Getting to know Mitt
I'm one of those people who actually view politicians who make it to such lofty levels as being the presidential candidate for a major party -- through skill, achievement of service, and dogged, tough-skin determination -- as American heroes. Mitt Romney, who is about to be knighted by the nation's Republicans at their convention this week, certainly fits the bill.
I follow national politics closer than most, I guess, but I still wouldn't say I know much about Romney the man, outside from: he's rich, big family, Mormon, winter Olympics, former governor, and more rich. For that, I looked forward to watching "Romney Revealed," a recent special on the candidate by CNN.
The biggest obstacle Romney has always had, analysts often note, is that he has a hard time "relating" to people -- or more accurately, people have a hard time seeing themselves in him. So, I figured I'd give him a chance to see if we could relate to each other. Here's what the show "revealed":
Romney grew up rich, his father an industrial giant, Michigan governor and presidential candidate. Even his mom ran for the U.S. Senate. He grew up going to private schools, then went to Stanford for a year where, as a goodlooking, cleancut freshman, he carried protest signs FOR the administration, berating those dirty hippies. He missed the Vietnam War because he was, well, rich, in college and, well, are you kidding?
He then went on a two-year Mormon mission in the wild jungles of ... Paris, France. Then came back home, married his childhood sweetheart, went to BYU, became a student and started fathering children. He was excellent at both.
He then went to Massachusetts, got into business, and whether you're a Republican or Democrat, either excelled by building companies and wealth, or failed by buying out companies and laying off workers. But no doubt, he made bigtime money for himself, something we Americans can "relate to" as being pretty cool.
Then he got into politics, ran against Ted Kennedy for his Massachusetts Senate seat, and gave the ol' lion one of the closest shaves of his storied political career. But Mitt lost that Senate race. That was on a Tuesday. Wednesday morning he was back at his desk making money for his company, Bain Capital.
A few years later, he was lured back to Utah, to "save" a troubled winter Olympics effort, which had been tarnished by scandal and was short on cash. With his leadership, the games -- held a few months after 9/11 -- were a big success.
Then it was back to Massachusetts, and politics. He parlayed his victory as Olympic organizer into winning the state's governorship -- a Republican in a state dominated by Kennedy Democrats.
Romney was a moderate Republican, liberal by today's Tea Party-influenced standards, as governor. Had to be, he said, to govern in Massachusetts. He signed a health care bill that mandated people have or buy insurance. He vowed to protect a woman's right to choose, was pro gay rights.
Then Romney switched tracks. He said a bill that would have allowed for stem-cell research prompted him to become more staunchly pro-life and anti-abortion. His opponents -- both his GOP counterparts in the past and now Democratic leaders -- say his shift was for political reasons only, to set him up as a potential Republican presidential candidate.
For that's what he became, entering the 2008 race. But he left it, unable to surpass John McCain. He then ran again, claiming to be even more conservative than ever. It was enough to easily outpace a weak GOP field and earn the nomination.
So here we are, watching television shows trying to figure out who the guy is. After the show, I can honestly say that I know nothing more about the inner workings of the man than I did before I watched it.
From his days as a well-groomed Stanford freshman, protesting in support of the school's administration against more culturally hip '60s students, Romney has always had a hard time fitting in. He had a hard time fitting in at GOP debates this spring, trying to convince the crowd that he was indeed conservative enough to lead the GOP.
But Romney really doesn't care that people can't relate to him, that he doesn't fit in. One friend of his on the show said Romney is more about what he does than who he is. He's a doer, an achiever, not someone worried about whether you like him or not.
Sure, it's easier for me and the masses to relate to the guy opposing Romney, the guy raised middle class, with the easy smile, who partakes in a beer or two, who enjoys playing hoop with his buddies and singing '70s soul music.
Whether we can personally relate to them or not, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are both American heroes, both great examples of what hard work, ambition, determination, education and skill can earn in this country. Too bad each will have to endure so many hate-filled, spin-doctored, truth-challenged attacks over the next several weeks.
But that's what we do to political heroes in this country -- beat them down so we, the masses, can better "relate" to them, for better or worse.