly relevant macro image concerning Mitt Romney and John Kerry:

    http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/232021-mitt-romney

    Mitt is a fool to seek election this time around. He has to know how bad the odds are running against an incumbent. He also has to know that if he doesn’t make it in this time around, he’s basically done for. Only Nixon ever managed to come back from an election lost, and Romney is not as smart as Nixon (not dissing Romney – Nixon was a very smart man). That’s what perplexes me most about Romney – the fact that he decided to run now, when he should know that he’s not going to make it.

  84. @Nathaniel Givens: Well, he’s possibly had more exposure to the less-fortunate than one might expect, but ‘possible’ and ‘probable’ are not the same thing. I’m not sure that, even if we take the chain of assumptions you propose as true, that helps the case for Romney any. You’re saying, in essence, that he should know better, not that he can’t know better.

  85. John: Just out of curiosity, what GOP presidential candidates have you voted for? (I realize you’ve only been of age to vote for about half a dozen presidential elections, I’m just curious)

  86. Mitt is a man who gets things done. He is unquestionably good at this. The problem is in knowing what he will try to get done as President. Will he be a man for the people or a man for his class? I am sure Mitt cares deeply about the people close to him and the people who are his charges. As John said “I also believe that out beyond the personal frontier, the problems and concerns of others grow abstract very quickly”. I think this explains his behavior at Bain. Bain employees were closest, then investors, then management of companies involved and workers came last, and he carded for these people in that order. His experience as a Mormon Bishop brought people close to him that otherwise would not have been and I am sure he did his best for them (I know some of them and they say this is true). I just don’t know where the mass of Americans would fall if he were President. Would they all become his charges or would they be over the horizon. I just don’t know.

  87. coolstar @ : 8;58 pm:
    “has there ever actually been a great American president who WAS successful at business?”

    The only presidents I can think of offhand who were successful businessmen are George H. W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Warren Harding and Herbert Hoover. By contrast Harry Truman and Ulysses S. Grant (I think the latter is vastly underrated) both had failed businesses, and Thomas Jefferson was chronically bad with money.,

  88. @ mythago

    I think Nathaniel Givens only meant that Romney may not be as insulated as many non-Mormons would assume from his charmed life. He didn’t say anything about Romney’s character in particular.

  89. @Tice with a J —

    He ran last time, and I suspect it might have been fatal to his chances if he sat this one out and then tried again in 2016. (By then he’d be some forgotten old man, too long out of the spotlight for anybody to care about him.) Or maybe not — I’m not enough of an elections wonk to know.

    But I suspect that he went all-in for 2012 because of the economy, and the belief that this was the perfect time to run for the presidency on a business record. It’s worth noting that he would have had to commit to that plan before Occupy got real traction and focused the public discourse on the 1% vs. 99% divide, which made his wealth and business connections much less valuable assets than he probably expected them to be.

    I don’t think it’s chance, though that this is the year the GOP served up a crop o’crazies. I think the more serious potential candidates looked at this scenario and saw too many losing factors: You’re running against an incumbent, which is always hard. Whoever wins this election will own the economy, which is still slogging along at a less-than-stellar rate. Any GOP candidate is caught between the Scylla of having to attract independent voters and the Charybdis of tea party extremists. Etc. They figured it would be better to wait for 2016, or (if whatever sacrificial lamb got served up actually pulled off a miracle) 2020.

    And who knows; maybe that was part of Mitt’s calculus, too. Maybe he looked at the likely composition of the field and thought, I can totally win against Santorum and Bachmann and Gingrich and Perry and Cain. But unfortunately for him, his challenges really began after that.

  90. @ Marie Brennan

    There are lots of voters who blame Obama’s policy’s for the prolongation of the recession and forget or choose to ignore that those policy’s are an extension of Bush’s, and who therefore naively believe Romney would balance the budget. And there’s the sizable minority of voters who are ardent social conservatives who want a say in what goes on in your bedroom. Separately they could not win, but together, even accounting for overlap, they are a threat that the Dems would be unwise to misunderestimate. The social conservative statists will not be undergoing a sea change in anything like the timescale before the election – those changes are generational – but the Dems best shot is pointing out that a Republican presidency would not swoop in and rescue the economy but would expand the ongoing erosion of civil liberties to voters’ sex lives. Extra points if Obama shows some backbone and puts his foot down for some of the litany of changes he promised four years ago.

    The fact is, the President has at least some of what Romney lacks nearly totally, charisma. He needs to connect to the American people. And I’m not talking about the occasional now I won’t tell you things are great, but here’s what the other guy would break worse. I’m talking about laying out a clear agenda for a second term and selling it with honesty. Because while I don’t agree with Obama on a lot of points, I do believe he believes in what he fights for, and that honesty could go a long way if he’d show a little passion.

    Why are professional politicians so awful are being politicians?

  91. Romney may have at one time been a decent person who wanted to do the right thing, but I gave up on that idea when he at least seemingly started buying into the Tea Party craziness that being poor and uninsured are my fault and that I actually WANT to be poor and uninsured just so I can have the “pleasure” of living off the government, even though what the government gives KEEPS me poor because every penny earned is 2 cents out of any check they’d give. I’ve always been of the belief that politicians should be required to spend a year on AFDC without access to any other money and have to jump through the same hoops the poor have to jump through to get any help. Romney’s comments have only reinforced that belief because it’s obvious he hasn’t a clue. If he ever had a clue, his determination to become president, no matter what he must say or do, buried it.

    And that says more to me about his character than anything else.

  92. One of the major problems is the lengths people will go to in the service of their own ambition. It’s something I saw in Hillary Clinton years ago, that she looked a lot uglier when on her personal quest than she did when throwing her support behind others.

    Separated from his ambition, Mitt Romney might be a decent guy to those he knows; what worries me is that, while he’s on his quest to become President – and he’s been on that quest since before Bush left office – the people who aren’t of aid to him on that quest seem to become an abstraction, rather than flesh-and blood people.

    And there’s sobering precedents for what happens to people willing to sacrifice too much to the quest. George W. Bush won and won again, but his reputation is such that the Republican Party didn’t even let him speak at their convention. John McCain sacrificed his reputation in the quest; he wasn’t the same after the 2008 election was over. Sarah Palin sacrificed her reputation, her credibility, and in a sense, her legacy to the quest; she was seen as a potential political force in future years, and what is she now?

    Essentially, Mitt Romney abandoned his signature achievement in service of his ambition; he could have insisted that the GOP was demanding too high a price in exchange for their support, or he could have walked away. That’s the thing about having the kind of resources Mitt Romney has at his disposal: it gives him the choice to walk away, without the terror most of us would feel from not knowing what we do next to stay alive.

    Instead, he paid the price they demanded, because of the prize they offered him in exchange: to be one of the most powerful human beings in history. That’s serious temptation.

  93. @Gulliver @6:03pm

    The guy supports treating human beings as second class citizens. But what pisses the electorate off? Making his dog ride in a rooftop kennel for the family vacation. Talk about ass-backwards priorities!

    I never said I thought his treatment of human beings was less important than how he treated his dog. However, I do judge people’s character by how they treat their animals. If you don’t think anything about abusing a dog who is completely in your power, you are not a decent human being.

  94. I never get why people think he has “good ideas about the economy.” Whenever he offers up a barebones plan, its been shown to be horribly overweighting taxes on the lower and middle classes while offering up enormous tax cuts for the rich. When pressed on it his (or Ryan’s answer) is always “trust me” or “I can’t show you the math right now,” to which every American should say: We’re under no obligation to trust anyone, and we’ve got several weeks for you to give us the math, what’s the hold-up?

  95. I think, by his own definition, Mr Romney is probably a “good” person. I am not sure that mine is the same. This is a concern that I have with all POTUS’s, though, as the US is so very dominated by people for whom religious guidelines are the same as morals. I have doubts about any ethical system that is clipped from a book, whether it be a Bible or Atlas Shrugged. I am no more doubtful of Mormons, in that regard, than I am of Randians or Scientologists. (Disclaimer: the church closest to our house is LDS, and we bought our house from members.) Thoughtful religious philosophy seems very difficult to find in the US, especially at the level of national politics.

    The question that I always ask myself, when listening to politicians, is “does this person want to lead, or to serve?” I am not interested in voting for someone who wants “to lead the free world;” I am looking for a public servant, a person who feels a calling or a desire to represent the people of the US and our collective best interests. Both types need a lot of personal ego, but the latter is tempered by humility, uncertainty, and existential angst.

    Mr Romney seems ready to mount his horse and cry “Tally-Ho!” but he hasn’t demonstrated a willingness to look upon the destruction wrought in his wake, nor do his responses to real tragedy indicate humility or thoughtfulness (ref: Libya, Chris Stephens, et al.) Since most of us, myself included, are foot-soldiers in this world, I am disconcerted by that. I am also disconcerted by the way his publicly stated principles diverge from his private practices. His blank incomprehension when faced with these contradictions–e.g. healthcare, abortion, taxation–is chilling, as if he really, truly does not understand how the same rules could or should apply to everyone. I know they do not, that the wealthy and powerful are not subject to the same constraints as I am, but Mr Romney seems completely unaware of this disparity, or believes it is a falsehood that should be mocked or belittled.

  96. The man is just too handsome. I don’t trust anyone to be a good and smart leader that is that pretty.

  97. @ Kilroy:

    Romney, handsome? Tastes vary, I guess, but I think he’s on the slopes of the uncanny valley. (I can see why some folks think Ryan is handsome, in that white-bread college Republican way.)

  98. mfenn0762:

    Yeah, that. I certainly have a problem with people mistreating their pets, period. But in this context, it’s particularly concerning in the sense of what it implies about how he treats people, especially people less powerful than he is. (Which, if he becomes POTUS, is a whole hell of a lot of people.)

    In particular, re John’s original comments: “I do not doubt one bit that he is a kind and good person to family and friends”. Well, the Seamus episode makes me wonder if his personal relationship event horizon has an even smaller radius than John thinks. I wouldn’t go so far as to draw any hard conclusions from it, but it’s definitely worrisome.

  99. KB: “Surely he is aware of how much money it has cost the family for therapy, for medicine, for specialists, even with the gold-plated insurance they must have.”

    Well, remember this is a guy who dismissed his speaking fees for one year as “insignificant”. They were $300,000+ for the year! So my guess is her health coverage really isn’t an issue for him & he assumes it is the same for all other worthy people. AS he said we send an ambulance & take you to the hospital so everyone has coverage, right?

  100. As a Canadian, I seem to watch American presidential politics a lot like I watch the aftermath of car crashes – unable to look away, glad it isn’t me, as well as emabarassed and ashamed that I have such a window to a terrible event in someone’s life and am mostly only curious.

    My view about Romney is that it’s so difficult to get a handle on ANYTHING he wants to do for the United States. On some blogs, he’s been dubbed the superhero/villain “Retroactive Man” because his past statements can usually be used to support whichever conflicting policy option he wants at the time.

    As such, it’s hard to make ANY conclusions about him because the biggest impression he leaves is that he tries to be whatever the audience in front of him at the time wants him to be.

  101. I attended the Cambridge Ward of the LDS church in the 1990s, long after I stopped believing. Mittens was Stake President then. And a man there had just come out as being gay. He was trying to do all the things the LDS church said he should – he was honest, and he was celibate. And the honesty meant he was suddenly living in a fishbowl. And Mitt got up and gave a talk on the abomination of homosexuality. He was supposed to be in a pastoral role, and he went way beyond the official homophobia of the LDS church in order to single out my friend for ostracism, simply because he could.

    Now, being LDS goes beyond simply attending church once a week. There are a lot of activities, so it is very easy even in a place like Massachusetts to find that almost all of your social life revolves around church activities, with other Mormons. And this is even more the case with a singles ward, which is explicitly about getting people paired up so that they can “graduate” to a “real” ward. The LDS church is the most all-encompassing social structure I have ever been remotely attached to, and my attachment was always more remote than most.

    I attended for about two years. This was, to my recollection, the only time I saw Mitt speak. And he talked about the evils of homosexuality, just after someone came out publicly. I’d be surprised if there were ten people in attendance who did not know who he was talking about. Mitt was responsible for pastoral care, one of the people under his “guidance” was undergoing a genuine crisis, and Mitt took the opportunity to be a bully.

    To me, that will always be the Real Romney.

  102. Romney and his campaign remind me of Wendell Willkie in 1940 (I read old LIFE Magazines in Google Books as a sorta-kinda hobby); Willkie was picked as essentially the best of a bad lot the GOP put up that year to challenge FDR (Sen. Taft and Dewey, the prosecutor from New York, definitely both had baggage; Taft was an isolationist and Dewey…well he and Taft apparently had personalities resembling sacks of rocks). Willkie held himself out as a “businessman”, though he really was a lawyer who rarely set foot in a factory except to see a client in the head office and was accused roundly by folks in the GOP of running an inept campaign. He was viewed as actually being a nice guy who was called a “liberal” even by others in the GOP (sound familiar yet?) and some of his stands were suspiciously close to those of FDR. Trouble was, France and the rest of Western Europe had fallen to the Nazis that summer and simply running against FDR wasn’t enough, even though Willkie had to run on a platform where FDR and the Democrats were frequently referred to as “socialsts” and characterized as “corrupt”.

