Being born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth can give a young man a sense of entitlement or a sense of noblesse oblige. Michael Kranish and Scott Helman’s biography of The Real Romney unintentionally reveals that in Mitt’s case it has done the latter and, moreover, that his serious Mormonism played a central role in insuring that his horizons would not encompass merely his modern day “nobles.” This has been particularly important given his extraordinary talents strong will. Reading the book, I, a 2008 McCain voter, found myself in a position similar to that of Elizabeth Bennett as she was contemplating Fitzwilliam Darcy’s portrait, as a son, husband, father, friend, businessman, governor, “how many people’s happiness were in his guardianship! - How much of pleasure or pain it was in his power to bestow! - How much of good or evil must be done by him!” Increasingly, I came to realize that the man not only can be trusted but that he did not have “any inappropriate pride” but just enough to make sure he achieves his goals without sacrificing his honor. As in Darcy’s case, by his deeds you shall know him.
Like Darcy, 17 year old Romney chose a challenging mate, a protestant, who sidestepped his attempt to kiss her with a question: ‘What do Mormons believe?” (30) Ann was an unusual pretty 16 year old girl, one who looked before she leaped. He made sure she keeps looking by frequent weekend visits while a Stanford freshman. When his less than thrilled father tried to limit the visits by cutting his allowance, Mitt sought a solution which would not force him to chose between his father and his girl. He found one. He auctioned of his cloths and bought a ticket to visit Ann. This is what can be called creative principled problem solving.
Another problem involved the demands of his religion. 19 year old Mormons are supposed to serve as missionaries. Would their teenage relationship survive two and a half year separation? He took the risk but improved the odds by entrusting Ann to his family and his letter writing ability. His father acted as Ann’s personal guide to Mormonism. It was a close call at one point. But when Ann wrote him that she met a guy who engaged her feelings he made sure he did not let his hurt or pride get in the way by avoiding making a potentially disastrous phone call. “Instead he poured his heart into letters, auditioning sweet nothings with fellow missionaries before putting them to paper.” (88) Getting the words right trumped the strong sense of privacy that radiates from the man. Mitt completed his mission and Ann and his family were there together when he got off the plane bringing him home from France.
Religion aside, the two year service in an unfamiliar environment matures young man and widens their horizons and it did so for Romney. The results were obvious in his response to an offer to lead a new company called Bain Capital. He understood he was in no position to jump without a parachute. By then Mitt was a young husband and father and he refused to take advantage of the opportunity before he made sure that if the innovative experiment failed, his former job will await him or that he works with honorable people. When he discovered that a goodly portion of the investors came to South America he demanded that the middle man “put his hand in the fire for him“ that the investors were not “involved in in illegal drug money, right-wing death squads, or left wing terrorism.” (136) Just as instructively, he never forgot that he was dealing “with other people’s money.” No, he was no Gordon Gekko. How successful was he? Quite successful if not as successful as the Obama propaganda machine charges:
The most thorough analysis of Romney’s performance comes from a private solicitation of investment in Bain Capital’s funds written by the Wall Street firm Deutche Bank. The company examined sixty-eight major deals that had taken place on Romney’s watch. Of those, Bain had lost money or broke even on thirty-three. Over all, though the numbers were stunning: Bain was nearly doubling its investors’ money annually, achieving one of the best track records in the business. (135)
His concentration on family and Mormon service (he made almost daily hospital visits to sooth the sick) prevented the narrowing of his perspective. Nothing demonstrates this better than his instinctive response to the news that the 14 year old daughter of his partner was missing. He did not show his friend how much he felt his pain. He told him, “I don’t care how long it takes. We are going to find her.” (158) He closed the office and proceeded along with his 56 men (joined later by 250 more from Wall Street) to comb the city in search of the girl. She was found four day later following a telephone call asking if there was a reward. This is the leadership known in Israel as “Follow me.”
Romney has made use of the incident in his campaigns as well he should. The incident illuminates the character of the real Romney in the same manner that the search for Lydia illuminates that of Fitzwilliam Darcy. Romney is a bright capable leader and a brilliant problem solver. Emergencies (a part and parcel of all presidencies) bring out the best in him on large as well as small scale as his successful rescuing of the Winter Olympic demonstrated:
Over seventeen days in February 2002, 2.1 billion people around the globe watched the competition, with the United States winning thirty-four medals, and representatives of nearly every nation expressing satisfaction with the even. In the end, Romney helped generate nearly 100 million budget surplus . . . .” “The people who say he is given too much credit for restoring the reputation of the Games,” David D’Alessandro said, “I don’t think they understand what he was up against.” (222)
Romney is an old fashioned man of honor who refuses to put expedience first in politics as well as in business or public service. So, Mitt Romney brought a much needed broom to Massachusetts politics:
State House regulars “were accustomed to the transactional culture that has long permeated Massachusetts politics. Votes were traded. Political supporters were awarded state jobs. Family members of politicians were appointed to lucrative positions. And pension deals rewarded the well connected. That, quite literally, wasn’t a language Romney spoke. . . .
“He forced all of us to bring our A game to the table,” (Democrat) Travaglini said as Romney ended his term. “Say what you will about the man, to some degree he initiated the action and direction on reform. . . . He brought out the best of us here in the Senate.”
One change Romney made was sanitizing the judicial selection process, requiring a nominating panel to conduct an initial blind review of candidates without knowing their names, gender, or references.”(248)
If I failed to point out Romney’s faults, it is because I trust that his rivals have done a super job pointing them out and am sure Obama will further magnify them. All I sought to do is focus attention on his old fashioned virtues. Mitt Romney is what I can imagine a 21st century Fitzwilliam Darcy would have become. Just try to imagine Darcy on the campaign trail. Never mind, one thing is clear, the more I read the more convinced I became that with Mitt Romney in the White House, I, and “my fellow Americans” could finally relax knowing the country is safe in the hands of a principled, caring, capable adult. After three and a half years of Obama rule, who can ask for anything more?!
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