Given all the different positions that Mitt Romney has taken throughout his political career, it may be easy to label him a liar and a flip-flopper. But if voters are looking for the “real” Mitt, they will have a hard time trying to peer through the gauzy obfuscations to the man at the core. Mitt plays politics in a carnival funhouse, and one cannot tell with certainty if what they are looking at is the authentic Romney or one of a series of distorted reflections, each intended to please a particular block of voters.
Somewhere in the center of the rotating Romney record that spins on the public life turntable, needle dropping alternately (that’s like an iPod shuffle, to you Millennials) on the Senate candidate cut, the Bain cut, Massachusetts governor cut, the 2008 presidential candidate cut, the 2012 GOP primary cut and the 2012 official Republican nominee cut, is a tall, silver spindle that is unmoving and unmovable. It is the axis around which everything that is Mitt Romney swirls.
The first debate, in Denver last week, was the ultimate clue that the Romney campaign is both more and less than it seems. To attribute his polymorphic politics to mere pandering, is to imply a schedule of nefarious plotting by the candidate and his campaign. That is not only antithetical to the moral man he claims to be, it ignores the possibility of a simpler explanation, an Occam’s Razor, if you will. It is not only possible, but likely, that he sees no disconnection between his stoic center and the political characters he has trotted out on the stage throughout his life.
Romney considers himself a Mr. Fix-it. The PBS program Frontline, in an exploration of both Gov. Romney’s and President Obama’s upbringings and backgrounds that aired Tuesday evening, described the plight of Miles Romney, Mitt’s grandfather, and its contribution to the Romney family psyche. The program implies that, as he fled persecution of his faith’s polygamy, from Mexico to California to Utah, the Romney patriarch and father of thirty children – including Mitt’s father, George – made fortunes, lost fortunes, moved and made new fortunes.
That need to step back, start over and succeed is what drives Mitt, too. According to Frontline, he was enormously successful at rebuilding the Mormon mission in France, after the tragic death of the wife of the misson’s leader in a car accident in which Romney was driving. That brought “that which was naturally in him to then come to the fore,” Dane McBride, who served with Romney in France, told them.
And when it came to his role in shepherding the embattled Salt Lake City Olympics, in 2002, Ken Bullock, who was on the Salt Lake Olympic Committee, told Frontline, “He tried very hard to build an image of himself as a savior, the great white hope.”
In one article previewing the program, PBS writes, “As he developed in his career at Bain and as governor of Massachusetts, he would become known for his data-driven, case-study method towards approaching problems.”
Indeed, his business success may come from an over-willingness not to assert what his wife, Ann, guarantees us is his own supposedly generous, warm and fuzzy nature, allowing himself to be “buffeted by all this advice,” according to someone described only as a “family friend,” in an article by Politico’s Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei, discussing the Romney campaign’s shift to a more personable Mitt – “a ‘let Mitt be Mitt’ approach they believed more accurately reflected the looser, generous and more approachable man.”
The family friend goes on to tell the Politico reporters, “Romney takes everybody seriously. He thinks, ‘Well, gee, I’m talking to businessman X or C or Y. They’re really smart. That’s something I need to factor into my thinking.'”
If this is letting Mitt be Mitt, he is less panderer and more chameleon, by a nature he cannot control.
The supposed stiffness with which he was saddled since securing the nomination, according to the article, was meant to showcase what he would do as president. It was the campaign’s personality, there, they say – not Mitt’s. “You have to do it when you’re comfortable with it,” an unnamed campaign official told Allen and Vandehei. “Otherwise, it would seem forced.”
Yet the castigation of Obama’s policies is precisely what Mitt is “comfortable with,” if you believe SLOC’s Bullock, who told Frontline, “He was very good at characterizing and castigating people and putting himself on a pedestal.”
His family obviously stands behind him in that. Witness the Mr. Fix-it-in-waiting, Tagg Romney, who, according to Politico’s “family friend” source, “will basically call people out when they have something stupid to say. Because he’s the son, he’s in a different position to be able to really question people’s advice and question the decisions, but — more importantly — to drive them to make decisions.”
And another record drops on the Romney spindle. Turn. Turn. Turn.