    Romney has a lot of the same problems, because I’d like to believe that he really isn’t quite as nutty as the extreme right of the GOP, but the only way he got the nominiation was to paint himself into their corner and, no matter how much he tries, he still knows that they don’t really like him much on that side of the Party, because they’d have been happy to nominate a bag of hair to run against Obama. Romney seems to be much more comfortable among his peers, given the way he spoke at the infamous fundraiser where he discussed the “47%” that he “doesn’t worry about”. The fact that it was so easy for him to dismiss others that he knows won’t be voting for him (but whom he’d have to represent anyway if elected) is what bothers me about him, because he knows who’ll be giving him money and support later and it won’t be the people who really will need his concern.

    The ironic thing about Willkie is that, after the election when he lost a close one to FDR, he supported the President and his war leadership, even partnering with Eleanor Roosevelt in trying to get some racial justice for minorities during the war, something FDR himself wasn’t all that crazy about. He died in late 1944, before FDR, after getting dumped by the GOP when he tried to run again for the nomination earlier that year, with the GOP hierarchy bad-mouthing him for having the temerity to agree with FDR on some things. I suspect Romney will be in the same boat in little over a month or so.

  103. I think M. Scalzi is right about the current GOP ideological purity issues being bad for Romney as a candidate, however I think he may be being too generous wrt Mr. Romney himself. McCain was in roughly the same boat as Romney and I still got a strong vibe from his actions and his record that he was a generally admirable man swayed by ambition to adopt unwholesome political positions. (I would not have been adverse to voting for the McCain I saw in early 2008.) On the other hand, everything I have encountered wrt Mr. Romney in politics gives me an utterly mercenary vibe. He seems to do what is expected of him by the people who can give him the most power. If he was beholden to admirable or even neutral interests, this would have been … tolerable? He isn’t, and it isn’t.

  104. @Genufett: “We’re under no obligation to trust anyone, and we’ve got several weeks for you to give us the math, what’s the hold-up?”

    This. So much this. Trust you? HAHAHAHA! Funny… you’re a funny guy, even though you have a terrifying laugh.

    *ahem* Now seriously, we need to see the bloody math, pally. *crosses arms, taps foot and waits*

  105. @Mediated Life at 9:42
    Another thing that factors in is that many of the lower middle class to poor GOP voters honestly believe that their situation is only temporary and once they become millionaires they want that piece of the pie too, no matter if they vote against their interests in the here and now. That and the fear-mongering of the “culture war” and mooslims…

  106. Malaclypse –

    At the risk of getting too off-topic, Mitt Romney always reminded me of our next door neighbor growing up – the one who became Stake President shortly before we moved from Utah to Illinois. We lived in Utah from the late 70’s to the mid-80’s, right at the height of the Mormon backlash against the ERA. Mom and Dad married young (well, not for Mormons) while dad was still in school. He became an architect, which required years of apprenticing and low-paid journeyman work. Mom always worked “outside the home” so that we could keep a roof over our heads and stay off welfare. We also had a huge garden to provide up with vegetables, and mom even ground her own wheat to make bread. Honestly, looking back I wish I had appreciated how hard she worked for us when I was growing up. And one Fast & Testimony meeting, Sister Next-Door-Future-SP’s-Wife got up and bore her testimony that she knew that working outside the home was part of Satan’s plan, and how grateful she was to be able to stay home with her children and follow the Lord’s plan – because Satan wanted women to work outside the home*. Mom was the only one in the ward who worked outside the home. All eyes were on her, since our next door neighbor was essentially calling her out publicly on her iniquity.

    Some Mormon leaders take their elevation to uncompensated leadership as an exhortation to work harder, to help spread the gospel through good works. And some take it as a sign that God favors them because they are Right, and they may do as they please. Mitt strikes me as that second one there, and if I knew nothing else about him, the stories of his tenure as Bishop and SP would be enough for me to judge his character

    * In retrospect, perhaps passive-aggressive molly mormon was right; all three of us kids did apostasize.

  107. Appologies if someone beat me to it, but I’ve been holding this in for quite a while: Government is not business! It doesn’t run like a business; it doesn’t have the same goals and objectives as business; and good managers of government have almost the opposite instincts of good business managers. So, having lots of business experience is not even close to proper preparation for managing a single government agency, much less all of them. Hmm, what POTUS of recent memory had an MBA?

  108. @ Jim Caplan:

    Similarly, comparing the budget of the Unitd States Government to a household budget is inane. (Alas, both major-party presidential candidates have done that.)

  109. but who does not necessarily understand the problems of those with less privilege on a visceral or personal level, and who is not comfortable with the idea of either having or feigning such an interest. This does not in the least make him a bad person; it makes him an insulated one, who appears to have a very sharp event horizon when it comes to personal relationships.

    It’s very hard to squre Scalzi’s statement with what Romney writes in his book NO APOLOGY about helping the unemployed find work, helping single parents, and his views on the family.
    .
    It’s hard to square it with the report of those who have known and worked with Romney.
    .
    And it’s particularly hard to squre it with the 14 years Romney served as a lay minister in the Mormon church. When you actually find out about what lay ministers in the Mormon church do, and how his service affected his view (which his very evident in a number of places in the book), you’ll discover he has seen the issues up close and been there with great compassion.
    .
    Lay ministers in the Mormon church are the complete opposite of insulated.
    .
    They are constantly working with the poor and sick in their congregations. On a very personal level. They see everything–from unemployment to addictions to struggling and failing marriages to deaths and suicide. They work with the old and very young, serving on a one-on-one basis. Quietly helping. They are there goofing around on the youth camps. They are there packing and hefting boxes when people move in and out, raking autumn leaves for the elderly who can’t, visiting the sick in the hospital, helping the youth, etc. It’s one of the most personable jobs you can imagine.
    .
    They spend upwards of 20 hours a week, in addition to their fulltime jobs, doing this. And because Mormon congregations are organized by geography (everyone in a certain geography is part of the same congregation) instead of by personal affiliation, their congregations are more diverse than many church congregations. You’ll have folks who live in a trailer park working and serving alongside those who are millionaires. Blue collar with white collar. All the ethnicities in the area all together.
    .
    If you read Romney’s book NO APOLOGY, you’ll see that Scalzi’s assessment is inaccurate. It’s a mistake of perception stemming from a lack of data :)
    .
    Political TV ads can be fun. And annoying.
    .
    Debates can be fun. And maddening.
    .
    News coverage is, well, often made of sound bites.
    .
    Thirty second snippets of information really don’t give you the full picture. And sometimes they actually hide the facts, producing nothing more than informational smog.
    .
    Recently, I decided I wanted to really know what Mitt Romney thought. What he was about. What he hopes to accomplish if he wins the presidency. If Mitt was someone in my neighborhood, I’d go visit the man, and we’d have a chat.
    .
    I’d ask him about his ideas and past. I’d ask him to give me examples. Because of the nature of the issues at stake and the number of them, I imagine our chat would probably last a few hours. It might stretch over a number of evenings.
    .
    Of course, I’d want time to consider our chat and determine where I did and didn’t agree with him. I’d want to hear what others thought. And I’d want to look into his history, his successes and failures.
    .
    But the first step would be to go to the man himself and hear him out.
    .
    I hate it when people put words in my mouth. I’m sure Romney, or anyone else running, hates that same thing. If I were running, I’d would hope folks would take the time to hear me out. They may ultimately disagree with me on many or a few things. But I’d hope, as they are gathering information, that they would take the time to actually go to the source and listen to what I myself had to say.
    .
    Unfortunately, I can’t walk around the corner and knock on Romney’s door. But he did write a book that was published in 2010, and it’s probably the next best thing to talking to Romney at his kitchen table. The book is called NO APOLOGY: THE CASE FOR AMERICAN GREATNESS.
    .
    I found it personable, sometimes surprising, and insightful.
    .
    If you’re planning on voting this November for the president of the United States, I think you’ll find NO APOLOGY useful. You may end up agreeing with many things Romney says. You may end up disagreeing with him on many points. But before you can do either, you need to understand what Romney’s position actually is. Who he actually is. And the first step in doing so is to fully hear him out, in his own words, from his own lips.

  110. Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam! Lovely Spam! Lovely Spam!

    (with a link to a side dish of equating homosexuality with rape and child abuse)

  111. Oh, and besides, we already heard him out, in his own words, from his own lips. Without an editor as an intermediary and another editor (for the 2nd edition of the book) who removed text that was less than critical of the stimulus and health care reform, his words are captured on video and audio:

    There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax…[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

  112. Romney’s biggest problem isn’t with people putting words in his mouth. It’s with people replaying the words *he* puts in his mouth. It’s when his words are taken *in* context that they do him the most damage.

  113. And I wonder if NO APOLOGY etc etc talks about how Romney asked for and received not one, not two, not three, but four deferments from being drafted–which, BTW, he actively supported for others–into fighting in Vietnam. Or how horrible it was in France during the Vietnam War because they were “not happy” about Americans. Or how dangerous France was because, in the words of his fellow missionaries, “[t]here was no train service, there were no buses, no newspapers and “[t]he electricity would go off from time-to-time.” Or the hardships of not receiving letters full of checks from his wealthy parents to make it through the lean times.

  114. @ Gulliver (4:21) — I was mentally composing a lengthy response pointing out the campaign promises Obama *has* delivered on, and the ones he’s tried to deliver on but been thwarted in, and the general role of Republican obstructionism, not to mention Obama’s success at connecting with people . . . and then I remembered that this is a thread about Mitt Romney’s character, and boy howdy would that be off topic. But it also seemed rude to ignore you when you were replying directly to me, so I wanted you to know that I read your comment, but don’t quite agree with your points.

    What you said about Obama selling a vision of his second term, though, brought me back around to what other people have been mentioning here, namely, the “trust me!” sales pitch Romney and Ryan have been trying to sell. And just . . . no. Not only do I not trust them (for a myriad of reasons, many of which I’ve already detailed), the very fact that they’re taking that tack makes me trust ‘em even less. Far too often, anybody who says “trust me!” is trying to pull one over on you. The people you can rely on don’t have to exhort you to do it.

    @John (3:28) — I have a very simple reason for not reading No Apology to form my opinion of Mitt Romney’s character: because that is his own evaluation of himself, massaged and polished by at least one editor and probably a lot of behind-the-scenes PR types. I find it far more instructive to look at the opinions of the people around Romney, especially those who aren’t working for him. In addition to the links I gave above (which give stories from gay constituents he was callous to and Mormons he shut out of things), there’s another one I’ve lost the URL for now, interviewing Mitt Romney’s actual neighbors. It gives the lie to the assertion some people make, that Romney is the sort of guy who would be a great neighbor; the people who actually live around him don’t like him much at all. These, to me, say far more about his character — and the resulting image isn’t very good. Would No Apology make him look better? Sure, maybe. But that doesn’t mean it’s more true.

  115. @John Brown
    The problem is, why would anyone believe anything he wrote in this book when it’s appallingly clear that Mitt will say and do absolutely anything to win the presidency.

    Sorry, no sale.

  116. @John Brown –

    So… all the things that Romney has actually said and actually done that so many have a problem with are not a vaild basis for evaluating the man? And what we should do instead is judge him by his glorified press release?

    Yeah, I’m gonna say no.

  117. @Eric Saveau 5:12,

    You didn’t read my post carefully. I said I would certainly want to look at what others thought and look at his history of success and failures. But I would also want to hear the person out. It’s not a glorified press release.

    But, of course, since you haven’t read the book that makes it difficult to comment on its contents.

    @rochrist 4:59,

    It’s an interesting attack line, but I’ve looked at his positions and statements IN THEIR FULL CONTEXT and cannot find a man who will do anything. It’s easy to put together a sound bite montage of almost anyone and paint them however you want. But when you look at the full context, those things start to look silly.

    @genufett 3:59,

    Certainly, if you think fighting in Vietnam is an important criteria, then Romney’s deferrment for school and his missionary service may irk you. On the other hand, a lot of people didn’t agree with that war. In fact, Romney’s father lost his bid to be the Republican candidate in part precisely because he stated that when he came back “from Viet Nam [in November 1965], I’d just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get” and that he “no longer believe that it was necessary for us to get involved in South Vietnam to stop Communist aggression in Southeast Asia.”

  118. @Genufett 3:52

    I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

    The idea is actually put in context in his book. He said something strikingly similar there. If you read the book, you actually might understand the context.

    In Florida, the larger point Romney was trying to make was that he wasn’t going to get a landslide. There are indeed too many people who believe in redistribution and other things he’s against to do so. It’s demonstrably false to suggest that those who don’t pay income taxes all feel they are victims and won’t vote Republican. But Romney’s mistake was in using that attribute to identify who those people are and the size of their numbers, not in pointing out they exist.

  119. @John Brown
    I’ve heard plenty of context. I live in the state he was Governor of. I watched him shape his positions to what he thought was required to win time and again.

    There’s more than enough context available for everyone to see how he changes his positions constantly. Not to mention the blatant lies he tells about Obama’s positions. See ‘gutting the work for welfare requirement’.

