As a Michigander, George Romney looms large here in the political Pantheon. He was the last Governor of Michigan to serve under the pre-1964 Constitution (with its 2-year gubernatorial terms), and the first to serve under the new. He was serving in the bright sunshine of Michiganian Greatness, himself coming into the government only after creating American Motors Corporation in 1955 with the merger of Nash-Kelvinator and Hudson Motors and a Fourth automobile manufacturer to compete with The Big Three. Romney in the late 1950’s had the same broad shoulders that his home state had.
Think of George Romney as the Lee Iaccoca of the 1950’s: Rushed in to save an industry, turned it around, and became a Prophet of American Free Enterprise.
The accolades poured over George Romney like a refreshing rain in a parched land, and he lapped them up, finally becoming governor of Michigan in 1962. After fourteen years of democratic dominance under Soapy Williams and John Swainson, Romney was seen as a Pied Piper of Republicanism, especially in the teeth of the JFK ascendency.
Like his son nearly 50 years later, George also went to great lengths to at once ingratiate himself to the New Frontier and to distance himself from conservatives. At one point, when he was pressed about the depths of his commitment to conservatism and if he supported Barry Goldwater, he responded “you know darned well I’m not!”
Of course, it didn’t hurt that George had standard-issue Executive Style Salt and Pepper Hair, and a jutting lantern jaw. He was the very vision (caricature?) of governmental leadership. Of course, one of the warning flags about Romney’s governmental leadership skills sould have been his choice of Traverse City trust-fund boy and limp-spined moderate William Milliken as his Lieutenant Governor.
During his gubernatorial tenure, George Romney went on to massively increase state spending, and bulked up on the largest State spending spree for real property ever seen– before, or since. He bloated the social welfare agencies, and helped write into law that any state divided highway constructed at the time had to conform to the horrendously expensive interstate specifications –but without the federal government picking up the massively increased costs.But, it was the Go-Go 1960’s, so revenue was pouring into Lansing, and, unlike Swainson, Romney was running a surplus.
Thus, Romney found himself in genuine contention for the 1968 GOP Presidential Nomination, at least according to the Harris and Gallup Polls. So much so that, in late 1966, he ventured to South East Asia to get a first-hand look at the Vietnam conflict to brush up a bit on his foreign affairs bona-fides (certainly, the fever swamps of Vietnam weren’t the first vacation choice for a Michigan governor). Romney came back and pronounced the war a just and honorable pursuit.
But, several months later, with the backlash against the war heating up, and President Johnson taking increasing heat from his own left flank, suddenly, George Romney got religion on the Vietnam War. During the late summer of 1967, (indeed, after the disastrous Detroit Riots), George Romney declared on a local Detroit radio station that, in those first days after he’d returned from the war zone in 1966 he’d “.. just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get!” from the Military Brass. The war, in George Romney’s view, was no longer worth fighting
It was a poor choice of words, especially in the wake of the Manchurian Candidate. It also was a ham-handed play into the leftist RFK narrative that the Vietnam War was immoral, and that it was only being fought to advance the profits of the Military Industrial Complex.
Who in the world would want to have a President that could be “brainwashed”? As it turns out, very few people; Romney’s presidential hopes and ambitions flowed out as quickly as they’d flowed in.
Richard Nixon went on the receive the Republican Nomination in a cake-walk in the high summer of 1968. George went on to serve as Nixon’s Housing and Urban Development Secretary –an odd choice, given the smoldering ruins in Detroit, but, no matter…
Today, we have now been treated to the verbal acuity of Mitt Romney –the acorn not falling, evidently, very far from the Coach-leather upholstered tree– and to the live prospect of a president that isn’t “concerned about the very poor. They have a safety net”. He says he also isn’t concerned about the very rich, either.
I think Mitt Romney’s been, to borrow a phrase: “Brainwashed”.
It is a devastating comment, for it illustrates not only the live prospect of a GOP standard-bearer that can self-destruct at a moment’s notice (which is the rap against Newt), but it also betrays a mind-set that borrows heavily from Barack Obama’s striated world-view that sees permanent classes in America: Ones that stay permanently cemented in place, and that need –or don’t need– bread and circuses from the beneficent government.
It is a comment that reveals further a world-view in which Mitt Romney was born and bred: One in which the wealthy are born wealthy, expect the privileges of wealth to be borne out in perpetuity, and one in which the very poor remain very poor, and the only thing they need or require is a properly mended safety-net.
What humbug. What a devastating Float in the Carnival Parade of Bunkum, as Mencken might describe it.
Mitt deserves the brooming I believe is coming for this extraordinarily revealing and idiotic comment. It belongs on the trophy shelf of stupidity right next to Michael Dukkakis’s Photo in the Tank, Edmund Muskie’s tears in New Hampshire, Gary Hartpences’ “Monkey Business”, and Gerald Ford’s comment that “there is no Soviet Domination in Eastern Europe”. It betrays a way of thinking that is aloof, detached, entitled, pedantic and stupid. And, my sense is, there’s a lot more where that comes from, and it will come pouring out in the next week. But, the damage is done, thankfully, before there is a nominee.
George Romney was brainwashed. I think Mitt’s was dry-cleaned.