I met the real Mitt Romney

It was back in 1994, when Mitt was run­ning for the U.S. Sen­ate in Mass­a­chu­setts against the incum­bent Ted Kennedy (an elec­tion he did not win). I was out walk­ing on Bea­con Hill in Boston, mind­ing my own busi­ness, when I turned a cor­ner and found the corporate-raiding son of the famous Michi­gan Gov­er­nor on the side­walk in front of me, flash­ing his smile and extend­ing his hand to the pedestrians.

There was no way I was shak­ing this man’s hand. Mitt Rom­ney a Mass­a­chu­setts Sen­a­tor? His Con­gres­sional can­di­dacy was as dis­taste­ful to me then as his Pres­i­den­tial can­di­dacy is today. But, being a nat­u­rally polite per­son, my first instinct was to cross the street rather than be rude to him. (I have since over­come this per­sonal fail­ing, and I am now quite happy to be rude to politi­cians.) Unfor­tu­nately, the parked cars were packed tightly beside me. Avoid­ing Mitt Rom­ney would require climb­ing over auto bumpers and then hop­ping down into oncom­ing traffic—an hon­est phys­i­cal expres­sion of my revul­sion, but also a cow­ardly dis­play. I resigned myself to walk­ing past him.

As luck would have it, I reached him alone. He had just dis­patched a small group of (to my eye) luke­warm vot­ers with hand­shakes and assertive eye con­tact from his out­sized face. (Like tele­vi­sion news anchors, suc­cess­ful politi­cians almost always have large heads.) The next group of cit­i­zens was yards behind me. For six or seven long sec­onds, it was just the two of us, me and Mitt Romney.

He thrust out his hand and gave me the poly­styrene smile. Peo­ple who com­pare Romney’s phys­i­cal pres­ence to an auto-dashboard bobble-head or a department-store man­nikin are not just being cruel. That’s exactly the way he comes across. I wish I could say that I gave him a good tongue-lashing for hav­ing the gall to use his ill-gotten private-equity riches to buy him­self an anti-American run at national polit­i­cal power—in Mass­a­chu­setts, of all states. But I didn’t say that, or any­thing else. I sim­ply refused to shake his hand, and walked widely around him like some­thing bad on the sidewalk.

And that was when I met the real Mitt Rom­ney. He didn’t shrug or smile or just look past me to the next batch of fresh meat com­ing down the pike, as he would no doubt do today. Today, Mitt might even get off a joke at my expense. But he was a polit­i­cal green­horn back then, not adept at con­ceal­ing his true iden­tity. What he did, when I refused to shake his hand, was to lean toward me as I walked past him and give me one of the most vicious dirty looks I’ve ever had in my life. It was a truly remark­able expe­ri­ence, like being hurled back to sev­enth grade. I wish I had a photo of the pure hatred in his big face to share with you, but I don’t need a photo for myself. I can see it as vividly today as the day it happened.

Like the vam­piric bankers and hedge-fund man­agers who gave us the eco­nomic col­lapse of 2008, Romney’s busi­ness career was based upon invent­ing clever ways to game the sys­tem to enrich him­self and his cronies at the expense of lower-level par­tic­i­pants in our “free mar­ket econ­omy.” Now he has a polit­i­cal career devoted to mak­ing the world safe for oli­garchs like him­self. His fun­da­men­tal ori­en­ta­tion is ruling-class and anti-democratic, and it’s now cliché to note that he’s a cyn­i­cal oppor­tunist will­ing to shift posi­tions and say any­thing that might get him more power.

But with Mitt, this old famil­iar bad act comes wrapped in life­long reli­gious devotion—or, at any rate, life­long ser­vice to a spe­cific reli­gion, one that didn’t even exist until the early 1800s and that was plainly an extrem­ist (and widely dis­dained) cult until it cleaned itself up less than a cen­tury ago. Mitt doesn’t see any con­flict between his reli­gious zealotry and polit­i­cal ser­vice, and that works fine in an Amer­ica that started to inscribe “In God We Trust” on its cur­rency back in the commie-hating Joe McCarthy days (which have never left us), a coun­try that still refuses to remove that slo­gan even though our nation is sup­pos­edly based upon sep­a­ra­tion of church and state.

In the squir­rely col­lec­tion of Repub­li­can Pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates for 2012, Mitt Rom­ney looks good to many peo­ple. He’s a seem­ingly san­i­tized suit in a world still eas­ily fooled by expen­sive suits and hair­cuts and big tanned faces, and his life­long reli­gios­ity makes some vot­ers assume that he must be a basi­cally decent guy. But you don’t grab the kind of loot that Mitt has grabbed by being decent. My brief but unfor­get­table encounter with him took place long after he’d been a young Mor­mon mis­sion­ary in France, and after he’d already held var­i­ous lead­er­ship posi­tions in the “LDS” church. And I can tes­tify that some­where deep inside the sanc­ti­fied politi­cian with the mul­ti­ple fancy houses, the fat bank accounts, and the elder sta­tus at the gigan­tic tem­ple on Bel­mont Hill above Boston lurks a nasty man whose main con­vic­tion is about his own entitlement.

Comments

5 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Mattman,

    Is it just me, or does it seem funny that the attempted mes­sage of this post is Mitt R. is a petty hate­ful dude… all based on the fact that he’s sure Mitt gave him a dirty look when snubbed for a hand­shake? From that one event we got a cou­ple of para­graphs of clearly none biased data? lol. Yes, some­one seems hate­ful and petty here, and it’s not the sub­ject of the post.

    • Ralph Lombreglia,

      It’s an anec­dote about a real-life glimpse of a human being beneath the plas­tic veneer engi­neered by polit­i­cal han­dlers. Unlike you, I do not believe that Mitt’s polit­i­cal aspi­ra­tions are suf­fi­ciently con­nected to a dream of the com­mon good. I think it’s far too much about him and not nearly enough about us. And I felt that my old mem­ory of him illu­mi­nated that—at least for me.

      Inci­den­tally, since I have you here, Mattman, is sospam@nospamplease.com your real email address? I iden­ti­fied myself, so I think you should iden­tify your­self, too. If you don’t, I will not pub­lish your com­ments on my site in the future. Because it’s my site, Mattman, and I can do what I want.

      Also inci­den­tally, since I have you here, Mattman, I’m not sin­gling out Mor­monism for spe­cial con­dem­na­tion, although its rel­a­tive youth as a major reli­gion is tech­ni­cally extra­or­di­nary. I think that’s fair to take note of. No, Mattman, what I’m say­ing is that no reli­gion belongs in our gov­ern­ment. Period. Just like “the Founders” said.

  2. gregorylent,

    unhealed emo­tional blocks con­nected to his father, and past .. still present, unfortunately

    • Ralph Lombreglia,

      Who knows. I just want to know why he wants to be Pres­i­dent. It’s cer­tainly not because he has a pas­sion­ately held vision for the cit­i­zens of the country.

      Also, obvi­ously, Romney’s reli­gion is a key com­po­nent of his life, and he’s very proud of that. As I under­stand it, a cen­tral tenet of that reli­gion is that our life here on Earth is but a small part of eter­nal life. That con­cerns me because I’m look­ing for seri­ous improve­ments in our life right here and now. If the mis­sion of his reli­gion is insep­a­ra­ble from his mis­sion as a per­son, how exactly does that tie in to want­ing to be the Chief Exec­u­tive of The United States?

      Really, on that basis alone, I think we have to say he’s the wrong man for the job.

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