    Certainly, if you think fighting in Vietnam is an important criteria, then Romney’s deferrment for school and his missionary service may irk you. On the other hand, a lot of people didn’t agree with that war. In fact, Romney’s father lost his bid to be the Republican candidate in part precisely because he stated that when he came back “from Viet Nam [in November 1965], I’d just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get” and that he “no longer believe that it was necessary for us to get involved in South Vietnam to stop Communist aggression in Southeast Asia.”

    Ah, but he was an enthusiastic supporter of the war. Just like he’s a enthusiastic supporter of our current Middle Eastern adventures, while thinking that his sons are making a more vauable contribution to their country by helping him get elected.

  120. I said I would certainly want to look at what others thought and look at his history of success and failures. But I would also want to hear the person out. It’s not a glorified press release.

    And yet you seem to feel comfortable discounting pretty much anything not in the book, despite it coming from his mouth. And yes, an autobiography is very much a glorified press release, especially if their words and actions do not reflect what the book says.

    but I’ve looked at his positions and statements IN THEIR FULL CONTEXT and cannot find a man who will do anything. It’s easy to put together a sound bite montage of almost anyone and paint them however you want. But when you look at the full context, those things start to look silly.

    Really? So how do you square him saying Obama’s health care bill should be modeled on his and then attacking it, for instance? Or what about when he claimed Obama cut Medicare, when he wants to make the exact same cuts, but wants to cut benefits rather than costs? Was he being straightforward there, too? And what about the fact that he has basically made his entire campaign about out-of-context sound bites, up to and including making it the central theme of his and his party’s national convention. Should we assume you think that he and the GOP look silly?

    Certainly, if you think fighting in Vietnam is an important criteria, then Romney’s deferrment for school and his missionary service may irk you.

    It’s not so much Vietnam as the fact that he strongly advocated for a compulsory (at the time) policy that he simultaneously used his clout to avoid on several occasions, that his time avoiding said policy was made out to be terrible when it was nothing compared to those who were serving in Vietnam without the chance to defer, and that his foreign policy is extremely belligerent compared even to Bush.

    And as for George Romney…Well, the man supported civil rights before almost anyone else in his party, grew up on welfare and other government programs, believed in workers right to unionize, and famously said of tax return releases for candidates: “One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show”. His son supports voter disenfranchisement and suppression policies that have been explicitly directed at minorities (by admission of elected members of his party) for fraud that barely exists, shows contempt for anyone who receives government assistance by saying they are beneath his notice and never take responsibility for themselves, uses subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) racial phrasing to paint his opponent and supporters as the enemy, would pass nationwide anti-labor laws, has released a fraction of the tax returns of any modern presidential candidate, and of the two years’ worth of tax returns released has not released a single one that hasn’t been manipulated to put him in what he apparently believed was a better light.

  121. The long and the short of it is that we simply don’t know these folks as people (as you noted). That said, many of the circulating stories about Romney (teen bully, dog suffering on top of the car, various verbal faux pas(es?)) seem to fit into a narrative of a man who is long on brains but short on empathy. Both attributes would have served him well at Bain, even if the lack of empathy can be a problem for someone running to be President.

  122. The idea is actually put in context in his book. He said something strikingly similar there. If you read the book, you actually might understand the context.

    In Florida, the larger point Romney was trying to make was that he wasn’t going to get a landslide.

    Nope, still misusing the word context. The question he was asked was “For the last three years, all everybody’s been told is, “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of you.” How are you going to do it, in two months before the elections, to convince everybody you’ve got to take care of yourself?” At no point does he talk about not getting a landslide. He quotes a figure that is correct at its most broad definition, but then completely lies about the composition of that number.

    There are indeed too many people who believe in redistribution and other things he’s against to do so.

    Maybe there are, but those numbers aren’t available, so your definition of context is still invalid. The number he quoted consists almost entirely of people who hold at least one job but do not make enough money to qualify, retirees, active duty military and veterans, those with physical or mental disabilities that prevent them from working, And the reason that they’re not paying taxes is because of policies that Republican or widely bipartisan politicians enacted.

    It’s demonstrably false to suggest that those who don’t pay income taxes all feel they are victims and won’t vote Republican.

    Exactly, so why did he do it?

    But Romney’s mistake was in using that attribute to identify who those people are and the size of their numbers, not in pointing out they exist.

    I find it amazing that someone capable of making a mistake of that magnitude (or possibly lying to make a point) should be a front-runner for President. It doesn’t help that he also makes a number of huge numerical mistakes in the same speech, such as when he’s off on the percent of Palestinians who support a two-state solution by between 50%-75%. Or when he claims that he’s “poor as a church mouse” despite never having wanted for money in his life. Or when he just goes straight racist and claims that his life and campaign would be easier if he was Mexican.

    A man whose character allows for those mistakes, or even worse, encourages them doesn’t sound very Presidential.

  123. John Brown: Certainly, if you think fighting in Vietnam is an important criteria, then Romney’s deferrment for school and his missionary service may irk you. On the other hand, a lot of people didn’t agree with that war.

    Mitt wasn’t one of them, though. He demonstrated in favor of it and then avoided it himself. That isn’t exactly principled behavior. Also, what rochrist said.

    Btw, I’m pleased to see you commenting here, since I thought you were dead. In fact I’ve been told repeatedly (often several times in a row) that your body lies a-moulderin’ in the grave. Nice to know that your cause is marching on.

  124. @John Brown –

    You didn’t read my post carefully.

    Yes, I did. That you aren’t comfortable with what I took from it reflects far more on you than me.

  125. My thoughts are that Mitt Romney, the person, really doesn’t matter that much. We’re stuck with Mitt Romney, the candidate, and he’s let himself become beholden to some very unsavory groups.

    I intensely dislike the attack on the fundamental principles of human equality and religious freedom that masquerades as “social conservatism.” I have issues with economic plans that are completely counter intuitive, in the small doses we’re allowed to see, and the idea that we’re supposed to offer blind trust to people who are proffering plans that don’t make sense.

  126. You could make an argument, and I don’t believe it for a minute, that Romney is running to save the Republicans from a democrat landslide. Just imagine how badly they would be doing right now if any of the other candidates for the Republicans had won.

    Funnily enough, I think we are in for a complete recalibration in US politics, should be interesting

  127. Rex — I saw an argument at one point during the primary season that it would be better for the overall health of the Republican party if Santorum got the nomination, and then was crushed in the general. Then, at least, the GOP might have a . . . sure, let’s call it a “come to Jesus” moment. An internal shakeup that might revitalize their policies and bring them back toward rationality. But instead they’ve got Romney, who can (thanks to his Massachusetts actions and generaly flip-floppiness) be characterized as “not a good enough conservative,” which will only help convince the party they need to TRY HARDER at the same crap we’ve been putting up with for years now.

    I think the recalibration is ultimately inevitable; the question is how long it will take to happen.

  128. Some thoughts for consideration on Romney as a person, and why he seems to be having so much difficulty connecting with voters…

    1. He’s very much upper/upper class. We all have internal scripts–ways of dealing with people, the way we interact with the world, that are very much formed by our social class. Romney was raised in a family of extreme wealth and political power. Attended exclusive private schools and the most exclusive colleges. Quickly moved into the financial elite. He’s never had to deal with 98% of Americans as anything other than employees/servants, and so never learned how to relate with them as equal citizens. Romney is invariably polite–but he projects the politeness of the business owner in dealing with the minions who knows they will respond.

    2. Romney still thinks of himself as a CEO and it shows. He’s used to and expects people to do what he says when he says without disagreeing, arguing, or disputing him once he’s decided. I think he hasn’t moved his mindset beyond what it means to be the single powerful guy in charge of a company he owns. When someone doesn’t see things as he does it’s because they’re wrong, and they need to get with the program or find other employment. He considers anyone who disagrees to be a pigheaded obstructionist.

    3. His Mormon background. Not because of any theological implications but the strictures of his faith which he’s lived and completely agreed with and internalized. He’s never drank a beer in a bowling alley or at a baseball game, never smoked a cigar at a poker game, never tried to pick-up a girl at a bar or a party. There’s a whiff of “holier-than-thou” that comes through, with a fragrance of “and you’re the people my Church warned me about” that accompanies.

    Honestly–I could see myself socializing with Barack and Michelle. Spending an evening eating a meal, drinking a couple of beers, watching Monday Night Football and shooting the shit. He could tell me about Harvard and I could tell him some of my college stories. Tell some jokes, talk about where we grew up, why we like The Wire and Treme more than Game of Thrones. I can’t even imagine spending a similar evening with Mitt and Ann and considering it anything other than a social obligation, no matter how charming and personable they may be.

  129. Seriously, I could have supported him if I believed more than 50% of what he said. He is SO conflicted that he’ll say something about Obamacare that I like, and THAT afternoon, his campaign denies that it’s Romney’s position. Happened to LIKE what he said on MTP. So who’s the real Mitt? John Kerry got labeled a flip-flopper, but he’s got nothing on Mitt, who may have core principles, but is loath to show them.

  130. @John Brown: your arguments is that the only reliable source of information on what Mitt Romney is really like is a political tract written by Mitt Romney; anything Mitt Romney has actually said or done, or experiences others have had with Mitt Romney personally or as his constituents, are untrustworthy.

    I’m curious as to why you think this is the case.

  131. Just poking my head in to say that John Brown’s insistence that we take Mitt propaganda over Mitt unfiltered sounds oh, so much like Scientology PR. Y’know, like how they always say that only current Scientologists should be considered credible to speak on the subject. It basically eliminates the possibility of credible dissent. Creepy.

  132. @ mfenn0762

    If you don’t think anything about abusing a dog who is completely in your power, you are not a decent human being.

    I think it’s telling about our election process that when that came out, it did more damage to his campaign for President than his actual polices (or at least the ones he’s assumed in trying to appeal to the far Right). It’s like suddenly discovering Hitler killed millions. Duh! And just so no one thinks I’m trying to Godwin the thread, I’m not comparing Romney to Hitler, I’m comparing how blind the public can be until some specific incident comes along and yanks their heartstrings when there was ample evidence of this person’s character all along.

    I don’t know if he mistreated the dog out of cluelessness or just an inability to empathize, but I know his social platform demonstrates both. And it’s disturbing that so many people will ignore the latter and only start to question character when something like the former comes along.

    @ Karina

    As such, it’s hard to make ANY conclusions about him because the biggest impression he leaves is that he tries to be whatever the audience in front of him at the time wants him to be.

    Which, in the end, says more about him than anything else, IMHO.

    @ Marie Brennan

    But it also seemed rude to ignore you when you were replying directly to me, so I wanted you to know that I read your comment, but don’t quite agree with your points.

    Thank you for replying, but I wouldn’t have thought you rude for not.

    I agree that Republican obstructionism is a major part of the problem. But I also think Obama has been too ready to “compromise” when compromising didn’t mean actually compromising, but rather giving the Republicans what they want. I think if he (and others in the Democratic leadership, but he’s the guy with the bully pulpit) were half as good at connecting with left-leaning voters as the Republican leadership is at connecting with right-leaning voters, a lot more undecideds and independents would show up to vote for Democratic congresscritters, and there might be less of that obstructionism.

    I’m sure there are plenty of national security advisers telling Obama it would be disastrous to implement his promised reversal of many of Dubya’s civil liberty abuses and foreign policy clusterfucks. And I’m sure that Obama listens carefully to those advisers because he’s never served in the military or intelligence communities and he’s smart enough to heed advice where his experience is lacking. And I’m sure these reversals more often get discussed in tactical detail rather than as whole strategies, because that’s how management works; but all those inches given quickly add up to miles of broken promises. And I’m also sure that when news items like Libya and Syria come up, the President wants to help. So do many Republicans. Who wouldn’t? But that’s how these multi-decade rolling disasters always start, with good intentions. The President publically said he regretted voting for the Iraq War, publically said he opposed military interventionism as the mainstay of foreign policy, then did an about face when his military advisers told him he could help those countries’ peoples. And they were right, in the short-term, but, unlike his military advisers, the President needs to consider the long-term and remember history, especially the last decade.

    Now look, I agree that the Republican’s aren’t offering viable solutions. But if Obama wants to appeal to voters who will simply stay home if there are no appealing options, he’s got to give them something to vote for, not just against.

  133. @ Gulliver: In re the dog, Seamus –

    And it’s disturbing that so many people will ignore the latter and only start to question character when something like the former comes along.

    I disagree. I forget which author, but an author, wrote once that you could always explain and apologize to a human being, when you’ve broken faith, but you can’t ever explain to an animal, and that is why it is so much worse when you betray an animal. They will never understand. That makes sense to me, and seems to explain my (and others’) deep down revulsion at Mr Romney’s treatment of his pet.

    ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

  134. @ Gulliver: While I see and somewhat agree with your frustration about people being more affected by the Seamus incident than by issues involving humans, I think there are a couple of things that may help explain it.

    1) The Seamus incident is fairly straightforward — there’s no complicated issues of political policy or business ethics involved. I think most people who have ever had a pet would think of it as self-evidently wrong.

    2) Most people I know who have pets think of them as family members — not exactly like children, but there’s a fair amount of emotional similarity. Mitt wasn’t firing some faceless employees or being cruelly oblivious to the lives of nameless economically disadvantaged people; in many people’s minds, he was mistreating someone in his immediate family. That “brings it home” in a disturbing way, and probably prompts questions for many people about how he’s treated the rest of the family.

