Though I'm sure that this volume is not viewed with delight by the Romney campaign, it isn't a hit piece. These reporters try to set flamboyant and unpopular elements in Romney's Mormon faith in historical context and to avoid sensationalizing the choices of distant ancestors. They worked hard to uncover episodes of personal generosity that Romney apparently has chosen not to exploit for his campaign. They insist that in the tiny tight circle of his family, Romney is loose, funny, even silly -- the antithesis of the awkward man with the infinitely malleable persona, of what Charles Pierce has aptly named "the Romneybot."
I've already written about the the insights my own background gives me about Romney's high school days. The Real Romney reminded me we had something else in common: in 1965 we both left the Rust Belt for the novelties of California, I to Cal Berkeley, he to Stanford. I assimilated with delight. Romney seems to have been glad to quickly escape the emerging counterculture to serve as a Mormon missionary to France and then to hunker down in Utah. Dude missed the Sixties; too bad, he might have made something interesting of himself if he had ever loosened up. Instead he showed his mettle by getting rich, by playing financial games. He seems to think his mastery of slash and burn capitalism entitles him to the presidency.
I did glean a few insights from this book, not so much from the narrative which emphasizes accuracy and fairness to the verge of dryness, but from oddments recounted but not emphasized. I was surprised to notice that Romney the executive and Romney the pol seems to be quite accustomed to having women around who occupy significant professional roles. For example, his 2008 campaign manager was a woman. So were significant lieutenants in Massachusetts government. He does not deny himself the best employees on the basis of gender, apparently.
There's an adjective for Romney and his milieu that turns up repeatedly in this book that struck me as apt. The authors call the Republican champion "patrician." That's an unusual descriptor for a U.S. politician. Usually even our wealthy politicians strive to communicate that they are just energetic common men, cut from the same cloth as the rest of us. Democratic leaders project that they are the products of a meritocracy. Are Republicans really ready to argue for an aristocratic father figure? Apparently yes, if he has enough money. Still this is an interesting deviation that may not wear well.
This book also demonstrated that Romney's word is worthless. He will adopt any lie to get what he wants. Just about his only accomplishment that has served the public as opposed to his private good is the Massachusetts health care law on which Obamacare is modeled. Kanish and Helman tell the story of its final passage. The last hurdle between Romney (and the business interests the governor represented) and the Democratic legislature was the question whether businesses that failed to provide health insurance to employees would be charged a fee by the state. Various interests argued round and round. Finally big business leaders agreed on a "fair share contribution" of $295 per uncovered worker to be paid by businesses with more than 11 employees. It looked like negotiations had succeeded. Here's the rest of the story according to these reporters.
I don't want to be governed by someone that two-faced. The man acted as a slippery operator, even in his moment of public triumph. How nauseating.
Mitt Romney's much admired father George, a Michigan governor, walked out of the Republican convention in 1964 and refused to endorse Barry Goldwater because of the nominee's opposition to equal civil rights for African Americans. George never got to be president -- he was bested by tricky Dick Nixon for the nomination in 1968. Mitt isn't going to allow allegiance to principle to get in the way of going where his father failed to climb.