Newsweek Cover Story: 'Mitt Romney: A Candidate With a Serious Wimp Problem'

25 years ago, Newsweek published a controversial cover story titled "Bush Battles the 'Wimp Factor.'"

On Monday, newsstands will carry an equally controversial albeit derivative Newsweek cover story titled "Mitt Romney: A Candidate With a Serious Wimp Problem":

In 1987, this magazine created a famous hubbub by labeling George H.W. Bush a “wimp” on its cover. “The Wimp Factor.” Huge stir. And not entirely fair—the guy had been an aviator in the war, the big war, the good war, and he was even shot down out over the Pacific, cockpit drenched in smoke and fumes, at an age (20) when in most states he couldn’t even legally drink a beer. In hindsight, Poppy looks like Dirty Harry Callahan compared with Romney, who spent his war (Vietnam) in—ready?—Paris. Where he learned ... French. Up to his eyeballs in deferments. Where Reagan saddled up a horse with the masculine name of El Alamein, Mitt saddles up something called Rafalca—except that he doesn’t even really do that, his wife does (dressage). And speaking of Ann—did you notice that she was the one driving the Jet Ski on their recent vacation, while Mitt rode on the back, hanging on, as Paul Begala put it to me last week, “like a helpless papoose”?

The piece continued:

Romney is the genuine article: a true wimp...In some respects, he’s more weenie than wimp—socially inept; at times awkwardy ingratiating, at other times mocking those “below” him, but almost always getting the situation a little wrong, and never in a sympathetic way. The evidence resonates across too many years to deny. What kind of teenager beats up on the misfit, sissy kid, pinning him down and violently cutting his hair with a pair of school scissors—the incident from Romney’s youth that The Washington Post famously reported (and Romney famously didn’t really deny) back in May? The behavior extends, through more sedate means, into adulthood. The Salt Lake Olympics remains his greatest triumph, for which he wins deserved praise. But to many of those in the know, Romney placed a heavy asterisk next to his name by attacking the men he replaced on the Olympic Committee, smearing them in his book, even after a court threw out all the corruption charges against them.

And what kind of presidential candidate whines about a few attacks and demands an apology when the going starts to get rough? And tries to sound tough by accusing the president who killed the world’s most-wanted villain of appeasement? That’s what they call overcompensation, and it’s a dead giveaway; it’s the “tell.” This guy is nervous—terrified—about looking weak. And ironically, being terrified of looking weak makes him look weaker still.


Despite all his supposed wimpiness, Romney represents a threat to our national security:

But if Romney is elected? Be nervous. A Republican president sure of his manhood had nothing to prove. Reagan was happy with a jolly little shoot-up in Grenada, and eventually he settled down to the serious work of arms control, consummating historic treaties with Mikhail Gorbachev. But a weenie Republican—look out. He has something to prove, needs to reassert that “natural” advantage. That spells trouble more often than not.

So who is the author Newsweek chose to give this assignment?

Meet special correspondent Michael Tomasky who's also the editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas. Check out its Mission Statement:

The mission of Democracy is to build a vibrant and vital progressivism for the twenty-first century that builds on the movement’s proud history, is true to its central values, and is relevant to present times. [...]

[W]e seek breakthrough thinking on the concepts and approaches that respond to the central transformations of our time: the breakdown of the ladder of upward mobility; the promise and problems of an information-based, globalized economy; new national security threats which cross old boundaries and defy old assumptions from jihadist terrorism and nuclear proliferation to climate change, pandemics, and poverty; and a society where people work and live in new and different ways. [...]

Our ambitions are large – as is the scale of the work before us – but we have no doubt that ideas can change the course of our nation. Now is the time to fashion a new progressivism for the twenty-first century, and we welcome all who are willing to join in this conversation.


More can be learned about this "journal of ideas" from an editors' message to readers in 2006:

Conservative ideas have dominated our national discourse for most of a generation. No more. The world and this nation are changing too fast to allow for ideologues who will take us backward. But neither do they allow for those timid souls who are satisfied with, or cowed into, protecting an ever-smaller inheritance from being whittled away. Instead, we need to rejuvenate progressivism and send it back on the march with bold ambition to change America and the world for the better.

So, an editor of a publication that believes conservatives are "ideologues who will take us backward" was given the job of writing a Newsweek cover story about the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

That Newsweek would allow someone so liberal to do this indicates just how far to the left this magazine has gone in recent decades.

As NewsBusters Brent Baker observed Sunday in his piece about Face the Nation's coverage of this Newsweek piece:

Newsweek is hardly the same publication it was when it denigrated presidential candidate Bush in 1987. Then it was owned by the Washington Post Company and while liberal it was part of the mainstream media. Now it is owned by liberal activists and run by the very liberal Tina Brown.

Indeed.

As for Tomasky, even the perilously liberal Wikipedia describes him as "a liberal."

You would be hard-pressed to find a stronger indictment of his biases.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.