    Also worth noting is that it’s become something of a tradition for the First Family to have one or more dogs. In political terms, it helps humanize the First Family in general and the President in specific. But if the dog was seen to be treated inhumanly, that would backfire something fierce.

  135. Just an odd sideways observation: Usually, by this point in the campaign, the GOP is asking “which candidate would you rather have a beer with?”

  136. @ martin:

    Worth noting that the White House recently released the recipes for their home-brewed beers.

    I *sure* that had no political implications. [cough]

  137. @ mintwitch & Bearpaw

    You both make good points. Perhaps I am being too harsh on the hypothetical voter. I simply would like if it didn’t take something like the Seamus incident to get people looking critical at a candidate.

  138. Your final statement is the thing I worry about the most concerning Romney (and all politicians): ” to whom he’s beholden”. Recent television programs, relating his past charitable acts and kindness to others in his congregation, paint him as kind and caring individual. Regardless of those reports, he is a part of our current political culture. I think he will be expected to serve the interests of the extremists in his party, and the corporations that have alligned themselves behind him. I don’t believe either of those two groups care about the best interests of the majority of Americans. Could he successfully break with them after being elected? Possibly, but I don’t think he would. The nature of the business he created and was most successfull in, Bain, was predatory and designed to make money regardless of the actions required to the business they bought or their employees. That demonstrates a clear attitude that the ends justify the means and looking out for number one is more important than who may be hurt along the way. I know some companys survived and became profitable without being destroyed by Bain, but I think that was only because it was expediant, not out of any desire to preserve them or their employees. This is the lens I see all Romney’s statements and actions through, and why I think his particular business background would influence his political performance.

  139. Bearpaw (and Gulliver and Mintwitch):

    “I think most people who have ever had a pet would think of it as self-evidently wrong….in many people’s minds, he was mistreating someone in his immediate family. That “brings it home” in a disturbing way, and probably prompts questions for many people about how he’s treated the rest of the family.”

    I own three dogs and a cat. I have two daughters. My animals, to me, are just as important members of the family as my daughters and my wife.

    I am a person who does not see this as **self evidently** wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Mr Cybertronic Robot From The Future has a functional empathy chip. But, this is something that is *equally* explainable by a sort of “Gosh, won’t this be win/win for everyone. The dog’s got open air and a wind screen and we’ve got more space in our land yacht containing seven passengers.”

    From the available accounts of the story, after the dog crapped all over the side of the car, Mitt pulled over and cleaned the dog, the cage and the car. And there doesn’t appear to be another account of him driving around with the dog on the car like that. So, equally explainable by the lesson well fucking learned logic. Or maybe not at all. Maybe it really *was* “Well, if you’re going to make me have to bring that dog along it’s riding on the roof because I’m not having anything to do with it’s animal grossness.” Or maybe it was, “Oh yeah, and pack the dog on the roof because we might want to play with it while we’re there. Do you think we should wrap it in plastic to protect it from the elements?”

    It isn’t like he left the dog tied to the bumper at a rest stop and then drove along for miles only to be pulled over by a motorcycle cop. Or, that he shot John Candy in the ass with a pellet gun and held him hostage to break into Wally World. Or, that he gave his son a beer on the side of the road after wrecking the family car driving while lusting after women.

    It was a family vacation thirty years ago. Which is why I tend to agree with Gulliver. A presidential candidate for my country has stated that his health policy would be based on the conception that emergency care is the same as having insurance. “Uh, hello emergency room? My medical emergency is that I have cancer and can’t afford my treatment today. Where’s the line for that?” Where’s the problem with that folks? That’s medicine! Money talks. And I own stock in pharma-tech companies, care providers and insurance groups.

    Personally, I think it was stupid to put the dog on the car. But, you know. It was 1983 and plastic transit crates were the rage. And, they didn’t have the internet to fact check store box advertising photos. And, if I was one of his sons I would have really wanted to ride in it myself. I just don’t see the impact lasting longer than a pee flavored sandwich at a rest area.

    This was one decision, that didn’t kill or maim an animal, thirty years ago. Stupid. Sure. But, the same thing as actual child abuse, or evidence of it?

  140. Well, he pulled over and /hosed down/ the car and the dog, then continued on for hours more. I’m not sure that’s really a ringing endorsement of his empathy.

  141. @Antonio Licata:

    I guess I don’t understand why an issue like gay marriage (which I am for) is more important to people than an economy that is foundering.

    Two points, Antonio.

    1) You do know people can give a shit about more than one thing at a time, right?

    2) When a credible contender for the GOP nomination was well on the record equating being gay to child molestation and bestiality (something Mitt Romney has never explicitly disagreed with AFAIK), excuse this gay man for thinking it’s a pretty big deal. And, to stay remotely on topic, yes it screams volumes to me about Romney’s character. Either he really believes I’m equivalent to an animal-shagging kiddie-fiddler, in which case: Fuck you right back, Mitt. Or he doesn’t believe a word of it, but won’t say so because hey… votes and poll points are all that matter, right? Which is even worse, in my book.

  142. rochrist:

    “I’m not sure that’s really a ringing endorsement of his empathy.”

    Well. It isn’t a ringing endorsement of his lack of empathy. Logistically speaking, at that point it is just as fair to suspect they were committed to the arrangement half way to their destination.

    Comparing half the population to lazy entitled lotus eaters versus the dog story, one obviously has significantly more mass. And “there” there. Or whatever the expression.

  143. this is a guy who dismissed his speaking fees for one year as “insignificant”. They were $300,000+ for the year!

    Er. I’m guessing this is more than he paid in taxes?

  144. Big salute to John Brown. Nicely said, John. I haven’t read No Apology yet, but your post makes me want to. I think I might just do that before November 6. It would be nice to read Romney in his own words, as opposed to what others say about him based strictly on a political reading-of-the-tea-leaves. If Romney were in court I think it would be fair to let him speak on his own behalf. Regardless of whether or not some in the jury box had convicted him in their minds before the case was even heard.

    Also a salute to Nathaniel Givens (and John Brown) for providing details on the religious dimension to Romney’s people perspective. No LDS Bishop or Stake President serves without getting an eyeful of the hardship and woe of the ward (parish) or stake (diocese) over which he presides. And there is hardship and woe in every ward and stake in the world. I myself have lived in wealthy ones, but currently live in a very not-wealthy one. The issues the Bishop and Stake President must wrestle with as lay counselors, dispensers of church stores and funds to assist the needy, as well as lay ecclesiastical leaders, are difficult to describe to non-members. Suffice to say that it’s a tough job, there is precious little formal preparation, nobody gets paid for it, and I’ve seen it bring grown men to weep before their brothers and sisters in the church. Because these men know better than anyone what it means to be a flawed mortal who is given tremendous responsibility — and for which there will sometimes be no easy answers.

    There have been a few plaintiffs from MA who’ve chimed in with negative views of Romney’s time as Governor. I want to gently suggest that while I am sure such complaints are valid — in the views of the plaintiffs — they are also anecdotal, and lack sufficient sample balance. Ergo, I would like to hear from some pro-Romney Massachusetts Republicans too. Just to get the other side of the coin. I know that won’t happen here in this space. I just feel the need to point out the skew.

    Now, to brush the edge of something important (but off the topic) way up-thread:

    …the philosophies of the Democratic and Republican Parties have some severe flaws. The Democratic Party seems incapable of confronting the demographic time bomb of exploding entitlement spending, while the Republican Party seems incapable of ever conceding that balancing a budget requires tax increases. — Sean Patrick Hazlett

    I thought this reduction of the key economic policy problems with both parties was so startlingly crystalline, that it deserved special emphasis. This is not the thread to discuss the parties in depth so I won’t belabor things, but I still felt this bit of analysis from Sean was so good it simply deserved to be highlighted — for its aptness.

    Back to Romney the person . . .

    One of the things I’ve tried hard to do (and have often failed to do) in the last ten years, is separate my feelings on the policies and politics of a candidate, from the candidate himself — or herself.

    My wife’s supernaturally good at this. During the Bush years she was staunchly not in favor of virtually everything Bush stood for as a Republican and a President, but she vehemently disliked the aspersions cast on George W. Bush the human being. This often put her at odds with friends who could not stand GWB and were mystified that someone who shared their politics would even bother to consider Bush as anything other than a complete and total cretin.

    I admire my wife a great deal, as long-timers here will no doubt already know. And so I have tried to emulate her on this. Not always successfully. But I have tried. I didn’t like McCain all that much and I did not vote for him, but I tried to remind myself of his essential quality and value as a decent person who has served (and suffered) for his country.

    I didn’t think Obama was great either. Didn’t vote for him. To be honest I thought the euphoric, almost religious fervor of his campaign in 2008 was unsettling. But I have worked since 2008 to remind myself that despite Obama’s political problems, he has been a faithful husband, a solid father, an intellectual who has sought to understand something of how the world works, and while I disagree with some of the conclusions he seems to have reached, he’s still worthy of respect in or out of the White House. As a citizen and a fellow traveler.

    Again, I’ve not always been perfect in this. But I credit myself with at least making the effort — many who oppose Obama do not do this, and in fact make every effort to cast the worst kind of aspersions on him. And I have a hard time going there. I can’t hate Obama the way some conservative seem to want me to hate him.

    I do wish people on the flip side had as hard a time hating Romney.

    I have been paying attention to Mitt Romney since the Olympics in 2002. I think it’s very true that he is a manager above almost everything else. And whether or not a “management” style is well-suited to national leadership, I think Mitt is the kind of guy who seeks solutions as much as he can and prefers to seek them in partnership with everyone at the table — or at least as many as he can get to cooperate in the process. Perhaps he has run too far to the right in this election cycle — to feed the “red meat” ideologues — but I’m not sure this makes Mitt a horrible person? When he wins in November and takes office next January I expect he will rightly annoy many, many Republicans by immediately trying to engage the Democrats in constructive talks regarding the federal budget, taxation, and spending. As opposed to being a chest-thumping blowhard like Newt Gingrich is too prone to being.

    Of course, this won’t satisfy the partisans on the other side, for whom even being identified as Republican in any way is a mortal sin. Many have lambasted Mitt’s 47% remark and I think his only mistake was in misidentifying the motives behind the 47% who won’t vote for him. It’s not all about subsidy. A great deal of it is about pure ideology: the belief that for a man to be a Republican or even a conservative of any sort, that man must be a Bad Man. A no-gooder. Not the kind of chap you shake hands with. A scamp. A scoundrel. And much worse.

    Only, Mitt’s none of that.

    Let me tell you what I think of Mitt, based on his actions. Not his words per say, but what I know he has done in fact.

    I think Mitt’s worked very hard to overcome his silver-spoon birth by not sitting back and lollygagging with his inheritance. I think his financial success has long since dwarfed anything his father gave him, and Mitt’s done it more or less honestly, by-the-book. Like a good businessman should. He’s broken no laws. He’s paid all of his taxes. He’s given enormous amounts to his church and also to charity in general. All of this has been according to the rules. I think perhaps his only flaw (for liberal eyes and ears) is that he’s done all of this and he’s not said he’s sufficiently sorry for being a rich man. He has not uttered the proper progressive pseudo-Marxist pieties about the evils of wealth. He’s not rushed to prop himself up as some kind of poverty crusader in the acceptable liberal mold of LBJ or, more aptly, FDR.

    But again I think that Mitt’s not a scoundrel. I believe he is a good fellow. He has acted appropriately and lawfully and he’s worked quite hard at all of it too. So while I do think it’s fair for people to ding him on policy or political points, I think aspersions of character or moral strength are unfounded — and largely informed by the requisite slanders of the political season.

    To cut closer to the bone, I think Mitt’s also been a rock-solid companion to Ann Romney, whom I also find unimpeachable in the personal propriety department. They’ve each worked very hard together to raise five upstanding sons who will do credit to the family, their church, and to the country — as decent men in general. Anyone who is a parent should be able to respect that. Likewise, I think Mitt and Ann have each seen their fair portion of relationship trials, temptations, and hardships. To include — but not limited to just — her cancer and MS. All of this while trying honestly to be engaged with the world around them in positive ways. Regardless of how wealthy they’ve been. In fact, I can’t think of very many people of comparable wealth who have lived lives significantly cleaner or better — as people committed to each other and to their beliefs and their definite sense of what’s right and what’s wrong.

    Again, for partisans determined to see Mitt Romney (and his wife) in as poor a light as possible, I fear no amount of apologia can suffice. And I do not expect anything I write here to impact the mind of a dedicated partisan.

    In fact when Romney assumes the mantle of President next year I expect the partisan complaints to intensify enormously.

    All I ask of the non-partisans is that each person who has a potential policy beef with Mitt about governance take a moment to consider that Mitt’s not a monster.

    Part of what makes our political process diseased is that we the voters seem to feel overwhelmingly compelled to monsterize people and politicians with whom we disagree. It’s always been like this, so far as I can tell. Sometimes beyond all levels of rationality. Maybe some of us really do need to hate someone — with a hot, eternal hate — in order to oppose them? I’d like to think that we as a society can push back on this trend. It is possible. There is no rule that says our national policy debate has to be a blood sport. I realize many or even most of Whatever’s regulars will immediately blame conservatives and Republicans for fanning the flames and leaping over boundaries of propriety. I know plenty of conservatives and Republicans who would make the same claim against liberals and Democrats.

