History

The Real George Romney

Mitt Romney's dad wasn't as principled as his reputation suggests.

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"Someday, my son, all this will be yours. Or that Obama kid's. But not Gary Johnson's. Let's agree to that right now."

A recurring theme of the campaign coverage this year has been to contrast Mitt Romney with his father George, the governor of Michigan and unsuccessful candidate for the presidency. The elder Romney certainly was much more liberal than his son. But he has also acquired a reputation for having more constancy—for being willing to take a political risk when a principle was at stake, unlike the flip-flopper he spawned.

John Bohrer demolishes that image with a long mythbusting piece at BuzzFeed. The George Romney who appears here is a self-aggrandizing opportunist who tacks with the wind, the kind of man whose views on the Vietnam War can be summed up this way:

[H]e was for it before he was against it before he was for it before he was against it again—with various ambiguities in between. Romney seemed to be frantically chasing political sentiment, seeking to bottle dissatisfaction with LBJ's handling of the war by any means necessary.

Bohrer is especially good on the legend that a disgusted Romney Sr. walked out of the 1964 GOP convention. In fact, the governor

stayed until the very end, formally seconding Goldwater's eventual nomination and later standing by while an actual walkout took place. He left the convention holding open the possibility of endorsing Goldwater and then, after a unity summit in Hershey, Pennsylvania, momentarily endorsed the Arizona senator. Then he changed his mind while his top aides polled "all-white and race-conscious" Michigan communities for a "secret" white backlash vote against LBJ's civil rights advances—a backlash that might have made a Goldwater endorsement palatable at home. Finding the Republican label even more unpopular than civil rights in Michigan, Romney ultimately distanced himself from the entire party, including his own moderate Republican allies.

The full article has much more. Read it all here.