Feel the Santormentum! Know your Romney: A Janus-face for January

Oops! (Miss me yet, America?)

A few thousand Iowans participated in their ritual charade last night.  True to the end in their disgust and distrust for Mitt Romney, 75% of them chose “someone else,” and 25% of them even voted for Rick Santorum, mostly because they’d already crushed on every other Republican candidate in the race and he was the last one on their dance cards.  (Tim Pawlenty was crying into his Postum last night, I’m sure.)

I haven’t written about the Republican primary much because I’m really not all that interested in this beauty contest for who can be the ugliest and most outrageous.  The one thing I am slightly interested in is the fact that Romney excites precisely no one, and most Republicans kind of hate him.  Most Republicans were sick of George W. Bush after eight years, but I guess they’re not so sick of Bush that they can’t also be turned off by his polar opposite, Romney.  (If anyone might like Romney you’d think it would be George Will, but even Will has compared Romney unfavorably to Tom Dewey, Michael Dukakis, and John Kerry.) 

Via RealClearPolitics, I found this interesting excerpt from The Real Romney, forthcoming by Boston Globe reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, that strikes me as a very fair and well-researched look at Romney’s religious leadership and professional career over the past 40 years.  (They also explain pretty clearly how Romney made his money, which is a pretty complicated thing to understand for most people who are not in management consulting and/or who had little experience with LBOs and junk bonds in the 1980s and corporate raiders in the 1990s.)

The quick and dirty:  Romney is brainy, driven, and utterly devoted to his family, formal in his manners and cautious to a fault.  People who were put off by George W. Bush’s seat-of-the-pants, aggressively uninformed management style will be glad to know that Romney’s style is the complete opposite.  In his work for Bain & Company and Bain Capital, he was methodical in his approach to problems, obsessive about collecting information and using every piece of data available to arrive at the right decisions, and even then he proceeded with an abundance of caution.  He was tremendously valued by his clients and by Bain itself for his preparation and the resulting rainmaking performance.

This precision and calculation in his business and (brief) political career as a one-term governor also has led mostly non-Mormons and some Mormons who disagreed with his leadership decisions to describe Romney as chilly, distant, and overly clinical in his approach to solving problems.  But the article also offers a sympathetic portrait of Romney through his leadership roles in the LDS church as a vital part of a supportive community that takes care of its own.  Perhaps because of his background in management consulting, he’s portrayed here as very brisk and no-nonsense about dispensing advice that will be painful for others to carry out.  The article offers two examples, which interestingly focus on women and reproduction:  first, it offers the story of an unmarried young woman he advised as a Mormon bishop to give up her baby to adoption (she refused, and eventually left the church), and then another story about a mother of five in a hazardous pregnancy with her sixth child whom he counseled not to have an abortion (she also refused Romney’s advice, had the abortion, and has never regretted it.)  But, as always:  don’t take my word for the takeaway, read the article (or even the book) yourself.

My prediction:  It is ironic that in a year in which more rank-and-file Republicans put beating President Obama at the top of their list of qualities they want in a presidential candidate, they may end up nominating their most Obama-like candidate.  Both men are rather chilly and like to keep people at a distance; both are brainy, but brains haven’t necessarily counted for much in the history of American political leadership; both men have shown their willingness to incorporate ideas from the other party and to work with opponents, something that both of the base in their respective parties detest; and both men have demonstrated their willingness to throw women’s liberties under the bus for what they perceive as the greater good.

Republicans are correct to be wary of Romney, but not because he’s not conservative enough.  He is smarter than they are, and he can’t fake that he knows it.  They also would probably do better as a party to let Romney lead them, but he lacks the personal charm and the political swagger to get his party or enough other Americans on his side to be a strong leader.  Even if he is elected in November, we’re looking at at least four more years of gridlock and inaction by Congress as we continue to face high unemployment, a stagnant economy, and a warming planet, which is pretty much the same if Obama is re-elected.  (This is indeed what we may face, since it seems like Romney is about the only guy in America who can make Obama look like a warm guy who just luuves the ‘merican peepul!)