    I think for each of us it’s just got to be a personal revelation: that point where you look at the people around you and you’re forced to conclude that half of them simply cannot be terrible in the way our political dialogue insists they must be terrible. It just can’t be. They’re neighbors and friends and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and so on and so forth. Half of them can’t be awful. To claim that half the country (or more) are terrible in the way partisans insist they are terrible seems to fly completely in the face of what each of us knows in our hearts to be the reality.

    Because really, whatever political thing you claim to hate and despise, chances are good there is someone somewhere you love and care about who believes in or participates in our espouses that political thing. So just be careful? You wouldn’t call those people monsters. Thus Obama and Romney aren’t monsters either.

  145. Brad: not many people here say Romney is a monster; they say he is unfit to be President. They adduce tangible evidence such as his intervention to interfere in a medical decision by a mother who had already been given LDS approval for a procedure to save her life. Or his asking LDS approval to lie in order to gain political office in a particular state. You count these as anecdotes and not worth our time, yet you say we should read a giant pile of anecdote carefully assembled by the most biased source possible before making up our minds. (And ignore Mitt’s other words which were not carefully pre-packaged beforehand.) You indicate that no one “on this site” would give the other side of the story. I have seen plenty of people willing to stick it to the Man (the Man here being JS) commenting here. If the sound of crickets is all you hear when people ask for pro-Romney comments on his time as their Governor/stake holder, etc., you should consider whether that is actually the answer the Universe is giving on this topic.

    His 47% comment was either 1) not what he meant or 2) intentional. Either he did not mean to elide the percentage of people who pay no Federal income tax with the percentage who would not vote for a Republican or he did. If the former, he should have corrected himself. He did not do so; so one is forced to think that he really is that dumb and frankly, thoughtless, considering how many loyal Republican voters do not pay Federal income tax. All the spin in the world on what his comments mean is useless if the facts he is working from are false to begin with. All his apologists try to find a different meaning for what he said, except Romeny himself keeps getting in the way and saying “Yes, that is what I meant. I did it. I killed that fat bar-keep!!!”

    On a another personal character note, Romney has a huge problem with loyalty. He is from Michigan, but then he comes out and says let one of the most important aspects of Michigan die. While he was governor of Massachusetts, he was bad-mouthing it to look cool for the big kids at Conservative Prep. The Governor of Ohio is not pretending his state is in the doldrums, even though this would suit the national party, because his first loyalty is to the state he serves and downplaying its economic success would hurt people and businesses there. Romney does not have the basics of integrity down, nor can he even fake the basics of integrity. And to be fair, maintaining certain images and fictions is required in political life; it is not just simple dishonesty in the personal sense. Romney cannot even accomplish that. If you think this man even meets the basics of competency that I saw in George H. W. Bush and Dole, even when I disagreed with their policies, then I must say Good Day to you, sir and discount just about any other judgement calls I see you make.

  146. Privateiron: regarding your observation on Mtt’s “loyalty problem” and the auto industry. All personality aside, this is one of the biggest disconnects in the current GOP and Romney carries this water as well as any of them. This is classic “let the Market decide” thinking. Let the auto industry go under, that’s “natural” according their version of free market thinking. No controls, no regulations, no bailouts. Something—theoretically—will rise from the debris to takes it place.

    A lot of Americans seem to want to believe this. They like the sound of “Free Market Economy.” But it’s all based on a fundamental misconception. Sure, Adam Smith advocated free markets, but when you look at what he wrote, he was describing something that could not exist. What he meant, and what I think most people hear when someone says “free market”, is Open Access Market, which is not the same thing, but closer to intent. Because the fact of the matter is, there is no such thing as a free market—someone or some group of someones always controls access, dictates how the game is played and who gets to play. Right now, the rhetoric suggests that if the government “got out of the way” the free market would magically appear. This ignores the fact that in the past it has always been the powerful who set the rules and dominated the market. The average American I think either forgets this or never realized it. An Open Access Market by definition then requires gatekeepers to make sure as many players as possible get a chance to play and that the play is kept as fair as possible.

    Where this comes down on Romney is that he has been one of the unofficial gatekeepers for a long time, so when the whole free market riff comes out of his mouth, it is pure hypocrisy. Let the auto industry fail and entities like Bain will be right there feeding on the carcass, and not to the benefit of all the ancillary industries that would go under. He’s a manager, as noted above, but of the sort that doesn’t see people as people but as parts. We seem to need managers like that in certain positions, to keep things running, but I think they should never be in overall charge. They should be overseen and managed. Otherwise we end up with a situation very much like the one we’re in now.

  147. Big salute to John Brown.

    I hope that, as a writer, you’re being facetious here. I mean, c’mon, that wasn’t even halfway descent ad copy. In fact, if he hadn’t responded to replies (and I really didn’t expect that he would) I would have assumed it was exactly that: bad ad copy.

  148. @ Brad R. Torgersen

    During the Bush years she was staunchly not in favor of virtually everything Bush stood for as a Republican and a President, but she vehemently disliked the aspersions cast on George W. Bush the human being.

    Unfortunately, human nature is such that shouting schoolyard insults often drowns out substantive criticism. Nowhere have I seen this flaw taken to such a level as in the aspersions cast on Barack Obama. I’d blame our celebrity culture, but I know enough about history to know it’s nothing new, so I suspect the order causation is the other way around or they are both caused by some innate drive to confront inaccessible figures as personalities rather than works and policies.

    This often put her at odds with friends who could not stand GWB and were mystified that someone who shared their politics would even bother to consider Bush as anything other than a complete and total cretin.

    Not to drift off topic, but my opinion of Dubya the person was that he might be a swell guy as long as he had no real power of the lives of other people.

    But I have worked since 2008 to remind myself that despite Obama’s political problems, he has been a faithful husband, a solid father, an intellectual who has sought to understand something of how the world works, and while I disagree with some of the conclusions he seems to have reached, he’s still worthy of respect in or out of the White House. As a citizen and a fellow traveler.

    Would that more would follow your example. But character assassination mobilizes more voters than policy debate, so that’s the sentiment that political campaigns and movements stoke.

    I do wish people on the flip side had as hard a time hating Romney.

    I don’t hate Romney because I don’t know Romney. I hate Romney’s politics, and that’s what I’d be voting for.

    Perhaps he has run too far to the right in this election cycle — to feed the “red meat” ideologues — but I’m not sure this makes Mitt a horrible person?

    Just a horrible statesman. It says he’ll twist the truth and his own heart if that’s what it takes to win the election. Contrast with Ron Paul who, for all the, IMO, serious flaws of his politics, resolutely refused to tell the Republicans what they wanted to hear. I agree with neither politician, but I trust Ron Paul to stand by his word, which is all a statesman really has.

    Of course, this won’t satisfy the partisans on the other side, for whom even being identified as Republican in any way is a mortal sin.

    See, there you’re, doubtless without meaning to, doing the same thing that liberals often to do conservatives, in conflating all partisans with wing-nuts.

    I think perhaps his only flaw (for liberal eyes and ears) is that he’s done all of this and he’s not said he’s sufficiently sorry for being a rich man.

    A lot of liberals would just like him to demonstrate some unfeigned awareness of what the other half deals with. Yes there are those on the left who think wealth is a sin, but most, I believe, simply want the wealthy’s empathy so they know they won’t be seen as lazy moochers for being poor. Because, let me tell you, I grew up poor and my dad put his life on the line for yours and my freedoms, so Romney’s little 47% offhand remark and the like doesn’t sit so well with me.

  149. Big salute to John Brown. Nicely said, John. I haven’t read No Apology yet, but your post makes me want to. I think I might just do that before November 6. It would be nice to read Romney in his own words, as opposed to what others say about him based strictly on a political reading-of-the-tea-leaves. If Romney were in court I think it would be fair to let him speak on his own behalf. Regardless of whether or not some in the jury box had convicted him in their minds before the case was even heard.

    Actual words coming out of his mouth: Lies of the liberal media!
    Words run through at least two editors and changed in between book editions: The unfiltered truth!

    Do you see how silly this sounds?

    There have been a few plaintiffs from MA who’ve chimed in with negative views of Romney’s time as Governor. I want to gently suggest that while I am sure such complaints are valid — in the views of the plaintiffs — they are also anecdotal, and lack sufficient sample balance. Ergo, I would like to hear from some pro-Romney Massachusetts Republicans too. Just to get the other side of the coin. I know that won’t happen here in this space. I just feel the need to point out the skew.

    That’s not balance, because you’re not asking for how he was viewed as a whole, you’re asking for views that cancel each other out. Public opinion of him from MA residents is by all accounts very negative, so it should be unsurprising that accounts here follow that opinion.

    My wife’s supernaturally good at this. During the Bush years she was staunchly not in favor of virtually everything Bush stood for as a Republican and a President, but she vehemently disliked the aspersions cast on George W. Bush the human being. This often put her at odds with friends who could not stand GWB and were mystified that someone who shared their politics would even bother to consider Bush as anything other than a complete and total cretin.

    To use your own words: I want to gently suggest that while I am sure such complaints are valid–in the views of the plaintiffs–they are also anecdotal. A lot of the complaints about Bush were that he was an OK guy to sit around and talk sports or family; but he had, at best, a mediocre business and political record, and projected an image of an man-of-the-earth Southern man despite coming from and living an old-money New England life with a long history of politics.

    Perhaps he has run too far to the right in this election cycle — to feed the “red meat” ideologues — but I’m not sure this makes Mitt a horrible person?

    That, of course, can be even worse in context. It’s one thing to be to far to the right because that’s what you actually believe, but it’s arguably worse to be fundamentally untrue to yourself in the pursuit of a position power. That suggests a certain craven nature that speaks ill of how one would govern.

    I expect he will rightly annoy many, many Republicans by immediately trying to engage the Democrats in constructive talks regarding the federal budget, taxation, and spending.

    In other words, he would govern pretty much as Obama did? After all, Obama passed a health care plan that is essentially identical to one that was seen by conservatives in the 90s as the only real solution for containing health costs in a recession (down to the call for an individual mandate), and has raised taxes less than the Reagan–the man the modern GOP sometimes refers to by the honorific “Ronaldus Magnus”–yet the former is literally the worst combination of socialism and fascism since Stalin and Hitler were both in power, and the latter is ignored so that Obama can be called a brutal killer of jobs and a class warrior who is thisclose to turning us into the United Socialist States of America.

    Many have lambasted Mitt’s 47% remark and I think his only mistake was in misidentifying the motives behind the 47% who won’t vote for him.

    Would that I could believe this. But you’ve already invested time in pushing the narrative that he was right as originally interpreted, despite all evidence to the contrary, and you have a long posting history which strongly suggests that you agree with the sentiment.

    And as you seem willing to ignore time and time again, the issue isn’t the 47% themselves, it’s that Romney says that his job “is not to worry about those people” and that they never “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” If he believes that is true, then that is a shocking lack of empathy and compassion for his fellow human beings based on a complete misinterpretation of the entitlement and tax system that he is supposedly aware of and wants to control. If he doesn’t, then he’s suppressing his own morality to pander to a set of people that lack that empathy and compassion themselves in order to advance his personal goals. Either way, it’s an extremely nasty character flaw, based on a sentiment that as far as I can tell is unprecedented by any major party candidate of the modern campaigns for President. Obama may not agree with the people who are against him, but he doesn’t absolve himself of the responsibility to care for them and lead them. Regardless of whether or not you agree if he’s going about it the right way, he is exercising his version of that responsibility (and in most cases, an overwhelming majority of the economic and scientific communities agree with him) and compassion for the people that didn’t vote for him and in many cases consider him a villain of the worst order.

    I think Mitt’s worked very hard to overcome his silver-spoon birth by not sitting back and lollygagging with his inheritance. I think his financial success has long since dwarfed anything his father gave him

    And what you have a fundamental misunderstanding of is that his inheritance, his family’s position in life, and all of the advantages that came with that life made it very easy for him to put himself into a position of financial success. And he’s not alone, either, because most of the people in financial world come from the same position. It’s not an easy world to break into, and although some do, they’re a distinct minority.

    Mitt’s done it more or less honestly, by-the-book. Like a good businessman should. He’s broken no laws. He’s paid all of his taxes. He’s given enormous amounts to his church and also to charity in general. All of this has been according to the rules.

    There’s nothing wrong with doing things by the rules. The problem is that the rules are easy to break if you have enough money. There are no rules saying you can’t put your money in the Cayman Islands. There are no rules saying you can’t give money away in order to make it look like you should have a lower tax rate. There are no rules saying that investments shouldn’t be taxed much lower than salaries. But it doesn’t make them fair, or right. There are millions of Americans that are about the same age as Romney, who worked hard all their lives, who. But how many of them have $20 million retirement accounts that are only allowed $5000 deposits per year? How many of them can say that they make $300,000/year doing nothing but talking? How many of them have several houses all over the country, and have friends who own sports teams? As far as I can tell, the major differences between those millions of people and Romney are that they were not given the advantages he was from birth all the way through adulthood, and that they don’t have the money to take advantage of those rules.

