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What Drives Mitt Romney?

October 18, 2012

Mitt Romney’s performance earlier this week was every bit as aggressive as his demeanor in the first presidential debate—something that was a big turn-off for me and many others. But Tuesday night, Romney outdid himself in two other ways. First, he displayed a kind of manic rudeness. When Obama thought that the governor had asked him a question, Romney snapped: “You’ll get your chance in a moment. I’m still speaking.”

Excuse me? That was the President of the United States you just barked at, not just your political rival.

Second, Romney displayed a surprising breach of loyalty. Apparently, the former Massachusetts governor wants the presidency so badly he was prepared to throw George W. Bush under the bus. In an answer to a citizen’s question for Romney on how he would differentiate himself from the former president, the GOP candidate cited several things. The most important of them was the Bush administration’s high budget deficits.

“President Bush and I are different people, and these are different times,” he said. “And that’s why my five-point plan is so different than what he [Bush] would have done… I’m going to get us to a balanced budget. President Bush didn’t. President Obama was right. He said that that was outrageous to have deficits as high as half a trillion dollars under the Bush years. He was right…”

Even though Romney went on to criticize Obama for even larger deficits, the GOP candidate fell into a strategic trap: Romney showed that on deficit spending the Republicans have been talking out of both sides of their mouths.

In answering a question about the former president of your own political party, most of us might have expected that any criticism from Romney would, at the very least, have come with a qualifier. He could have easily said: “Although the Bush deficits were far too high, the president was dealing with a national emergency—September 11.” This would have been smart since Romney also challenged Bush’s record on China, another sensitive matter.

Romney owes the GOP nomination – in large measure – to the Bush family. As pillars of the current Republican establishment, they still wield enormous power. The Bush family could have demurred and refused to endorse anyone, making it probable that a more extreme candidate would have gotten the nomination and lost the general election. This would have left the window wide open for a Jeb Bush nomination in 2016. After all, if Romney wins this November, Jeb will be sidelined in 2016.

Instead, during the grueling GOP primary fight one Bush after another came forward to support Romney, against the tide of opinion within the party rank and file. In March, former Governor Jeb Bush went first. He was followed a few days later by former President George H.W. Bush.  Both of these endorsements came after former First Lady Barbara Bush had already recorded robocalls for the Romney campaign. A few months later in May, President George W. Bush informally mentioned that he is backing Romney. This was noteworthy because the former president had decided to stand back from a formal endorsement, as immediate former presidents often do.

Nope. Romney won’t even let loyalty erect an obstacle on the way to the White House.

Years ago when I was serving as a member of the Republican National Committee Speakers Bureau, we were admonished to obey the 11th Commandment – at the time, an unwritten but widely observed rule in the GOP: “Thou shall not speak ill of other Republicans.” Ronald Reagan had espoused this idea, attributed to California GOP Chairman Gaylord Parkinson, in the hope that his bruising primary fight for the California governorship would not yield haunting one-liners from his GOP opponents, thus jeopardizing his chances of winning the election. He carried this philosophy with him onto the national stage.

Of course, this year Romney and other primary combatants repeatedly violated the Gipper’s wise words over the course of the never-ending primary season.

But perhaps Romney’s ambitious and inelegant answers will now prompt another GOP Commandment—the 12th. “Thou Shall Not Diss a Former Republican President” —or indirectly his powerful family that has publicly endorsed you.

Romney’s debate answers were undoubtedly aimed at undecided voters, but many members of the Republican Party I’ve spoken to in the last two days are incensed by Romney’s handling of the Bush question.

This debate is unlikely to change the contours of the campaign, but it has offered one more glimpse at what drives the man who wants desperately to move into the White House.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. David Edelman permalink
    October 18, 2012 5:46 pm

    Thanks for Speaking up Susan and telling it like it is. You are first class all the way. David Edelman – Oswego, IL

  2. PAUL J. HANSEN permalink
    October 18, 2012 5:55 pm

    RIGHT AGAIN SUSAN,
    A VERY DISTURBING PERFORMANCE-WHERE IS THE STATESMANSHIP -WHERE IS THE
    LEADERSHIP A PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE NEEDS TO DEMONSTRATE TO THE ELECTORATE? THE VOTERS-PARTICULARLY THE INDEPENDENTS – MAY SHOW SHOW THEMSELVES TO BE JUST AS ALARMED BY THIS APPROACH. /

    PAUL J. HANSEN

  3. Cate Magennis Wyatt permalink
    October 18, 2012 6:28 pm

    Susan, thank you for your inimitable perspective and thoughtful observations. I thank you and am inspired by your call for integrity. If those who aspire to become our Commander in Chief are incapable of respecting The Office, what does this say about their respect for the ideals your grandfather ~ and generation upon generation who have laid life and livelihood on the line to defend our American ideals ~ say, about that person?
    I do believe you’ve already answered my question.

  4. Christopher Catherwood permalink
    October 18, 2012 6:40 pm

    Thanks Susan – this is brilliant material which my wife and I love reading!

  5. Don Webster permalink
    October 18, 2012 6:53 pm

    Susan,
    Such as it is, the GOP that you and I knew is not the one Romney is playing to. The Tea Party element rules the day despite Romney’s opportunistic move to the middle. I have concluded the man has no principles or ideology. He is the ultimate deal maker who says and does what he must in order to clinch the deal. He is the pure pragmatist, which explains why no one knows what he believes. The deal is all. Essentially a politically cold blooded man.
    Don

  6. Dan Morgan permalink
    October 18, 2012 7:38 pm

    great comment, Susan..Romney has repeatedly displayed a lack of grace — to wit,
    his comments before London Olympics. He could simply have said that he was too focused on the future to get into second guessing the past. I can think of several presidents who would have done just that!