15 thoughts on “Feel the Santormentum! Know your Romney: A Janus-face for January

  1. One thing I find fascinating about the Romney element in the primary is how it reveals how shallow the Republican commitment to states’ rights is (and thus how deep their resistance to any sort of healthcare reform is). That is, there should be very little pushback to Romney supporting a state mandate for health insurance in MA — he *should* be able to say that it was a state-level decision that every state should have the right to do/exercise and it’s ok if MA is different than TX. But he can’t do that and the conservatives, no matter how “states-rights-y” they are won’t buy it. Because they don’t want any sort of government investment in health care, even if half the time they don’t think of states as governments.

    Santorum seems to be the Bill Clinton of the primary — the guy who really knows how to work an audience, seem “like them,” and be politic in just the right way. Ron Paul certainly isn’t going to compromise his ideological commitments to seem “of the people.” Makes it all sort of interesting from a psychology of elections point of view. (Otherwise, it’s just pure madness.)


  2. The difference between Obama and Romney that interests me is how loathed Romney is by his party, while Obama blew Hopium so well for a while.

    LookIng at both dudes from the feminist left, the only reason I can think of to prefer Obama in 2012 is better federal judicial appointments. Weighing that good against the good of allowing Democrats to quasi-unite against a Rethug opponent, I’m settling near indifference about the outcome of the election. It’s approximately six of one and a half-dozen of the other, or Tweedledum versus Tweedledee. I do expect Obama to win, maybe by as much as five points.


  3. Rachel–Santorum is no Bill Clinton! I think he’s almost as awkward as Romney, especially when he’s out of his comfort zone with anyone but “values voters.” Ron Paul is the one guy who seems consistent and authentic, in that “crazy uncle Ronnie” fashion.

    And LadyProf: I agree that judicial appointments are about all that we might look forward to with a second Obama admin. (And by “look forward to” I guess I mean, “provide a reason not to kill ourselves” compared to the people Romney or another Republican might appoint.) I was suspicious of this very thing back in the summer of 2008, when the best reason for voting for Obama the Obamabots could come up with was “but but but SCOTUS!!!!”

    Pretty sucky. It’s like even they were pre-disappointed.


  4. Agreed on the judicial appointments. Also, birth control is now considered routine preventive care. Lots of waffling in other places, but those things are not trivial.

    I think Romney is the only Republican who can make Obama look approachable (watch them in crowds — Obama isn’t nearly as stiff.)


  5. I completely disagree that Romney is some kind of conscientious smart dude. What he appears to be instead is an obsessive sociopath who could be counted on by the owners of the capital he was responsible for advising and, later in his career, investing to have absolutely no empathy or other emotional obstacles to squeezing every penny he possibly could out of companies to the benefit of that capital, regardless of the outcome for employees, customers, bondholders, or other creditors and interested parties. This is exactly why the owners of the United States would love to see him elected: he will do exactly the same thing to the country with absolutely no empathy or other emotional obstacle to squeezing every penny he possibly can out of the 99% to the benefit of the 0.1%, regardless of what it does to people’s lives, livelihoods, and families, or to the physical, social, intellectual, and economic infrastructure of the nation.

    I see very different outcomes to a second Obama term and a Romney presidency. While Obama is clearly beholden to monied interests, he is *also* beholden to other interests: labor, gender parity, environmentalism, etc. With Romney, I see someone who would have no qualms whatsoever to do to the United States what he did to a typical leveraged buyout target: fire most of the employees, borrow a huge amount of money, run up the stock price and declare huge dividends, dump all the stock, go bankrupt, and give the finger to the remaining employees and creditors.


