The Real Romney
Michael Kranish and Scott Helman (Harper: 2012)
There are several things that I can now say about Governor Mitt Romney, with some degree of confidence, after reading the interesting and fair-minded biography, The Real Romney. (This, by the way, is a well-written book that was quite easy to finish in a short time.) I can safely say that the real Mitt Romney is not the star of every deal and decision that he has ever made. His campaign will obviously stress his positives this fall but seeing how he had failed, at least in some decisions, and then how he responded to these failures, made this book exceptionally useful. If the goal in reading such a book is to gain a sense of the character and leadership abilities of Mitt Romney, both learned from actual life experience, then Kranish and Helman provide the reader with some great stories and keen insights. When all is said and done Romney’s leadership record is quite impressive, at least in terms of what he has done and how he conducted himself in doing it. He clearly understands the free market, has successfully worked within it as an high competent entrepreneur, has managed large budgets and solved challenging problems in creative and (generally) successful ways. He seems quite confident but not cocky. The Real Romney describes his business and leadership style as “risk aversive.” I found this to be extremely insightful and believe that it fits the character of the man and thus has to be true. He surrounds himself with bright people, gets them to do real analysis and then, with these people as his team, comes up with a plan and personally promotes it vigorously. It is safe to say that the real reason Romney comes across as he does in public is primarily because he is an introvert.
What about his family? The Romney’s are impressive people, both morally and personally. His sons grew up with wealth but they do not live now as if they are privileged young men. His wife, Ann, is a fighter and a lover. She has aggressively and positively battled her multiple sclerosis while she has, at the same time, done an amazing job raising a family and impacting various causes that she deeply cares about. She has also received recognition in equestrianism and dressage. The love story of Mitt and Ann Romney is moving and not well known. Mitt fell in love with Ann when she was only 15 and had to pursue here for some time to win her heart. They have loved one another, and served people side-by-side, for well over forty years. There has never been a remote hint of unfaithfulness between them. These two people are gifted and remain deeply in love. Their marriage is superb, at least from everything a person from outside the family can tell. This says a lot about the character and moral fibre of the man.
Mitt Romney’s dad, as many readers well know, was a two-term governor of Michigan in the 1960s. George Romney came to America in poverty, after his Mormon family had fled Arizona into Mexico in the face of growing Mormon persecution. George settled in Michigan made a small fortune through hard work and good sense. He eventually became the president of a major automobile company. His son made even more money by the same means of good sense, wise investments and some luck. The biggest difference between the father and the son is that the father was more straightforward about controversial views than Mitt has generally been. In 1968 George Romney was the front-runner among Republican candidates for president until he returned from Vietnam and opposed the war openly. He was overtaken by Richard Nixon and the rest is history. George Romney, unlike his now famous son, had a fiery temper. Mitt has only showed this side of his personality a few times, at least from what the authors learned in following him and interviewing scores of people who were close to Governor Romney. He appears to be far more under control than most political candidates. Mitt is also deeply analytical but seems to care about people. The authors interviewed a number of Mormon church members who were served by Romney as their pastor. (Mormon males are often called to serve as pastors in much the same as they would serve as elders in some evangelical churches.) Some members of the congregation that Mitt served, especially those who encountered financial problems and the effects of deep loss or poverty, were very complimentary of how they were treated by Romney in his pastoral work. Again, he is shown to be a caring and compassionate person.
I believe that The Real Romney searches the complex interior life of the man Mitt Romney quite effectively. I found myself saying, “This is a truly good man who cares about people and possesses far more compassion for the poor and less fortunate than he will be credited with in the coming debates.” Sadly, we will get stereotypes of both Romney and Obama, at least from their respective campaigns. This is the nature of campaigns, especially modern ones. Sadly, too few of us will bother to look at these men as human persons who love, and think and make decisions as wisely as they know how. I am reminded to pray for those in authority and, in Romney’s case, for a man who might become the president of the United States.