The Two Romneys

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JULY 9, 2007

The Two Romneys

It's hard not to mistake the parallels between the career of Mitt Romney and the career of his father, former Michigan Governor George Romney. Both men became famous, and wealthy, in the world of business. Both then heard the call of public service, becoming the governor of relatively liberal states. From there, both sought the Republican presidential nomination.

George Romney lost his bid for the nomination. Will Mitt succeed? What is he willing to do to avoid his father's fate? I tackle these questions in my profile of Mitt in the current issue. But for more reading on the two Romneys--how they are alike and, thanks in part to the recent direction of Mitt's campaign, how they are different--check out the following:

    •  George Romney graced the cover of Time magazine twice. The first article, which appeared in 1959, detailed his career at the American Motor Corporation--the upstart automaker that challenged the Big Three "dinosaurs." The second article ran in 1962, just after Romney won his first gubernatorial election--and noted the early speculation about his possibilities as a presidential candidate. A few weeks ago, Time magazine revisited the subject of George Romney in the context of Mitt's run. Karen Tumulty's story on the subject is here and includes a great anecdote about Mitt going through some of his father's old correspondence.

    • George Romney's presidential aspirations tumbled in late 1967. One reason was a now-infamous interview he gave to television host Lou Gordon. Romney by this point was turning against the Vietnam War. When Gordon asked why Romney had supported it in the first place, Romney noted that he'd gotten a "brainwashing" from American officials--a line that critics used to ridicule him. (It was a classic Washington gaffe, as Michael Kinsley famously defined it: A highly controversial statement that breaks political taboos but is, on the merits, clearly true.) Amazingly, Mitt Romney claimed never to have seen the interview until journalist Neil Swidey showed it to him. Here's the Boston Globe Magazine story detailing that episode, and how Mitt reacted.

    •  An ongoing source of controversy for the Romney campaign has been Mitt's earlier outreach efforts to the gay political community in Massachusetts, which seems inconsistent with his recent appeals to the GOP's social conservative base. Here is the letter Romney wrote to the Log Cabin Republicans, a group representing gay Republicans, in 1994--while Romney was running against Ted Kennedy for the U.S. Senate. Note this key passage:

    As a result of our discussions and other interactions with gay and lesbian voters across the state, I am more convinced than ever before that as we seek to establish full equality for America's gay and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent. I am not unaware of my opponent's considerable record in the area of civil rights, or the commitment of Massachusetts voters to the principle of equality for all Americans. For some voters it might be enough for me to simply match my opponent's record in this area. But I believe we can and must do better. If we are to achieve the goals we share, we must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern. My opponent cannot do this. I can and will.

    • That same year, Romney gave an interview to Bay Windows, the local gay newspaper. During that interview, which the Boston Globe recently reprinted, he likened himself to then-governor Bill Weld--a well-known moderate who favored gay rights--and boasted of his tolerance toward gay employees while he was running Bain Capital. He also warned against letting "extremists" take over the Republican Party--language that very closely echoed what his father had said during the 1964 Republican National Convention, while he was fighting with Barry Goldwater's ultra-conservative supporters over civil rights.

    •  Mitt Romney was still reaching out to gay activists in 2002, when he ran for governor of Massachusetts; as this Los Angeles Times story details, he again met with members of the Log Cabin Republicans to obtain their endorsement. During that year's Gay Pride festivities in Boston, Romney supporters distributed this flier. Two top campaign officials told me that they hadn't authorized the flier--in fact, they said, they hadn't even seen it before I showed it to them. But several prominent gay political leaders had been working on the campaign. (One went on to serve in Romney's cabinet.) It is possible one of them ran and distributed the fliers on their own, figuring it was consistent with the outreach efforts.

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