  6. Anyone who could imagine living in a 4-year Santorum state hasn’t lived in Pennsylvania lately. I’m sure he’s more consistent in his “beliefs” than Romney is, but they should be practiced elsewhere. I could deal with the hard-edged empiricist personality in Romney, conversely, but he really does seem to be willing to embrace almost any portion of the center-to-far-right spectrum that he thinks is sitting in front of him. Gail Collins keeps harping on the fact that Romney supposedly once drove the family to a vacation in Canada with the family dog strapped on the roof of the car. I’m willing to google almost anything, but I haven’t gotten around to fact-checking that one yet. But if I was (still) an Iowan I think I would have been inclined to write in the Unabomber, just to make a statement.

    I have a photocopy of a December, 1967 front page in a Philadelphia newspaper with a picture of Old Pops Romney (George) standing in shirtsleeves in Vietnam talking to a staff sargeant from suburban Detroit, on the cusp of the Tet Offensive and about to self-destruct HIS road to the White House with some ill-considered candor and impulsive verbalizing. It happens to be on the same page as a story about of the comedic melt-down of a reenactment of Washington crossing the Delaware River the previous day, so I show it to my American Revolution students every February for the latter reason. It should be pretty interesting this time out.


  7. It isn’t clear whether agreeing and disagreeing with the Comrade is good or bad. In the books at my library both Obama and Romney are kind of slow and not very bright. With the right provenance and discipline one can make billions in our gangy economy. Obama is yet to show high school ability.

    Obama is not at all “beholden to other interests: labor, gender parity, environmentalism, etc.” It’s true particularly for a second term. All these constituencies will see is a f..er.

    Poor us.


  8. Comparing Santorum to Bill Clinton may be the wackiest thing I’ve ever read, rather like comparing a dashboard bobblehead to the Statue of Liberty.
    Clinton convinced people that he cared because he really did care as you can see by his post presidential work.


  9. Obama is yet to show high school ability.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!! Yeah, tell that to the Harvard Law Review!!

    Seriously, to read this post and some of the comments, you’d think this was some fucken deranged right-wing blogge.


  10. Ok, maybe I hadn’t had enough coffee when I compared Santorum to Clinton. But I had just heard some clip of him that struck me as very B. Clinton-esque. It’s not like I like the guy. I just think that in certain situations, he comes off as far more personable than any of the others in this campaign. Crazy uncle Ronnie is certainly consistent and authentic, but not in a cozy sort of way.


  11. Rachel–I think you’re right that Santorum is trying to exploit his connection to some of the same demographic that felt a connection to Clinton. It’s just that I think he’s an extremely awkward pol, but that’s just my opinion.

    I am no longer persuaded by the argument that 2% less evil is a compelling argument to vote Democratic. I fail to see how that might be construed as a “right-wing” point of view.


  12. ComradePhysioProf: “Obama is clearly beholden to monied interests, he is *also* beholden to other interests: labor, gender parity, environmentalism….”


    I tried to laugh so I wouldn’t cry, but it didn’t work.

    You have to start reading the news, CPP, painful as it is. I’ll grant that the Repubs have a worse line of talk, but as the Black Agenda Report says, Obama is the more effective evil judging by his actual record. (Indefinite detention, extrajudicial assassination, now also extended to US citizens and on paper at least to US soil, cutting Social Security and Medicare treated like a “serious” idea, right down to so help me God dropping the ball on the Do Not Call Registry.


  13. My mostly Republican family dislikes Romney for the same reason that they disliked him four years ago – while he appears to have personal principles, he does not appear to have political principles. If he was elected we would have to prepare ourselves for four years of executive leadership by focus group. The one candidate we like is, naturally, essentially dead last in the polls. . .


  14. I don’t know, Profane–buckle up for some Huntsmentum!!!

    I think you put this very nicely: “while he appears to have personal principles, he does not appear to have political principles.” That’s where I thought the Vanity Fair article was quite good–it gives a very fair overview of his business success and LDS leadership, and I think it shows that he is a very personally principled person. (They’re not my principles, mind you, but he has shown a great deal of consistency and constancy in his personal and business lives.) But as you say, constant political principles? Not so much, and that’s why most Republicans are wary.


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