Former reporter turned New York Times columnist Timothy Egan's hostile anti-Mitt Romney column on Thursday had a peculiar omission. Egan insulted the likely Republican nominee by calling him an "Olympic" caliber flip-flopper, yet somehow managed not once to mention Romney's successful management as chief executive officer of the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
In focus groups, he’s described as a tin man, a shell, an empty suit, vacuous, a multimillionaire in mom jeans. And that’s from supporters.
At the convention, you can expect to hear high praise for a virtuous, disciplined, loyal person of family and faith. You will surely hear the words “turnaround” and “no apology” -- both titles of platitudinous and unread books by Romney -- in defense of his business acumen and unshakable view of American exceptionalism.
But I doubt you will hear anything of the real Romney because he is afraid of his own past. His life -- even with prep school privilege in Bloomfield Hills, the draft-avoiding refuges of mission work in Paris and business school at Harvard, a founding role at Bain Capital from a mentor who guaranteed he would never fail financially or professionally -- is not without drama.
Yet that Romney story is laden with land mines of his making. Or rather, that of his party, which has turned so quickly against common-sense solutions to the nation’s problems that Romney’s real achievements, and prior principles, are now toxic to most Republicans.
Start with his family. His great-grandfather was a fugitive, tracked by federal marshals as he tried to plant polygamy throughout the Southwest for a radical new American faith. It’s a hell of a tale, Butch Cassidy with five wives. But Romney never mentions this arc for fear his Mormon religion will offend evangelical Christians who dominate the Republican Party.
Speaking of presidential candidates with embarrassing polygamous pasts, sympathetic Obama biographer and Washington Post journalist David Maraniss wrote:
The line of polygamists in Obama’s family can be traced back generations in western Kenya, where it was an accepted practice within the Luo (pronounced LOO-oh) tribe. His great-grandfather, Obama Opiyo, had five wives, including two who were sisters. His grandfather, Hussein Onyango, had at least four wives, one of whom, Akumu, gave birth to the president’s father, Barack Obama, before fleeing her abusive husband. Obama Sr. was already married when he left Kenya to study at the University of Hawaii, where he married again. His American wife-to-be, Stanley Ann Dunham, was not yet 18 and unaware of his marital situation when she became pregnant with his namesake son in 1961.
Egan shuffled through Romney's accomplishments and called his "greatest achievement" universal health care in Massachusetts, then followed up with the "Olympic insult" without managing to mention that another one of Romney's more conservative accomplishments was to successfully guide the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City to a profit.
As he shed the ideas he embraced in the Bay State and tried to become “severely conservative,” Romney the unknowable became Romney the unlikable. His flip-flops were Olympic in caliber: on gun control, abortion, climate change, taxes, gays.