WILL THE REAL MITT ROMNEY EVER EMERGE?

Georgie Anne Geyer

WASHINGTON -- Someday, perhaps some years from now, some unbiased observer will write a book providing a genuine analysis of Willard Mitt Romney and why he was so misrepresented by many of us in the press during this tedious campaign. Readers will be amazed.

Will this future character really be the same Mitt Romney seen in the sarcastic, super-critical headlines we read every day now? What about the Mitt who kept his dog on the top of the car during a long family trip? His odes to trees that were "just the right size"? Above all, what about the man who came into this world with his father's money falling out of every pocket, the man who never had to work for anything himself?

This campaign is wallowing in a rhetorical and journalistic marsh in which the interesting tale of Mitt and the Romney family are rotting in the hands of media analysts who seem to resent the fact that Mitt will not give them interviews. And so, the campaign press corps call him "Mittens," but the fun about ends there.

Let us start with Mittens ... I mean Mitt Romney, the man, first. I have no idea why he has stayed so far away from the press, but I do know that it is a terrible mistake. He is a handsome and charming man with a beautiful, media-savvy wife. But not being able to know him, the press surmises that he is dense and dumb.

Hah, dumb? After graduating from Brigham Young University with highest honors, he was accepted at Harvard for a just-created dual-degree program in law and business. Of hundreds accepted, only 15 won the dual degree, and Mitt graduated with honors, in the top 5 percent of his class, according to "The Real Romney," by Boston Globe journalists Michael Kranish and Scott Helman.

Moreover, Mitt and his young wife lived in a $62-a-month basement apartment at Harvard, received only a car from the family for a wedding present and did not start off on any inheritance from Mitt's prominent father, Michigan Gov. George Romney. George himself suffered extreme poverty, even hunger, as his Mormon family made its way up from Mexico, subsisting mostly on Idaho potatoes, and avoiding Mexican revolutionaries in 1910.

You see, an earlier generation of Mormon Romneys had been cruelly exiled in Mexico because they then believed in polygamy. Once in kindergarten in California, George was widely known as "Mex."

Indeed, by the time George Romney, who had left Mexico behind and made a brilliant political career in America in which he was always in the forefront of the civil rights fight, died in 1995, Mitt was already a wealthy man on his own. What he did inherit from his father, he gave away to charities connected with his father's name.

But what if Mitt Romney had inherited from his illustrious father? What difference would it make in what kind of president he would become?

JFK, FDR, Teddy Roosevelt, George H.W. Bush, and many others came to office as wealthy men. Perhaps it helped keep them and their colleagues honest. Perhaps it gave them the social sheen and knowledge that a president should have. It certainly should not harm one any more than coming from a lower class should. (And God save us if we begin to bring class seriously into our elections!). At any rate, Mitt Romney is surely more admirable than that 1 percent in the upper (non-Mormon) spheres who pursue money grubbing at any cost to the nation.

Here, again, comes the strange, but real, dislike of the press for Mitt Romney. I repeat that the greatest part of the dislike comes from resentment and jealousy on the part of much of the press because he ignores them. Mistakes about his life are repeated over and over. But that's his fault, too. If he loses, it will largely be for this unexplained gap in his campaign strategy.

But Romney isn't the only candidate who suffers from caricature. We might consider the whole crowd of Republican candidates like a court, or even a circle of bishops:

Mitt is the good father, the one like your own who can't tell jokes but is a top-notch provider. Rick is the papist, standing judgmentally in his red robes, his eye on the lookout for a sneaky condom. Newt is the court poet, the intellectual whose ear is always cocked for heresy. Ron Paul is a Greek chorus all in himself, providing whispered verses of wisdom.

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