Mitt Romney

The Romney Riddle

Who is Mitt Romney? His father holds some clues.


One of the strange things about America—a country founded on a revolution against a hereditary monarchy—is that so many of our politicians seem to inherit their professions. John Adams begat John Quincy Adams. Senator Prescott Bush begat President George Herbert Walker Bush, who begat President George W. Bush. Senator Albert Gore, Sr., of Tennessee begat Vice President Albert Gore, Jr. Governor Brown of California, Sr., begat Governor Brown of California, Jr.

Even the ties between Barack Obama, Sr., the Harvard-educated Kenyan socialist, and Barack Obama, Jr., the Harvard-educated incumbent president, are the subject of much discussion and debate. Whether one believes the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, or whether one believes sons rebel against their fathers, there's a power to the notion that the careers of the fathers can tell us something about the characters of the son.

So expect to hear more, between now and Election Day, about George Romney, the CEO of American Motors-turned governor of Michigan who is the father of Mitt Romney, the CEO of Bain Capital turned governor of Masschusetts turned Republican presidential candidate.

I stumbled across a portrayal of George Romney the other day while reading The Pleasure of His Company, Paul Fay Jr.'s 1966 memoir of his friendship with President Kennedy. Fay reports that Kennedy told him in the spring of 1963: "The one fellow I don't want to run against is Romney. That guy could be tough."

Kennedy added, according to Fay: "You have to be a little suspicious of somebody as good as Romney. No vices whatsoever, no smoking and no drinking. Imagine someone we know going off for twenty-four hours to fast and meditate, awaiting a message from the Lord whether or not to run."

Robert F. Kennedy also recalled that George Romney was the Republican presidential opponent that John F. Kennedy "feared the most….He thought he had this appeal to…God and country…..He spoke well, looked well."

A different spin on George Romney's meditation on his candidacy is available in the 1967 book The Romney Riddle, by George O. Plas. Plas reports that "faced with a decision to run for Governor in 1962, Romney called a news conference and announced he was going into seclusion on Friday night (February 9) to pray and to seek guidance beyond that of man. It was never revealed what advice he received during his seclusion, but he did announce himself as a candidate for governor on Saturday morning."

Reports Plas: "another version of the story barely made print. Romney's son. Mitt, then 14, told reporters that his father had informed the family around the supper table on Friday night that he had made up his mind to run for Governor at 3:30 Friday morning." Comments Plas, drily: "Perhaps Mr. Romney entered his vigil to seek a consensus on his candidacy."

The Plas book is unremittingly negative toward George Romney with the exception of some comments about his physical appearance: "He is a beautiful man, photogenic from any angle, with a jutting, confident jaw and temples grayed the way few men's temples gray outside the hair styling studios of Hollywood."

The book goes on to report that rather than entering politics after a career in industry, George Romney had started in politics, working as an aide to a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, David Walsh. Romney then went to work as a Washington lobbyist, first for the aluminum industry, then for the Automobile Manufacturers Association, and only in 1948, after 18 years as a lobbyist, joined American Motors. George Romney, in other words, had taken the same path for which Mitt Romney has criticized Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, passing through the revolving door.

As for George Romney's governing philosophy, Plas writes, "Mr. Romney is neither truly liberal nor conservative nor moderate….the Romney Way is to obliterate partisan distinctions, and run government as though it were a ruthless corporation." In the first five years of George Romney's administration, Michigan's overall state budget grew to $2.4 billion from $1.3 billion, powered by the implementation of an income tax in a state that until then had not had one.

Richard Nixon's memoir reports that in 1963, Nelson Rockefeller told Nixon, "Romney wants to run, but the regular Republicans don't like his independent attitude toward the party. His greatest weakness is that he knows too little of the world and is too sure of what he doesn't know."

The Wall Street Journal's big article Monday on Mitt Romney's record at Bain is illustrated with a photograph of Mitt and George Romney together in 1994, the year before the senior Romney's death. George Romney was a national figure in Republican politics in 1964 and 1968, though he never won the presidency. He served until 1973 as President Nixon's secretary of housing and urban development. That may be ancient history to many of today's voters. The Romney running now is Mitt, not George. But it would be well within bounds for voters to try to figure out how the father and son are alike and how they differ.