    I think perhaps his only flaw (for liberal eyes and ears) is that he’s done all of this and he’s not said he’s sufficiently sorry for being a rich man. He has not uttered the proper progressive pseudo-Marxist pieties about the evils of wealth. He’s not rushed to prop himself up as some kind of poverty crusader in the acceptable liberal mold of LBJ or, more aptly, FDR.

    Or, even more aptly, Jesus.

  150. that wasn’t even halfway descent ad copy.

    DocRockScience,

    Indeed, not. The fact is that Scalzi’s assessment doesn’t square with the three things I mentioned. I can understand why folks would be suspicious that NO APOLOGY would be a PR puff piece. But I am surprised at how a number here refuse to even test their assumptions with ten to fifteen minutes of reading (or listening on audio). With an open mind, of course.
    .
    Too bad for them. They’re missing out.
    .
    For those who think they know Romney from what’s being reported in the press, I want to suggest you listen to or read Pat Caddell’s recent comments on 9/21/12 at the Accuracy in Media conference. Caddell is a Democrat, BTW. He is the founder of Cambridge Survey Research, a public opinion pollster, and an expert in analyzing public opinion. He’s been working for democratic campaigns for a long, long time. He started with the McGovern campaign. Then worked for the Jimmy Carter campaign, for Gary Hart, for Joe Biden, and Jerry Brown. His speech is titled “The Audacity of Corruption”. Find it here: http://www.aim.org/video/pat-caddell-the-audacity-of-corruption/

  151. But I am surprised at how a number here refuse to even test their assumptions with ten to fifteen minutes of reading (or listening on audio). With an open mind, of course.

    The problem here isn’t the need to test assumptions. We already have his words, unedited and unfiltered, and said much more recently. What is the book going to tell us about how he would govern that he hasn’t already told us?

    For those who think they know Romney from what’s being reported in the press, I want to suggest you listen to or read Pat Caddell’s recent comments on 9/21/12 at the Accuracy in Media conference.

    Accuracy in Media is a self-described conservative watchdog group with a nasty history, including being one of the major promoters of the “Clinton murdered Vince Foster” conspiracy theory and aiding the Reagan administration’s cover-up of a massacre by El Salvadoran forces they were supporting.

    Caddell is a Democrat, BTW.

    Actually, not really, at least not since 1992. He very publicly split with Democrats during a lawsuit against his previous consulting firm, and has spent most of the last 20 years promoting stuff that most Democrats disagree with, like gays deserving to be second-class citizens and environmentalism as socialism, as well as anti-Democrat films, including ones that attacked Kerry and Obama.

    His speech is titled “The Audacity of Corruption”.

    That speech at AIM is basically Fox News talking points with a bit of conspiracy bloviating thrown in as red meat, In other words, you’re cherry-picking a biased source speaking to a biased audience sponsored by a biased organization. Surely you must have something from someone a little more even-keeled?

  152. You know, this kind of pathological bullshit –

    I think perhaps his only flaw (for liberal eyes and ears) is that he’s done all of this and he’s not said he’s sufficiently sorry for being a rich man. He has not uttered the proper progressive pseudo-Marxist pieties about the evils of wealth.

    – never ceases to amaze me. Liberals (which nowadays means anyone even slightly to the left of Attila the Hun) look at massive financial and corporate malfeasance and say “Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if there were laws against that sort thing (again) and folks were required to abide by them,” and the self-styled conservative intellectuals settle back and cluck disapprovingly and act like what we said was the kind of thing alleged above. Do they have to tie themselves in Gordian knots to believe this, or is there simply a missing “honesty gene” in their makeup?

  153. The fact is that Scalzi’s assessment doesn’t square with the three things I mentioned. I can understand why folks would be suspicious that NO APOLOGY would be a PR puff piece. But I am surprised at how a number here refuse to even test their assumptions with ten to fifteen minutes of reading (or listening on audio).

    That’s kinda arrogant, given that people here have demonstrated that they HAVE listened and read.

    And this is kinda arrogant, too:

    For those who think they know Romney from what’s being reported in the press,

    Dude, that’s ALL we can go on for anyone. And it’s not something that’s out of Romney’s control to counter. Even a schlub like me can do things to counter it.

    If the media portrayal of Romney doesn’t match up with who he “truly” is, then it’s rank incompetence on his part.

    At some point, you have to conclude, “he is who we thought he was.”

  154. Of course, this won’t satisfy the partisans on the other side, for whom even being identified as Republican in any way is a mortal sin. Many have lambasted Mitt’s 47% remark and I think his only mistake was in misidentifying the motives behind the 47% who won’t vote for him. It’s not all about subsidy. A great deal of it is about pure ideology: the belief that for a man to be a Republican or even a conservative of any sort, that man must be a Bad Man. A no-gooder. Not the kind of chap you shake hands with. A scamp. A scoundrel. And much worse.

    Wait, Brad, you’re criticizing the left for adducing personal behavior about someone (Romney) based on their positions on the issues? And you’re doing this by adducing personal behavior about someone (the American left) based on their positions on the issues?

    The kettle called, and is quite hurt about you naming its color.

  155. Having said, I’m not sure why I’m responding, given Brad’s “One post and I’m OUT” policy on threads.

  156. Okay, briefly, because I have a day job and I’m supposed to be doing it…

    My impressions in re: No Apology: The Case for American Greatness by Mitt Romney

    Back in junior high, I started a project to read every book written by a US President. I began with JFK, because I was doing a report on RFK, and the Kennedy story is fascinating. Nowadays, I also read books by contemporary Presidential candidates, Cabinet members, other pols that interest me, et cetera. I’ve read a metric fuckton of political memoirs, autobiographies, and histories, “in their own words” (cough). So, when Mr Romney declared, I checked out No Apology.

    The style is fine. Mr Romney is a decent writer, with a decent editor. He gets his points across clearly and cleanly. The prose never rises above workmanlike, but that’s perfectly acceptable. Frankly, most books of the genre are super-boring. Mr Romney’s book is not boring, although it’s sometimes patronizing or schmaltzy.

    The policy is…questionable. On foreign policy, Mr Romney appears to believe in American Imperialism: that America leads the world in all ways and should dictate the behavior of other governments. He’s crystal clear on this one–it’s why he named the book No Apology. Mr Romney feels that–although President Obama never once used the words “sorry” or “I apologize” during his introductory tours–President Obama was apologizing for America, because he didn’t tell every other nation on the planet to suck it up, we da boss. Mr Romney explicitly believes in unilateral action; using force and intimidation, rather than diplomacy; and that torturing brown people is a lovely idea–recently, Mr Romney has said he would rescind the executive order against torture on his first day in office, so he is consistent, at least.

    On domestic policy, Mr Romney believes that myself, and people like me, are not Americans and are not entitled to full citizenship, equal protection before the law, and property rights. He’s very clear on this. He doesn’t use the those exact words, I’m sure, but his views on marriage equality in the book are consistent with his current presentation.

    He also believes that, due to my gender, my primary responsibility is to bear children, including that of my probable rapist (since that’s the only way I could possibly conceive), and therefore that my body is not my property–it is common land, upon which any fertile male may sow and harvest a crop, without my consent. Again, my words, but I don’t need to be mealy-mouthed about abortion access; I’m not running for office.

    Less personally, on education, for example, Mr Romney was full of praise for the Finnish educational system, which is run by an extremely powerful public union, yet Mr Romney does not believe in public unions. IIRC, he conflates his facts several times while discussing things like education, carbon taxes, and environmental regulations; he comes out for business regulations; and he proposes the view that taxing very wealthy individuals less will make them work harder, but taxing the poorest more will… make them work harder. I still don’t understand this one, but the theory seems to be 1. the stakeholder argument, and 2. by taking more of the poorest American’s money for taxes, they will work harder and longer to stay afloat and somehow that will stimulate the economy, while taxing rich people more will be a disincentive to working because Trust Me, I’m a Rich Guy, and We’re Different Than You People. No, really, there was a lot of that in the book. To me, that reads as really patronizing and disingenuous steal underpants-???-PROFIT.

    Mr Romney spends an unfortunate amount of time at the end of the book, the last 2 or 3 chapters, I think, moralizing. Medical marijuana is for hedonistic hippies who refuse to grow up and take responsibility for their lives–he does not acknowledge George Washington, America’s founding stoner, or the rest of our pot-head politicians from before the Reefer Madness era.

    Poor people are similarly responsible for their degraded state; the way out is through education. I remember this one clearly, because he advocates getting as much education as one can afford, but doesn’t seem to understand that without financial aid, some people can’t afford any education, yet he didn’t seem too keen on financial aid–not public, because that is the same as entitlements, and not (implicitly) private, because poor people are irresponsible and can’t be trusted to manage money. That was a catch 22 that I couldn’t get past.

    It’s not a badly written book, and it solidly reinforced my impressions of Mr Romney; he thinks of himself as a good person, and he is by the rules by which he lives. Nonetheless, those rules, to me, embrace an ethos that is fundamentally repugnant, even obscene. I’ve rarely felt so unclean after reading something that should be innocuous. I followed it by spending a couple of weeks reading slash pr0n fanfic based on BBC shows. Much more wholesome.

  157. John Brown, indeed yes, your original post does in fact read like a badly written advert for the governor’s book, which makes it difficult for me to take you seriously. Sorry*, but that’s what that post did.

    *I’m not really sorry.

    BTW, everyone, I’m suddenly reminded that responding to Brad is totally unnecessary. He made it clear recently that all he wants to do is drop his oh-so-important opinion in the thread (I’m pretty sure theres a term for that…) and run back home. So, my bad for forgetting, too. Maybe we just need t title any responses “Reasons why Brad is wrong today.”

  158. BTW, everyone, I’m suddenly reminded that responding to Brad is totally unnecessary. He made it clear recently that all he wants to do is drop his oh-so-important opinion in the thread (I’m pretty sure theres a term for that…) and run back home.

    I thought John said he’d consider that threadcrapping and not allow it if he started doing it again.

  159. I’m not going to force anyone to engage in a conversation, Genufett.

    One does put one’s worldview at a disadvantage when one pops in to assert a thing and then has one’s assertions comprehensively dismantled, and then does not reply; it can give the implication there is no good response to the dismantling.

    It’s also worth noting again that one responds to the “pop in and out” posters not for the sake of the posters, but for the sake of those reading along.

  160. My apologies, John. But yes, the response is less for Brad and more for the the invisible readers.

    Note to self: Ask Obama for the power to turn invisible in exchange for my vote.

  161. @ mintwitch

    Thanks for the information. While I never went through every political memoir by every POTUS, I did pick up the habit in the late 90’s of reading those by candidates for which I can actually vote. Strangely enough, McCain’s have been some of the best, and make his latter day disintegration all the more sad. But I hadn’t gotten around to Romney’s campaign prep book, so the precis is appreciated, even though I know it’s no substitute for reading it myself.

  162. @Doc Rocketscience, not only are there lurkers, but long experience on the internet has taught me that most people who insist they’re just going to say one thing and then never look at the discussion again are….let’s be charitable and say their confidence in their own willpower is perhaps misplaced.

    Brad’s points appear to be that Romney’s public record and public statements are “tea leaves” when read by anyone except Brad and those who share his admiration for Romney; people who have personal experience with Romney (as constitutents or as members of his congregation) are to be ignored; and any criticism of Romney stems from a partisan, nigh-Marxist hatred of the rich. In other words, Brad accuses others of exactly the kind of squishy, feelings-based, I’ve-made-up-my-minds-so-no-facts-thank-you approach to Romney that he himself practices.

    Seriously, it reminds me of one of Those Relationships, the one where your friend is utterly blind to their SO’s flaws, makes excuses for them, rewrites history, accuses anyone who doesn’t also think the SO is fabulous of being ‘jealous’ or trying to break them up, and is otherwise wholly impervious to hearing that their intended is anything but wonderful because we’re in looooove.

  163. Liberals (which nowadays means anyone even slightly to the left of Attila the Hun) look at massive financial and corporate malfeasance and say “Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if there were laws against that sort thing (again) and folks were required to abide by them,” and the self-styled conservative intellectuals settle back and cluck disapprovingly and act like what we said was the kind of thing alleged above. Do they have to tie themselves in Gordian knots to believe this, or is there simply a missing “honesty gene” in their makeup?

    Characteristic of the liberal attitude is the dishonest package-dealing of regulatory fiat and laws. If the liberals aren’t missing an honesty gene, then they can eminently be said to have an ignorance gene mutation in its place. And the self-styled liberal intellectuals are most certainly not ignorant.

    It’s well and good to talk about fighting crime with laws, but conveniently ignored (or justified by Marxist ideology) is the premise of the state’s place in imposing moral standards: Regulation isn’t just legislation. It’s tax policy driving social policy. You point to corporate crime, but you need to think wider, into environmentalism, low-incoming homeownership, and other notions otherwise unsustainable without government subsidy contra reality. More essentially, think about the imposition of these notions of goodness on individuals in markets that necessarily function not on some a priori basis of what’s good, but on objective good of voluntary, mutually beneficial trade. Don’t subsidize low-income mortgages and then be outraged when the market attempts to profit from the inherently unprofitable.

    The regulatory system justifies itself on the idea that ‘you [all] might do wrong’, and then ascribes all misery consequent to its coercive, distorting effect on markets, as the fault of anyone else but itself, by what standard do we stop such a system from perpetuating; from correcting what is actually broken? I imagine, until we bleed productive men dry, until the regulatory vise makes it more expensive to start a business than to close one down.

