A Handy User's Manual to the Mitt Romney Machine

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Mitt Romney's post-Iowa speech Tuesday night was one of the strangest, most slapdash public appearances the guy has ever made, and lest we forget, Romney is the king of slapdash, the emperor of seeming to care. If this -- being the guy who only plays sports for the medals -- is not enough to put people off, what is? Articles like the Times' "Building a Better Mitt Romney-Bot" have focused on the machine behind the machine, the mainframe of the blue-screened PC that is the candidate. But what the people need is a thorough, one-stop-shop exploration of how the man became who he appears to be for now until his next software update.


"The Meaning of Mitt," an article with exceedingly long paragraphs currently on Vanity Fair's website, and derived from a forthcoming book on Romney called The Real Romney, comes pretty close. "The Meaning of Mitt" is a user's manual you can turn to when, for example. you need an explanation of how someone can seem so ungrateful, confused, high and absent after eking out a caucus win in a state that's never really given a damn about him.

  • Oh, the temper on this man. Does Not Work Well With Others, as evidenced by, for example, this 2007 video of Romney arguing, off the air, with a radio host about his faith. See also: the Rick Perry shoulder-grab.
  • The spoiled-brat syndrome. (See above!)
  • The "emotion-free crisis management," as the authors put it, best summed up in Doggate, in which the Romney family's Irish setter Seamus was put on the roof of a moving vehicle for many hours ("But he had a windshield! That I made! Look at how great it is! D'ya see that? I made this! Now now, potential voter [cocks head to the side, softens his facial expression], give me some credit!" Romney might tell you in response to the fact that the dog lost control of his bowels all over the car.)
  • The wife as Cheerleader-in-Chief. A convenient way to shove your power-hungry modus operandus onto the shoulders of someone else, especially if you also portray yourself as continually lying down at the feet of that special someone else ("She Made Me Run!")
  • The sometimes downplayed, sometimes loudly broadcast Mormon faith. "Belonging to the Mormon Church," the authors write, "meant accepting a code of conduct that placed supreme value on strong families—strong heterosexual families, in which men and women often filled defined and traditional roles."
  • The thing where politics, by nature, demands affability or at least sociability. "He’s very engaging and charming in a small group of friends he’s comfortable with,” a former aide told the authors. “When he’s with people he doesn’t know, he gets more formal. And if it’s a political thing where he doesn’t know anybody, he has a mask.” And if it's a political thing... "It was all very friendly but not very deep," adds another aide about Romney's time as governor of Massachusetts.
  • The woman problem. Romney encouraged a woman active in the LDS church during his time as a ward bishop in Boston to give up her second child for adoption, apparently because her home life -- she was divorced, with one child from the marriage -- was too unstable. This is just one of a string of incidents in which Romney showed himself to be ultra-conservative on women's issues despite sometimes appearing to want to make the Mormon church more progressive on that front.
  • The Evil Empire of Bain Capital. The Times exposé of Romney's time at Bain paints him as a no-nonsense, expense-slashing money hoarder. But Vanity Fair shows us once again that Romney is as wishy-washy as ever when it comes to business: "Romney was, by nature, deeply risk-averse in a business based on risk," they write. "He worried about losing the money of his partners and his outside investors—not to mention his own savings." Oh, well, no worries on that last part, and it didn't take long before Romney was totally comfortable forcing companies into deep debt.
  • The being-a-businessman-will-make-me-a-great-president claim. Um, nah, because Romney's job description at Bain essentially was "slashing jobs, closing plants, and moving production overseas," as well as "clashing with union workers, serving on the board of a company that ran afoul of federal laws, and loading up already struggling companies with debt."

Rom-com may be a machine, but he doesn't even seem to know what make of machine he is. Also -- a machine that gets angry? Ingenious! But we all know what happens when a machine gets angry. Open the pod bay doors, Mitt. [Vanity Fair]

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