Ira Stoll is the editor of Future of Capitalism and the author of Sam Adams: A Life

NEXT: Percentage of Independents Reaches an All-Time High

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  1. Re the picture: Gosh, I can just feel the presidential emanating from him.

    Re George Romney: Hadn’t even heard of the guy until now. Very interesting.

    1. When I saw that picture, I actually thought “Greg Stillson” at first.

      Jeebus help us.

      1. Santorum is Stillson, what with his hard-on for a war with Iran.

        “The missiles are flying. Hallelujah, Hallelujah!”

        1. “You cowardly bastard! You’re not the voice of the people, I am the voice of the people! The people speak through me, not you!”

          1. The American Second Great Awakening is in the house!


            Praise Romney!

      2. I wonder what Walken thinks of Romney?

        Romney looks like a Hollywood idea of a president. Maybe instead of actually being president, he should play one.

        1. Is is the reptilian skin. He really was a natural for V.

      3. I hate to admit it but there is a good chance he will be President next year at this time. Yeah, we are either the most resilient civilization in history or totally fucked.

      4. I hate to admit it but there is a good chance he will be President next year at this time. Yeah, we are either the most resilient civilization in history or totally fucked.

        1. I’ve been thinking. With this proto-empire we have, along with the decline in limited government, we should start voting with the possibility that the guy we’re electing will seize power and become the first American emperor.

          Now, I’m not suggesting that you base your vote entirely on this premise, but while voting for president, keep in mind this question: What kind of man do we want as emperor?

          1. Man? You sexist bastard! I want Empress Scarlet Johansson.

            1. I use man in its neutered sense.

              1. Ah. Then Newt is your “man”.

                1. He’s neutered, but see below.

                  1. Newt neutered-ness may disappear should his current wife develop a chronic, life-threatening illness. That event seems to cause his testosterone to surge.

              2. I don’t. If I am going to be ruled by a despotic overlord it at least better have a fucking penis.

          2. Now, I suppose some might think Romney the most imperial, but I don’t agree. An emperor needs to be decisive more than anything else, and that dude is all over the place.

            Newcular Titties, on the other hand, comes across as knowledgeable and decisive, until you remember what he said last week. However, I deem him better in the later period, when crazier emperors with more control over the media will be in vogue.

            1. Read your mind. Definitely Tiberius on Capri.

              1. So perfect. Newcular Titties fancies himself a scholar–like Tiberius, feels that he’s the rightful heir to the throne–like Tiberius, and chases tail–like Tiberius. I’m sure there are other similarities.

        2. You can say that again…

          1. You ok with that?

    2. Re George Romney: Hadn’t even heard of the guy until now. Very interesting.

      They didn’t even mention the most interesting thing about George Romney.

      He was preparing for a presidential run in 1968 and was laughed out of the race after he said that “I must have been brainwashed by the army” when asked why he changed his opinion on the Vietnam war.

    3. i’m pretty into politics and political history, and if it weren’t for mitt romney i never would have heard of george romney

      the romneys are hardly a political dynasty, mitt is just the son of an obscure governor not involved in govt for the past 40 years (and long dead)

  2. Shouldn’t that be “The apple doesn’t fall *far* from the tree” if it’s in contrast to “sons rebel against their fathers”?

    1. commie muthafukka

  3. I seem to recall that he was the front runner and the media’s darling for the Republican race for the presidency in ’68.



  4. Conservatives hated George Romney. A guy named Gerald Plas wrote a scathing book about him (title escapes me).

    1. The article mentions the book and provides a link to the complete text:

  5. I don’t get what drives these freaks. Romney was a washed up governor in 2006. But he was also a gazzilionaire. Any sane person would have said thanks but no thanks to politics and counted their millions while sipping champagne and polishing their monocle at the estate on the Vineyard. But not Willard. He decided he wanted to be President and has spent the last five years campaigning. What the hell kind of sicko is this guy?

    1. He wants to terminate America. Terminate. . .with extreme prejudice.

      1. “The whole world will know my name!”

        1. 300 B.C., mind you. Yeah, Christ was used 300 B.C.

      2. If you had the choice of living the life of someone worth 200+ million dollars or spending your time going to town halls in Iowa, which would it be? There is seriously something wrong with all of these people.

