Is Mitt Romney a man at home in himself?
To the Editor:
Is he all there, feelings as well as body parts?
To my mind, there are questions about the proportions of flesh, tin, and feelings in this man who has had everything and would like to be President, too.
These questions were first laid in my mind by the confected character of the Romney voice we have been hearing as he campaigns around the country, and the uneasy rhythms of his speech. There's something absent in this man, it has seemed to me, at least in his public utterances. Maybe at home with his wife and sons he's all there and a natural speaker of the tongue. But the public Romney I hear speak gives me the feeling of a tin man who exists in separation from the words he utters, and also and in consequence, from the world that most of us live in.
My doubts about the wholeness of the person Romney is went into a gallop when I read an investigative report in The Washington Post last May, about a hazing posse that the then 18-year-old Mitt, no longer a boy, organized at the rich kids' boarding school he attended at the time, 1965. In the spirit of fun and to regularize the irregular, the young Mitt together with a gang he assembled that included the school's champion wrestler, grabbed hold of an effeminate--looking schoolmate of 17 who wore his bleached hair long, an unusual thing in those days. The guys pinned the funny-looking kid down on the floor, while Mitt, the man in charge, hacked his hair down to a length that he thought was fitting.
The kid on the floor turned out not to be a good sport. He didn't accept that he was the butt of just a prank or the beneficiary of a little friendly cultural correction, as Romney would have had it. He was plain terrified and wept and screamed and begged to be let go.
That outcome of the "prank," the kid under their hands bawling in fear and screaming to be released, weighed heavily on some of the pranksters. Forty-seven years later, in 2012, some of them still recalled vividly the terror they had inflicted on their victim, and confessed their remorse at what they had done. "What a senseless, stupid, idiotic thing to do," the champion wrestler said. "It was vicious," said another witness, who had been a friend of Romney's since childhood.
But no words like that came from the adult Mitt Romney, who confessed to nothing. A man with his eye on the Presidency, he said back in May when the Washington Post dredged up the story of the assault he had organized and led, that he had no memory of the event or the part he was said to have played in it.
No memory? -- forgotten? -- really? I have to wonder, from this distance, whether a fully fledged human being could truly have forgotten the kinds of feelings that must have coursed through Romney's hands and brain as he forcibly held down his frightened and weeping classmate.
And then, to make a bad case worse, and with an eery want of consciousness of the words he was speaking, Romney added in the same interview that if he had hurt the other kid's feelings back then, he was sorry.
That "If" stands large in my mind. The kid with the long hair was set upon, manhandled, shamed, and frightened, and kept crying out to be let go. How could such a weak and suspect "if"--" If I hurt the other kid's feeling ..." figure in reviewing such a case? Could Mitt years later have imagined that his victim, might have taken the event as something like a joke or a friendly correction? ("They're right! I really need that haircut.")
And now comes rolling in news of a rambling talk Romney gave not many months ago at an intimate $50,000-a-plate dinner for campaign donors, that deepens our sense of the essential Romney. Estimating, before his little audience, his chances of being elected, Romney casually rated the 47 percent of his fellow Americans who are legally exempted from paying income taxes as essentially moochers, people who receive unearned stipends from the Federal Treasury: "takers" all, in his political assessment. "I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives," Romney said. And added,"My job is not to worry about those people."
Those "takers," the broad 47 percent of America who make Romney uneasy, would include widows, orphans, cripples, old guys like myself receiving a monthly social security check, and the millions of people who just can't find work in these deeply depressed times and are being barely sustained by unemployment insurance checks. Also, the more millions of working people who earn too little to pay an income tax but do pay an employment tax at a rate that turns out to be higher than the privileged 13.7% income tax that Romney typically pays on his millions of dollars of annual income. That class of "takers," in Romney's view, is a drag on the rest of society, who he would bring to correction if he could.
You have to wonder, in the light of Romney's off-the-cuff discourse on the 47 percent of the population who are "not [his job] to worry about," what kind of heart Romney would bring to the job of President, in addition to the businessman's calculating brain he boasts of as his chief qualification for the position.
I expect it would be a heart made of iron, and shaped like a padlock securing a gated community.