    I’ll be voting for Romney. Not because I expect him to be consistently good, but because voting for the nihilist in office, unrestrained now from the pressure of another re-election, will be much, much worse.

  164. The noelang514 post, rewritten as free verse for a poetry slam (all words the same, order roughly so, some added punctation)

    The dishonest package-dealing of regulatory fiat and laws,
    Missing,
    Missing,
    Missing an honesty gene!

    Self-styled liberal intellectuals most certainly not ignorant
    FIGHTING CRIME!
    The state’s place
    Imposing moral standards, imposing.

    Duck! Low-incoming homeownership
    Contra reality
    The imposition of goodness
    Some a priori basis,
    What’s good, objective good?

    OUTRAGED.

    “You [all] might do wrong”
    Misery consequent.
    Coercive, distorting effects on markets.

    We bleed productive men dry.
    The regulatory vise.
    What is actually broken?

    The nihilist in office,
    Unrestrained now.

    Much,
    Much,
    Worse.

  165. Oh, be nice, David. That was actually a good, articulate post by noelang514, albeit saddled with objectivist clap-trap (I know because of the phrase “bleed productive men dry”) and a stunning and probably willful disregard of the role of deregulation in the Great Recession (i.e. that deregulation, which opened the door for the attempt to “profit from the unprofitable”, pretty much caused it).

  166. That was actually a good, articulate post by noelang514, albeit saddled with objectivist clap-trap

    Oh please. There was nothing but objectivist clap-trap in it.

    This poetry stuff’s silly

    You mistyped AWESOME!

  167. Is Romney a good person?

    He is a man with no convictions and no priciples which he will not sell to the highest bidder or potential voter in front of him. He says what he thinks people want to hear and will if that means saying up is down and left is rigbt to one crowd and the complete opposite the next day, then so be it. He passed Romney care in Massachusetts and then criticizes Obamacare because thats what the Koch brothers and other one percenters want to hear. This means his only real guiding principle is do whatever it takes to become president and to hell with the priciples. This says his only guiding principle is power and to acquire as much of it as he can.

    I dont know who would call that “good”, but it ought to cause people to run screaming from the idea of a Romney presidency.

  168. @Brad: “I don’t do X just because of reason Y” is a phrasing that means “While I have other and perhaps even greater motivations for doing X, it’s absolutely true that one of the reasons I do X is reason Y.”

    If you were trying to say that your motivation in one-and-done posting is not about fucking with people, you unwittingly said the opposite. If you were trying to be clever about admitting you like to fuck with people, well, it was pretty ham-handed, even for a humble lay conservative such as yourself.

  169. @mythago, I don’t think fucking with people a little bit is particularly a cardinal sin, even for a conservative.

  170. mintwich:

    Haiku. Five, seven, five (syllables). John’s post about the poetry. Count ‘em.

    I didn’t get it either, until after David’s last reply.

  171. JS’s comment, reorganized:

    “All right, you people.
    This poetry stuff’s silly.
    Let’s settle down, please”

    Google “5 7 5″

  172. Ah, I think I see what Mythago is talking about. Yup. It can totally read that way. My bad for poor phrasing. I should have written, “it’s not because” as opposed to “it’s not just because.” I’m not here to mess with folks. My fingers are not crossed behind my back. I put a premium on sincerity — both for myself and for the people across the table.

  173. @noelang514 –

    That’s not completely bad, but you didn’t slip in any non sequitirs about the enabling of Islamofascim, Kenyan anti-colonialism, Statism, reverse racism, or the Conspiracy Of The Liberal Media. And those are still on the list of required conservative talking points this week. I’ll give you partial credit for the implicit racism of sneering at mortgages for low-income (i.e; mostly African-American) people, but your execution was tepid. Your assigment is to spend the next two weeks with nothing but Limbaugh and Hannity for company, isolating ten key phrases of each, and then return here to regurgitate them in the approved manner. You are allowed to use Conservapaedia to check your work. Failure means the suspension of your right-wing wanna-be hack card until after the election. Begin now.

  174. @ Eric Saveau

    Criticizing policies for low-income Americans is implicitly racist because centuries of slavery/JimCrow/soft-racism has ensured the low-income demographic is predominately black by systematically denying blacks and other minorities equal opportunities? noelang514’s post was merely embubbled, filled with false dichotomies and rooted in a simpleton’s liberal stereotype, but your retort is positively warped.

    The Community Reinvestment Act’s poor design did indeed contribute to the housing bubble, which in turn contributed to sparking the financial crisis which led to the current recession. noelang514’s convenient omission of the banks’ own role through a practice that is legalized fraud, collateralized debt obligation without debtor consent, doesn’t alter the CRA’s substantial flaws. Moreover, those flaws are as pernicious to the borrowers who eventually find they cannot pay the debt maintenance as they are to the predatory lenders obligated to issue sub-prime loans at prime rates.

    The CRA and its reforms were intended to combat community redlining, in which they barely made a dent. What it did do was give lenders a perverse incentive to work against the interests of their borrowers by disconnecting the ability to make payments with the ability of banks to make money, hence the opaque CDO orgies.

  175. @Gulliver –

    Criticizing policies for low-income Americans is implicitly racist because centuries of slavery/JimCrow/soft-racism has ensured the low-income demographic is predominately black by systematically denying blacks and other minorities equal opportunities

    I realize that you are being incredulous and a bit facetious here, but this is in fact exactly right. Expanding on what the Doc linked to above, the housing crisis had almost entirely to do with using mortgages as a vehicle for unregulated credit default swaps. The swaps were the problem, not the mortgages themselves. When the bubble burst, the right-wing press started screaming about poor black people getting mortgages being the cause of all our woes, and they still hold up that sign whenever it looks like someone might be thinking about blaming the predatory lending practices that Wall Street squezzed in everywhere they could. So, yeah; when someone launches into a complaint about low-income families owning homes they are broadly condemning the poor for seeking to rise above their God-given station, but more specifically those poor are, in their minds, lazy black people taking from the honest, righteous, hard-working rich white people. They’ve been very transparent about that, so their is nothing “warped” for calling them out for it.

  176. I just Googled predatory target minorities trying to find a study I’d read and got a ton of hits, way more than I’d anticipated. I knew it was a problem; I didn’t know how large a problem it was. Wow.

  177. John Gordon: “Romney is a devout man. To know him as a person you must know him in the context of his religion.”

    I spent the first eighteen years of my life as a Mormon, and a rather devout one for the last few years of my Mormon career. Afterwards, in a year of deep personal struggle, I decided that all religions are made up to serve human emotional needs, and Mormonism more obviously so than most (a mere artifact of more comprehensive historical records). I had a grudge against the LDS Church for several years afterwards.

    Mitt Romney has never struck me as a good Mormon. He’s never displayed much empathy, or much concern for the very poor.* He seems to lack political conviction beyond “I ought to be president.” And I was astonished at the way he threw his kids under the bus in last night’s debate: “Look, I’ve got five boys. I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true, but just keep on repeating it and ultimately hoping I’ll believe it.”

    But my biggest problem, when measuring him against the ideals I grew up believing, is that he lies far too easily. Mormons believe that “thou shalt not bear false witness” (ninth commandment), just like other Christians. Additionally, when you’re interviewed for a temple recommend, you’re asked if you are honest in your dealings with your fellow man.

    Last night, Mitt Romney broke out the old “gas prices have doubled under Obama” line, one which he has used repeatedly while on the campaign trail. Granted, it’s technically accurate, if you compare gas prices from the moment Obama took office to gas prices today. But as a candidate whose main selling point is his supposed economic prowess, he almost certainly knows that gas prices were artificially deflated by the worldwide economic recession. He also knows that gas prices and economic growth are almost inversely correlated. Last but not least, he knows that gas prices right now are approximately what they were toward the end of the Bush administration, a few months prior to the economic collapse.

    Basically, the only thing that Obama could have done to keep gas prices as low as they were was to speed up the economic collapse. Even then, it might not work, because gas prices have more to do with the worldwide economic outlook.

    Nonetheless, Romney wants you to believe that Obama’s policies have doubled gas prices. That’s lying. Romney is both a Mormon and a lying liar who lies. As a former Mormon, I find that hypocrisy galling.

    * Supporters might point to his tax records as proof of a high level of charitable giving. I’d dispute that. First, given the amount of disposable income he has, he could afford to give away 80% of his money to charity and still live in a kingly style. Also, the bulk of his giving has gone to the LDS Church, which does some commendable charitable work, but uses most of its receipts to maintain its own properties. http://www.thenation.com/blog/170105/romneys-ungenerous-donations

  178. @ Eric Saveau

    I realize that you are being incredulous and a bit facetious here

    Technically ironic, but I won’t split hairs, especially as it apparently fell flat with Doc.

    The swaps were the problem, not the mortgages themselves.

    The banks turned to swaps to artificially inflate the value of the mortgages, so…chicken and egg. My point, buried in my poor attempt at wit, is that the predatory lending practices existed before the CRA, and the main legacy of the CRA with its half dozen or so attempts at reform was to contort banks into finding a new way to screw the poor over. Ultimately it was a worthwhile goal pursued by badly planned means.

    So, yeah; when someone launches into a complaint about low-income families owning homes they are broadly condemning the poor for seeking to rise above their God-given station, but more specifically those poor are, in their minds, lazy black people taking from the honest, righteous, hard-working rich white people.

    I try not to read other people’s minds – too disturbing.

  179. Gulliver, wait. Were you going for a Poe? Yeah, it didn’t really work. Sorry. :(

    Though it does explain why I thought you knew better. :)

  180. No worries, Doc. I thought noelang514′s post deserved the full treatment, and since David and John were replying in haiku, I figured the shark had already been jumped.
    Sometimes humor works, sometimes it doesn’t.

  181. Although –

    I try not to read other people’s minds – too disturbing.

    – no mind-reading is neccessary on that; like I said, they’ve been very transparent.

  182. @ Eric Saveau

    Another bad attempt at humorous ambiguity. I was being deliberately vague about whether it was what one finds when one goes mind-reading or whether mind-reading itself was disturbing. I had The Hollow Man by Dan Simmons in the back of my mind when I made the crack. Obviously comedy is not my forte :-/

    More seriously, to me it’s irrelevant whether or not noelang514 and/or those with similar outlooks are being intentionally racist. Since people vary, some undoubtedly are and others don’t understand that the very history of predatory lending is one of institutions coldly using racism as a lever to profit. It’s the history and outcomes, not whether individuals see, in their minds’ eyes, minorities or merely math when they ignore that history, that counts in my own outlook.

  183. “The swaps were the problem, not the mortgages themselves.”

    When lending standards were relaxed under the Clinton Administration, and with Fannie and Freddie guaranteeing almost every loan, people whose credit history would have not enabled to get them a house in the early 90’s were not only getting a house in the late 90’s and 2000’s, but with gimmicks like ARM’s were able to get get into houses they could barely afford before their rate adjusted.
    In the 2000’s, mortgage backed securities became the default swap to have, because tranches could be built in such a way that the majority of the tranche would be high risk, with enough good risk built in to ensure a BBB rating, which was good enough for many banks to buy into, and on each of those tranches credit default swap insurance was taken out. The problem was traditional insurance companies like AIG purchased those swaps with the mistaken belief that they would work like traditional insurance, in that if your neighbor gets into a wreck, your risk doesn’t go up. The bond market though, does not work like that.
    When people started defaulting on their mortgages, the value of the securities dropped, and AIG had to pay out in the insurance, when it was unable to pay the 440 Billion in insurance it had to cover, it’s value tanked, and because AIG is a Dow Jones component, it’s stock price tanking brought down the average, contributing to the panic.
    Was their predatory lending going on? Of course there was. No Doc Loans, loan officers changing income data to get a loan approved, collusion between lenders and appraisers to inflate values, I was appraising in 2007 and 2008, and I saw practices that were just jaw droppingly awful. More than once though I also heard a homeowner say “The Loan Officer never told me this could happen…”
    Because of the relaxed standards, banks were forced (at the threat of federal prosecution) to loan money to people who had bad credit and were credit risks. They bought houses, those mortgages were backed by Freddie and Fannie, and used as securities in CDS’s…As a result the housing market exploded, banks were making money hand over fist, and they could care less about the credit worthiness of the people they were giving money to, and why would they when the Federal government was backing everything they wrote? And when many of people defaulted or walked away fromtheir loan, the value of the mortgage backed security fell, insurance had to be paid out, companies were unable to pay out, and the bond market goes “BOOM!”
    If the Mortgages never go bad, that is the people who have them pay them, then the Swaps never go bad, the insurance doesn’t have to be paid out, and the market doesn’t collapse.

    I was Appraising in 2007 and 2008, and the stuff I saw on both sides of the mortgage would spin your head.

    Dav

  184. We’re drifting, but this is something I’d really like an answer to:

    banks were forced (at the threat of federal prosecution) to loan money to people who had bad credit and were credit risks

    [citation needed]

    No, seriously. Under what statute was there a risk of prosecution? And please, please don’t say the CRA. CRA affected far too small a portion of the mortgage market. I keep hearing and reading people assert that CRA was to blame, but no one seems to have a number higher than 6% that I’ve seen. Please see the link I gave to Gulliver, and add this as well, which suggests that as much as 70% of the mortgage market was under no regulatory supervision whatsoever.