        1. Me, my money, and my secret lair, if necessary.

        2. If you had a quarter billion dollars and didn’t drink, what else would you do but run for president?


          2. Set up my own private country.

        3. Yeah, it really doesn’t make much sense. He must know in his heart of hearts that there’s no significant difference between himself, Obama, and Bush, so no real change to the country will occur under his watch. Does he just like to watch?

          1. Save for one difference. Color.

            Plus a whole bunch of White-Wash.

        4. If I was rich I’d race sports cars,collect antiquities, sail yachts, chase eclipses and snort coke off the perfect asses of women young enough to be my granddaughters,just like any normal person would.

          1. If you ever get rich (or if I do), SIV, you and me gotta be pals and bons vivant, cause we think EXACTLY alike.


          2. He has never run for president. He is the world’s most interesting man.

        5. Immortality. How many billionaires will even be remembers 15 years after they die? At the very minimimum as president you get a fancy portrait at the white house.

    2. The same reason you’d bang Tara Reid if you had the chance, even with the misshapen chest.

    3. ?counted their millions while sipping champagne?

      He’s Mormon. The closest he would get is sipping his Martinelli’s.

    4. What the hell kind of sicko is this guy?

      He’s got to be president to vindicate his dad’s brainwashing.

  6. I should wait for the evening links for this, but I don’t want to forget:

    NPR is interviewing someone from the U.S. mint who said (if I heard right) that gold and silver coins went up 30% last year.

    1. Silver was actually slightly down on the year. Gold went up about 15%.

      Well, that’s for the raw metal, not sure about the coins…I can’t imagine them spiking more than the metal did.

      1. I’m shocked that NPR didn’t give me the full story!

  7. its not the art of legislating or governing that gets people elected, its the art of electioneering and they don’t teach that in school.

    1. Not very suck-SEZ-ful, are you? Only good Koch-suckers get the opportunity.

  8. I think Romney should campaign in a Nash Rambler or Willies Jeepster in honor of his father.

    1. Rambler Ambassador. Wagon.

    2. I think the Pacer would be more emblematic of the US’s future under Romney.

    3. An AMX or Mark Donohue edition Javelin SST would be nice.

      1. Again with the exquisite taste…

        Friend in college had a red AMX. I had a ’71 Camaro Rally Sport. Good times.

    4. The Chinese sure are connousiers of state capitalist products:

      High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs; and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email to buy additional rights.…..z1j0LjhAp4

      General Motors, the biggest foreign automaker in China, defied a slowdown in the Chinese car market to reach record sales last year of 2.55m vehicles.

      GM said in a statement on Monday that sales rose 8.3 per cent last year, well below 2010’s 29 per cent but significantly above an expected 4 per cent rise in sales for the total Chinese market, which is the world’s largest.

      You think maybe there was a kernel of truth coming from our old friend TheTruth?

      1. Arghh, they tricked me. I usually look for those tags at the end of the copypaste, not the beginning.

  9. Generational privilege and trickle-down economics ought to play really well in a post-Occupy world.

    1. This seems to assume that Occupy was something significant.

      1. I think they are out there Occupying the plains and forrest while holding a good ol’ gambol lockdown. I hear it’s a hell of a party! Like a Dead concert but with even shittier music.

    2. Uh, wasn’t BO’s lieutenant planning to pass his Senate seat to his son? Until Beau Biden turned down the opportunity (good on him).

      1. I’m gonna play the black guy from nowhere got elected president card.

        1. Yeah, it’s not like the nomination was handed to him on a silver platter because he gave a nice speech at the 2004 convention or anything.

          1. Black guys from nowhere have it so easy when running for president these days!

            1. Especially when the other options are of the highest quality and the media is dead set againt them. Just like back in ’08.

  10. America fought a revolution against Parliament. The Monarch had nothing to do with it. Indeed, the Parliament had for many years dictated who got the Crown. Why would that German even understand the colonists’ demands to be treated like Englishmen, let alone risk his own neck to defend them? What was that you said about that boring man Romney?

    1. 2nd most read book in America. We’re more Bolshevik than Engrish. Or Rohlman.

  11. The big difference between the Romneys and most of the other pairs (the middle Bush being a possible exception) is that both were hugely successful in the private sector before entering politics. There’s also the fact that they were involved in politics in entirely different jurisdictions, so it’s not like the Daleys or the Kennedys or the Murkowskis where one retires and a few years later the same electorate votes for a familiar name.