  7. October 18, 2012 8:12 pm

    Mitt has only two obstacles he needs to overcome to get into the White House: his face.

  8. October 18, 2012 8:24 pm

    Mitt must think ordinary Republicans are as ignorant as the bigoted Tea Partiers he pandered to during the primary season. I wonder how many of the Romney boys will sign-up to fight and die in wars Willard is itching to start with his tough talk on Iran, Syria, Egypt and even Russia. I thought prep school would have taught Mitte some manners. Blogger John is correct, He is two-faced. His “change of heart” on abortion? Strange how these changes of heart always appear on the eve of the South Carolina Republican Primary.

  9. Rona Elias permalink
    October 18, 2012 8:36 pm

    How elegantly stated. I am so glad that you ave started up your blog again and sending it out to people who have met you and heard you speak are big fans. The last election I though at least Senator McCain and at the time Senator Obama respected and probably liked each other. Judging by the behavior Governor Romney has demonstrated at both debates, why do I have this vision of him cutting off the hair of a student that that was being held down by his frate mates because he was different.?

  10. Dave Somers permalink
    October 18, 2012 9:18 pm

    The Republican candidate for President of the United States disclosed his “true” nature by his gesturing at the second debate, as a rude, disrespectful, arrogant, demeaning, condescending, petulant, and pitiful ‘creature’. The camera captured that brief prompting moment of his to Obama when he made that stupid assertion (yeah, all the apologists be damned!) about the terrorist statement by the Pre
    sident (yeah, I capitalized the title, because it warrants the respect the office represents) with his head nod forward and raised eyebrows (“well, speak!) as if Obama was some employee he’s scolding or a child being reprimanded. Many times the body belies the real nature of the man. As flawed in policy and management as Obama has been in certain areas, I have no doubts about Obama’s character, as when he drilled into his opponent regarding his responsibility and concern about the Libyan victims of a clearly terrorist act. The “fog” of war obscure the facts of the event, and no system, no intelligence agency on earth can discern what happened just after. The balance between immediate reporting and thoughtful, investigation arriving at a reasoned and accurate conclusion is difficult. The Republican candidate’s response was a purely political “event of convenience” to attempt to embarrass and to serve as the archetype for Obama’s overall foreign policy. It’s like my insurance company raising my rates as a result of someone else hitting my parked car

  11. Andrine permalink
    October 18, 2012 9:20 pm

    Once again you hit the nail on the head. I am thinking the party should start flipping through the binders of women for 2016 now. The men were not impressive this election year.

  12. Tony DuPuis permalink
    October 19, 2012 12:46 am

    ABSOLUTELY Correct !!!
    Thanks again Susan… my goodness… Thank GOD some is telling Truths!!! Isn’t it SO Obvious in this Fact or Fictional time…(Not a question…)Truth speaks for its-self! it’s called FACTS… Susan you are so pinpoint accurate !!!
    and Folks have to know that Romney has also decided to carry a portion of the BUSH Team with him…Which is indicative that he will do – again- the WRONG things for America. That combo of Bain mentality /Bush thinking is Lethal to AMERICA !!!!
    THANKS for being who you are!!! Ike is so proud of YOU !!! We are Too !!!!

  13. Peter permalink
    October 19, 2012 10:31 am

    Susan, you eloquently described an in-eloquent man, actually a classless ,crude man. I felt shock and embarrassment by Romney’s disrespect for the President on national (and international) media. It was one of our lowest points shown to the world. I was not brought up in this manner and hated that our youth witnessed this attack. As an example, I did not like President George W Bush’s policies but he was always my President. I’ve sadly been told in political discussions that Obama was my President but not theirs. That always has bothered me. In the debate, however, I was heartened when Obama stood his ground, and eye to eye proclaimed to Romney and the country he is the President. This was truly an inspiring moment for me and hopefully the country. Yes he is the President, a President with as sense of duty, heart and class.

  14. October 19, 2012 11:26 am

    What respect I used to have for Romney is fast disappearing. It is no longer possible to know what Romney really believes or stands for since he changes his mind almost weekly. His outright lies are piling up, while he seems to be making promises to everyone that are so in conflict that we know he cannot possibly carry through with them all. And now he trashes his Republican predecessor too? Has he no shame?

  15. D. Kothmann permalink
    October 21, 2012 11:08 am

    I debated in High School. When one side consistently gets more time in a debate, they win. When the moderator refuses to properly manage time fairly, one must become aggressive or one loses. Have the moderators forced Romney into a rude position? Yes. One must decide if this consistent pattern of time management is intentional or not. Should the debate commission instruct the moderator to give Romney 7 extra minutes in the final debate? Now that would be fair, but I bet not one of the other bloggers would agree with me because it would disadvantage their preferred candidate. Susan, on this one, I think you are wrong, and Ike would agree with me. Create a fair and unbiased playing field, and the rudeness you hate will go away. Shame on the moderators for forcing one candidate to be rude to just get what was rightfully his….a few mor minutes.

  16. Dave Turson permalink
    October 21, 2012 5:36 pm

    Obama is never, ever rude in how he engages his opponents?

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