  185. @Todd –

    The problem was traditional insurance companies like AIG purchased those swaps with the mistaken belief that they would work like traditional insurance, in that if your neighbor gets into a wreck, your risk doesn’t go up.

    “Mistaken belief”??? Bullfuckingshit. It’s long since known that every single one the companies – at least the big boys – KNEW that credit default swaps were an empty shell game but didn’t care as long as they could keep on conjuring money out of them. What they were betting on was that they could be the ones to get their money out first before it all tumbled down and left everyone else grasping helplessly at air.

    All over Fox Noise and talk radio for the past few years we’ve had the usual suspects gnashing their teeth over Fannie and Freddie but, as the Doc notes above, their role in housing bubble was downright teensy. And I would add a note that I would think should be self-evident – that if they wound up with some of the same problems as the big players it was only because they were playing by the market rules those very same players had defined.

    And it’s not like any of this is a big secret. It all happened right out in the open, and most of the behind-the-scenes stuff has been well-documented. Yet conservatives continue to trot out the same discredited talking points over and over again in willful dismissal of reality. And whenever someone notes the predictable (and predicted) destructive corporate malfeasance brought on by the repeal of Glass-Steagall, conservatives can always be counted on to clumsily attempt to deflect and misdirect as further up-thread – “What? Corporate crime? But – but – but, um – look over there! Environmentalism! And poor people thinking they should be able to own things! And socialism! And regulations pull the wings off free-market fairies! Nihilism!”

    Cripes. ‘s enough ta drive man ta drink, I tells ya…

  186. Doc,

    Were banks in 2008 threatened with prosecution if they didn’t take TARP funds? No, Treasury Secretary Paulson, Geithner, and Sheila Blair, the chairperson of the FDIC, sat down, looked the bank presidents in the eye and said, and said “If you don’t accept these funds the chairwoman of the FDIC will come to your bank tomorrow and find out you aren’t as well capitalized as you think you are.”

    Was he threatening to sue them?
    .
    I don’t believe the CRA itself played a direct role, but the changes made to it had a big impact.
    The CRA was originally passed in 1977, and it vaguely mandated regulators to consider whether an insured bank was serving the needs of the “whole” community. For 16 years, the act was rarely used as a point of law, but that all changed in 1993, when a 1992 Boston Federal Reserve Bank study of discrimination in home mortgage lending became very public. This study concluded that, while there was no overt discrimination in banks’ allocation of mortgage funds, loan officers gave whites preferential treatment. The methodology of the study has since been scrutinized and found wanting, but at the time it was highly influential with regulators and members of the incoming Clinton administration and in 1993 regulators began a series of CRA regulations reforms.
    .
    In 1995, the regulators created new rules that sought to establish “objective criteria” for determining whether a bank was meeting CRA standards. Bank officers no longer had the discretion they once had with regards to loaning, simply proving that they were looking for qualified buyers wasn’t enough, they had to show that they had actually made a requisite number of loans to low- and moderate-income borrowers, many of whom would not have qualified because of their credit. In effect, a quota system was imposed, make “X” number of “Y” type loans, or else….

    The new regulations also required the use of “innovative or flexible” lending practices to address credit needs of LMI borrowers and neighborhoods. Because of this, the CRA, a law originally intended to encourage banks to “use safe and sound practices in lending” now required these same banks to be “innovative” and “flexible” in lending. It called for the relaxation of lending standards, and it was the bank regulators who were expected to enforce these relaxed standards. Note, this is the time when Adjustable Rate Mortgages in all their various forms started to become a standard part of a mortgage. Innovative and flexible indeed.
    .
    Now, in 1999, Fannie came under pressure from the Clinton administration to expand mortgage loans to low and moderate income borrowers by increasing the ratios of their loan portfolios in distressed inner city areas designated in the CRA. CRA Banks were issuing these mortgages, but Fannie and Freddie were not buying them. At the same time Mortgage companies also pressed Fannie Mae to ease credit requirements on the mortgages it was willing to purchase, because if they were going to buy the same high risk loans from Banks, it would be unfair if they didn’t purchase them from Mortgage companie as well, right? The GSE’s expanded their loan buying to include these higher risk loans, enabling all the banks and mortgage companies to make loans to subprime borrowers at interest rates higher than conventional loans. Banks that write mortgage loans usually only very rarely keep them on their books, CRA Banks carried almost all of the loans, because Freddie and Fannie would not buy them until the loosened GSE requirements were effected in 1999. When that happened, banks and IMC’s had no reason to impose credit requirements any stricter than they had to to keep their mortgages compliant. With the new regulations imposed on them by changes to the CRA, those requirements were now no longer as strict, banks started making loans to higher risk clients, mortgage’s started making the same loans, and Freddie and Fannie bought them all, then resold them on the securities market. Then institutions not governed by the CRA started making even riskier loans, and Fannie and Freddie bought them as well.

    50% of the subprime loans were made by independent mortgage companies that were not regulated by the CRA, and another 25% to 30% came from only partially CRA regulated bank subsidiaries and affiliates. But all of those IMC’s would have been unable to make the loans they did if the lending standards hadn’t been loosened, and Freddie and Fannie did not buy them.

    So, Did the CRA itself directly cause the housing market meltdown? No, but the changes made to it, and the GSEregulation changes in the 90’s certainly helped.

    Dav

  187. Eric,

    Save your drinking till you read it then. The chapter on how the tranches were rated alone will keep you soused for a week. :-)

    Dav

  188. @ Todd

    Yet the fact remains that the CRA’s ’99 reform under the Clinton administration came about in part because banks’ loan officers were issuing APRs to low-income borrowers while downplaying the risk of the rates being jacked-up if the speculation bubble ever burst. It wasn’t just a matter of look, poor people can’t get loans to buy homes and get on the property ladder! It was also, look, banks are taking advantage of borrowers by deceiving them about the risks and consequences plus, eventually, and long before the US housing crisis, when Cassandras like Michael Lewis began to point to the writing on the wall, look, securities firms are taking advantage of mortgage banks by deceiving them about the risks and consequences of CDOs. And if you don’t think AIG and the rest of the Street knew they were playing hot potato, I have a very nice bridge in Angers, France to sell you.

    Also, adding my recommendation for The Big Short.

  189. Treble the recommendation for The Big Short. Although, prepare yourself appropriately for rage.

    In general, it’s a tough sell to say that the poor people on the receiving end of the predatory lending crippled the economy because third, fourth, and fifth parties tried to make a hundred trillion dollar house of cards out of their mortgages. These folks were juggling atom bombs and when they slipped and dropped one they said “not my fault; that guy sneezed and distracted me”.

    Put me down in the pro column for renewed government regulation of banks.

  190. Y’know, a simple “There isn’t one” would have been sufficient to answer my question. A follow up of “so I should stop saying that” would have been nice, too, but not necessary. Also, maybe I’m misreading, but it seems like your argument against the CRA is “don’t try to regulate banks against screwing people over because they’ll find new and exciting ways to screw people over”.

    Anyhoo…

    So, Romney’s idea of fiscal responsibility is to defund PBS, because… Reasons!

  191. @ Doc RocketScience

    Or, the CRA is inadequate by itself or was the wrong regulatory approach. Arguing that the CRA was a component in the meltdown (which it was) is not the same as arguing that regulation is a Bad Thing, any more than than arguing against the design flaws at Three Mile Island is the same as arguing against regulating nuclear reactions.

  192. So now that Romny has said his remark on the 47% was completely wrong, will Brad vote for someone else? Seeing as he mostly agreed with those policy comments and Romney has now disowned them. The flip-flopping crushes all equally with its wobbly weight*, so there’s your democracy right there. Romney’s glowing concern touches us all.

    *Except for the guys in the flip-flop central control module. That’s as safe as the proverbial black box. And its not expensive to get a place in it, really, anything over a modest middle-class (250K) income will get you at least a ticket to hang off the side of the module. And I know, I know, if the module is the only thing that survives economic crashes, then why don’t they make the whole economy out of the module?

  193. Gulliver:
    Sure. All legislation has unintended consequences. I don’t think the authors of the CRA actually intended the advent of the Human Worthiness Credit Score.

    But I don’t think that’s the argument Todd/Dav is making. I think he’s arguing that the very existence of the CRA forced (forced, I say!) the entire mortgage industry to engage in increasingly evil practices, that they really (really, I say!) didn’t want to do, no matter how much money they made on the deal. And the industry made a lot of money on the deal, with damn near no real oversight.

    Put another way, Todd/Dav wants to use the logic that if you leave the loaf of bread on the counter, you can’t really get mad at the dog for eating it, because all the dog knows he’s hungry, and you’re the one responsible for the loaf, and what we really should do is get rid of the counter.

  194. @ Doc Rocketscience

    But I don’t think that’s the argument Todd/Dav is making.

    Maybe so. But I also think he’s making the argument that the investment banks pulled the wool over the mortgage banks as surely as the mortgage banks pulled the wool over borrowers. I disagree with his belief that the various parties didn’t know what they were doing, or at least, I think it was willful blindness, if for no other reason than there were analysts raising concerns and they were roundly ignored because no one wanted to question a free lunch.

    I think he’s arguing that the very existence of the CRA forced (forced, I say!) the entire mortgage industry to engage in increasingly evil practices, that they really (really, I say!) didn’t want to do, no matter how much money they made on the deal. And the industry made a lot of money on the deal, with damn near no real oversight.

    I look at it this way. The way the CRA and loose banking laws came together, they created a perverse incentive. I expect banks to do what they can within the law to maximize profits, up to and including legal fraud such as the low-hanging fruit that are tranches. It’s up to legislators to craft regulations that make sure fraud is illegal (as it most definitely should be), and that we have yet to see even after four years of recession. Glass–Steagall regulated the interaction between banks in terms of who could exchange which financial instruments and how much any one bank could buy on its own credit, but it never regulated the financial instruments themselves, in part because tranches and modern CDOs simply didn’t exist when it was law.

    My own belief is that it will all be useless without tough, clear transparency laws that prevent securities traders from packaging toxic assets into opaque instruments. You can re-design the whole reactor and it won’t do any good if you don’t fix the valve that ignited the meltdown.

  195. the argument that the investment banks pulled the wool over the mortgage banks as surely as the mortgage banks pulled the wool over borrowers.

    So what? Doesn’t really change anything, just adds to the list of the people screwing it up.

    The way the CRA and loose banking laws came together, they created a perverse incentive.

    An incentive is not a requirement. But that’s the narrative still being pushed: the CRA made lenders behave irresponsibly and unethically. And that is still all too often coming with a side of the CRA forcing banks to loan money to lazy, shiftless brown people. Both of these are complete and utter bullshit, and both are still being pushed, right up to and including Mr. Romney. I don’t really have a strong opinion on the CRA as a piece of legislation: I think it address a real issue, but I’m perfectly cognizant of the law of unintended consequences and of indirect cause and effect. But I don’t think CRA directly caused anyone to do anything that directly led to the crash. I’m also cognizant of the political realities that suggest to me that, given the opportunity, A Romney administration and Republican congress would address the defects of the CRA by stripping anything that might actually help the poor and underrepresented, while leaving intact all of the problems that you describe. And I’m uncomfortable with how easy it seems it will be for Mr. Romney to justify this to himself, despite everything in his background that suggests that it shouldn’t.

    I’m not going to say that the CRA is just fine and dandy as is, anymore than I would say that I didn’t leave the bread on the counter. I do think that more stringent regulation (basically a higher counter and a breadbox) are a good solution. But I will also say that the mortgage banks and investment banks and any other financial institution you care to mention are not akin to dogs who only know if they’re hungary. They’re not even toddlers who know they like the cookies on the plate on the table.

  196. @ Doc Rocketscience

    I’m also cognizant of the political realities that suggest to me that, given the opportunity, A Romney administration and Republican congress would address the defects of the CRA by stripping anything that might actually help the poor and underrepresented, while leaving intact all of the problems that you describe.

    I agree entirely. Blanket deregulation is not the answer. Smarter regulation is, and that’s something I don’t see either party or candidate throwing their weight behind. That’s why I’ll be voting on their social policies; their fiscal policies both suck, IMHO.

    But I will also say that the mortgage banks and investment banks and any other financial institution you care to mention are not akin to dogs who only know if they’re hungary. They’re not even toddlers who know they like the cookies on the plate on the table.

    No, but they are publically traded companies whose leadership is contingent on maximizing profits. I’m not defending their actions. But my interest is in preventing a repeat, and appealing to corporate altruism is not going to accomplish that. Nor are they individuals who can just say this is wrong and stay solvent. It’s up to legislators to make sure fraud is a no-win for anyone, or the corporations that defraud customers and each other will wind up being the ones left in business.

  197. I have to respectfully disagree that one should differentiate Romney the businessperson from Romney the politician. Someone who believes that leveraged buyouts (like he did with KB Toys and other businesses) are good ways to conduct business, will likely seek to enact policies that continue allowing suchtactics. Furthermore, candidate Romney uses his business experience as part of the criteria that he wishes to be judged on, and far be it from me to not examine that criteria.

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