    1. So Romney can suck more Koch for more dollars. It’s American. And very Liberarian.

    2. Did you read the fucking article? Dad Romney was anything but. He was a lobbyist for 18 years before revolving door into AMC.

      1. You think I have time to read articles?

  12. Mirta is one of those girls who feeds off attention.

    GOOD THING for her because she also knows how and when to get it. Born from an Italian father and a Czech mother, Mirta is an exotic 21 year old who is unafraid of the camera and has the kind of body that turns heads wherever she goes. She is well traveled for a girl of such a young age and works at night in a bar owned by her family.

    It is very rare for any photographer to find a more photogenic model who takes as much pleasure being in front of the camera as Mirta does. After a while of shooting Petter had to give up telling her to keep her legs together and ended up doing things her way. The results of course are stunning. Mirta is a woman whose veins are full of passion, energy, and beauty.

    Luckily Petter was there to document these qualities to their fullest.…

    1. HEY SIV, OVER HERE!!!


      1. Dude you the caps lock button is on the middle of the left side of your key board.

        1. No, you the caps lock button!

          1. Seriously dude, WTF?

  13. Also – ESPN replaying the Tebow 80yd OT TOUCHDOWN, to which my reaction consistently is…



    Fuckin’ Yinzers…




      1. It’s got to be a great day for people who hate Pittsburgh.

        1. Well, they don’t get many, so I say let them enjoy the few times something like this happens.

        2. I’m not a Broncos fan, but beating Pittsburgh was pretty fucking awesome. Half of me wants to see Tebow fail miserably, and the other half wants to see him win the fucking Super Bowl. It’s surreal.

  14. So John does quoting stanzas from ‘America the Beautiful’ really turn you guys on?

  15. OK wow, now there is a dude that clearly knows what day of the week it is lol.

  16. Who is Romney? Just ask the people of Massachusetts: a pretty boy with no substance, no set values, who makes a decision by looking at the polls.

    He’s Bill Clinton, part II!

    1. Bill Clinton was a friggin great heroic statesman compared to the two schmucks who followed him in the White House.

  17. This is an article? Come on! This is one reason I don’t subscribe to this magazine.

  18. I’m really surprised that the other candidates have not made more of Romney’s Mormon faith. Romney tithes ten percent of his considerable income to the Mormon church, Bain made a ton of money laying off Protestants, Evangelicals and Catholics, but not Mormons. So the Mormon church directly benefited from other Christians loosing their jobs. Add to that the fact that the Mormon church does not publish what they spend money on and you’ve got a great conspiracy theory.

  19. I’d like to see Mitt not back down about his firing comment because he understands a legitimate principle. What about all the progressive kooks who refuse to shop at Walmart because they disapprove of that company’s practices? In effect they’ve chosen to fire Walmart as a source of goods & services, and hire its competitors instead.

    Or how about when productive people migrate to get away from abusive governments? Many of China’s new millionaires reportedly plan to fire China’s government and hire other, more benign governments to live under by seeking citizenship in those countries and moving their fortunes beyond the reach of China’s progressives.

  20. I’m going to name my kid after myself.

  21. Great article. Reading about his father does shed some clues about the kinds of positions he will most likely take. The way you are raised does play a big role as far as character or personality traits are concerned.

  22. Question for my theocratic friends in the Perry/Newt/Santorum wing of the party.

    Can one go to hell for voting for Bishop Romney?

  23. Fucking taliban wing won’t ever support Bishop Mittens no matter how hard he can bitch slap the economy back into shape because he ain’t one of them.

  24. The man on the street ain’t got a clue about what’s wrong with the economy. Most of them have a sinking feeling — no matter how hard they work they seem to only get poorer and more insecure. The country is sinking in quicksand and it might just take a man in the white underwear to fix it.

  25. Romney fixed companies in the private sector by eliminating waste and so on and so forth. Am I supposed to believe Romney is prepared to take a meat axe to the US government?

    Ron Paul isn’t much better. He wants a strong dollar, but that means the manufacturing sector will stay put overseas. And a strong dollar would kill his gold-laden investment portfolio. Show me a man who enriches himself from the political policies he claims to abhor and I will show you an ear mark loving hypocrite.

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