BY RB SCOTT
Boston, Massachusetts
January 12, 2008

EDITOR’S NOTE: A version of this column appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune January 11; another version was scheduled to run in The Detroit Free Press January 12th.

Several months ago, W. Mitt Romney said presciently that he had only himself to fear.

Despite his millions, the picture-perfect family that really is everything it is cracked-up to be, and the overpowering campaign organization, Romney becomes his own worst nightmare every time he dishes half-truths and exaggerations, dissembles about his religious and political views as he pointlessly tries to persuade the so-called radical Christian Right that he is one of them.

If it continues, he will not be the next President of the United States. He may not even win his own party’s nomination. It is just that simple.

The irony, which his halting shakedown marches through Iowa and New Hampshire collectively, if tentatively underscored, is this: no Republican candidate is better qualified, organized or energized to take on the Democrats.

Substantive general election debates between Senator Barack Obama or Senator Hillary Clinton and Romney are exactly what the American electorate wants and needs. It could happen if Romney would stop with the intellectual whoring around that only suggests he may have lost track of the consistent personal convictions he once had, ones necessary to be the world’s reliable “go to” guy.

Unlike his inspirational father, whose candidacy imploded over a single truthfully fervent, if ill-considered broadside (“When I came back from Viet Nam, I’d just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get.”), Mitt’s protracted sabordage is excruciating and bone-headed.

This son of passionate George projects what one of Boston’s more influential benefactors sensed when Mitt was governor: “a technically proficient if bloodless leader. Your friend, he has no…” his voice trails off, hand fluttering over his chest as if it were a mortally wounded partridge… “no heart, no fire in the belly.”

Romney mangled his father’s stellar civil rights legacy by exaggerating his relationship with Martin Luther King (for the record, they DID NOT physically march together). Instead of apologizing, he set his flacks to parsing and spinning, causing loyal heads to hurt from Honolulu to Boston.

His inability to empathize with common folk is his hoary hoodoo. As a young missionary leader in France, he haughtily counseled a new missionary laid low by a debilitating bout of hay fever: “perhaps, elder, it’s your way of saying you really don’t want to be here.” As stake president, he was kind if often impatient and patronizing with members who didn’t measure-up. Once, he joked that a church-sponsored social group for older single adults he championed was a club for “quitters and losers.”

Instead of the noblesse oblige expected of from one so well-born, recall his bumbling as he praised a New Hampshire baker by evoking memories of a similar bakery “near my father’s summer home.” Or, the unintentional one-upping he gave the proud father of a daughter at Michigan State: “my brother’s on the board of trustees?”

When Mitt finally threw his hat in the political ring nearly 15 years ago, friends assumed the acorn had fallen near the stalwart oak. The son would be smart, kind, and perhaps a little cagier than the old man. The son would talk proudly about his principled dad who recognized that Martin Luther King stood for the right. He would rhapsodize about the ’64 GOP convention in San Francisco when his proud father rose indignantly and stalked out, a visually arresting “up yours” to the heavy-handed soldiers of radical right.

Never would a son-of-George allow one of the more guileless members of his campaign team to take the fall for its misbegotten attempt to involve Mormon church leaders in its efforts to secure support from BYU-affiliated business school groups. But Mitt did.

No heir-to-George would pin blame on his eldest son for the illegal immigrants working in the family garden. But Mitt did.

No loyal husband would gracelessly roll his own wife under the bus (“Her contributions are for her and not for me. Her positions are not terrible [sic] relevant to my campaign.”) to dodge accountability for his own previous support for Planned Parenthood.

Would anyone think less of Romney if he said indignantly: “No member of my team should ever discuss fundraising schemes with an apostle of my church? Or, “I should have canned that lawn service myself long ago?” Or, “Planned Parenthood funds many programs worth supporting that have nothing to do with abortion?”

The question of the moment is this: have his recent limited successes in Iowa and New Hampshire given the once “bloodless” tin man new heart and fresh courage?

At long last, will the real Mitt Romney finally stand up; the moderate independent thinking leader who was an early supporter of the non-partisan Concord Coalition that promoted fiscally sound and socially responsible public policies?

The time is far spent, there is little remaining.

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