George Was Blunt, Mitt’s Polite
Mitt Romney has developed a reputation as a careful campaigner, almost to a fault. Mitt panders to the audience he’s addressing, always trying to find the magic bullet that will let him win the favor of the people listening to him. It’s the reason that Mitt was able to be a pro-choice, pro-LGBT rights governor in Massachusetts, and an anti-choice, anti-LGBT governor in Massachusetts. He’s not the kind of figure who will stand up for what he believes; he believes in tailoring his message to fit.
George Romney was anything but careful. He had a reputation for bluntness, one that appeared both in public and private. Mitt’s mother, Lenore, had a similarly brash temperament, and the two earned the nickname “The Bickersons” from their family, as neither was willing to back down to the other.
The way the two men have dealt with their religion — Mormonism — is instructive. Mitt has sought to keep his faith relatively quiet; while it’s impossible for people not to know Mitt is a Mormon, he has made few mentions of it. He’s even sought to keep from being seen at church during the campaign. George, on the other hand, invited traveling reporters to church with him, where both he and his wife spoke about their faith and the way it affected their beliefs.
While minor, the comparison speaks volumes about the men. George was who he was, and was unafraid to show it; Mitt is trying to sweep minor inconveniences under the rug and avoid giving offense to anyone if he can avoid it.
Mitt is Pro-War, George was Skeptical
Mitt Romney has maintained a relatively incoherent foreign policy, but one thing that he has been clear on is that he is ready, willing and eager to go to war. Mitt’s reaction to the deaths of four Americans in an attack on the Benghazi, Libya consulate was to call for “strength” and to insinuate that President Barack Obama, by engaging with the Middle East, was being “weak.” Romney supported the war in Iraq and has criticized Obama for creating a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan.
George Romney was, at one point, in favor of the war of his era, the Vietnam War, at one point comparing the cause to fighting Nazi Germany. By the time he began his run for president, however, George had turned against the war. In an interview, Romney said, “When I came back from Vietnam, I’d just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get,” arguing that the generals who he’d met with had misled him about the progress in the war.
Of course, George was running against Richard Nixon for the GOP nomination, and Nixon had no problem ignoring the clear meaning of George’s statement. Nixon turned the statement on its head, using it to insinuate that George was not quite stable.
Again, though, the comparison is instructive. George Romney initially supported a war, but after reflection, he came to oppose it — and was blunt in arguing why he’d been wrong. Mitt has never seen a war he didn’t like (except, briefly, the war in Libya), and when he does change his position — as he has often — he’s rarely as direct as his father.
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