Friday, August 20, 2010

My view of Mitt Romney

My view of Mitt Romney is not unique, but it is a bit unusual by virtue of my having been acquainted with Mitt for over 30 years and chatted with him on a few occasions.

On the positive side, he strikes me as charismatic, intelligent, and capable.  I was very impressed by his handling of the Salt Lake City Olympics.  He did well as governor of Massachusetts.  I liked him personally when I knew him back in the late 70s and early 80s.

On the negative side, I have a few concerns.  Though I'd like to think that he has sincerely held the various positions he's taken over the years, I find it suspicious that those positions have changed to make him politically attractive to those whose support he has needed in different situations. And listening to him speak during the 2008 primaries, I often found it difficult to sense genuine conviction in his words.  I worry about what seems to me a lack of integrity or at least genuineness.  I don't feel like I really know his heart.  I guess that's true of any other human being, but it seems even more so with Mitt Romney.  He's a mystery to me, and it's hard for me to get a sense of what he truly, deeply believes--as distinguished from what he feels he needs to say to garner support.

A second concern: I liked his generally moderate approach as Massachusetts governor.  In fact, on some issues, he was just a bit more liberal than I felt comfortable with.  During the 2007-2008 political season, by contrast, he seemed to shift so far to the right that I found many of his positions unpalatable--some of them out of harmony with my moral convictions.  And in addition to the positions themselves, his way of expressing himself sometimes seemed calculated to position him as the meanest, toughest SOB among the Republican candidates.  There was a lot of jockeying for that "honor" at the time.

Finally, I've been thrown by his odd comments on occasion about his faith.  I know he's walking a difficult line--being true to his LDS convictions but trying to appeal to voters who are suspicious of or downright hostile toward the LDS Church.  I believe he's genuinely religious.  But some of his comments have seemed odd for a believing Latter-day Saint--on one occasion, for instance, expressing uncertainty as to whether there had been any real revelation from heaven since Mount Sinai.  (This was to deflect, I think, the worry some have that his positions as US President, should he attain that office, would be dictated by LDS Church leaders.)

I guess I haven't been surprised at how many Latter-day Saints, including many of my friends, have become fans of Romney.  He's attractive (in many senses) and claims to represent "conservative values."  And there's not much of anybody else in the Republican field who seems to be much of a credible possibility as a 2012 presidential candidate.  Plus Mitt is Mormon! 

Of course, so is Harry Reid--and I'll offer as my view, despite the incredulity many may greet it with, that Reid represents LDS values more truly than Romney does (see , for instance).  And I find another LDS political figure, Jon Huntsman, to be much more appealing than Romney.  It would be great to have an LDS president (though it would at the same time expose the Church to a lot of hostility from all sorts of directions--including of course the Evangelical Right), but I think it would be a shame if the first LDS POTUS had views that, for me, are so far out of harmony with LDS values as I believe some of Romney's to be.

Speaking of "conservative values," I believe America has been built on a combination of liberal AND conservative values, as well as on values that transcend or bridge political differences.  (So much, of course, depends on your definition of the terms.)  And "conservative values" are emphatically NOT equivalent to Latter-day Saint values.  Some "conservative values" are--for instance, if you want to call self-discipline, self-reliance, integrity, and fidelity "conservative."  But what intelligent "liberal" would really reject those values?  And you could with equal justice call values like faith, hope, charity, compassion, generosity, tolerance, goodwill, respect, and fairness "liberal."  And on which side would you place knowledge, wisdom, patience, and humility?  For that matter, does any contemporary political approach leave much room for humility?

In any case, it seems to me to demean religious faith and eternal principles to try to align them exclusively with a political party or ideology.  For Latter-day Saints who know their history, it should be obvious that Joseph Smith was NOT a typical conservative in either the nineteenth- or twenty-first century sense.  (See for more thoughts on this.)

I myself don't feel comfortable aligning myself with any one spot on the political spectrum (as I explain here). I've been pleased recently to find a statement by Dallin H. Oaks that expresses a similar feeling: "Those who govern their thoughts and actions solely by the principles of liberalism or conservatism or intellectualism cannot be expected to agree with all of the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As for me, I find some wisdom in liberalism, some wisdom in conservatism, and much truth in intellectualism—but I find no salvation in any of them" (for the source, click here).

So where does that leave me with Mitt.  Not especially interested, unless he comes across a lot differently than he did in 2008.


Bruce Young said...

An earlier version of this post drew some sharp criticism, to which I responded. (For that version and the comments, click here.) One concern was that I had not provided citations for the claims I made about Romney.

I believe most of my points--both positive and negative--are uncontroversial, based on evidence widely known. But Romney's statement on revelation is less well known. It was made in December 2007 to a Boston TV reporter, Natalie Jacobson, who asked what he would do, as president, if God spoke to him or spoke to his Church's prophet.

Romney's response was to laugh and say: "Well, I don't recall God speaking to me. I, I don't recall God speaking to anyone since, uh, Moses and the [burning] bush, or perhaps some others, but, but I don't have that frequent of communication." (See might have to go to the paper's archives.)

Perhaps he was just being careless. Still, I think his response is telling.

ON ANOTHER MATTER: Since writing the original post, I've been reading up on Romney's opposition to the START treaty. What I've learned has made me much less likely to support Romney, both because of his dangerously hawkish stance and his evident lack of understanding of the issues.

First of all, I'm inclined to take a positive view of a treaty supported by the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Republicans and Democrats of great stature and expertise in foreign relations and arms control (such as Jim Schlesinger, Henry Kissinger, and Brent Scowcroft).

And I'm even more inclined in that direction when I learn that those opposing the treaty are the same people who brought us the invasion of Iraq.

For a careful analysis including Senator Lugar's response to Romney's objections, see and

Besides my basic disagreement with Romney on the treaty, I am troubled to learn that his op-ed on the subject (almost certainly--for the most part--the work of one or more speech writers) betrays in its very vocabulary and phrasing his weak grasp of the crucial issues he was writing about.

Jeremy said...

I just wanted you to know that the Harry Reid link is dead, which is too bad, because I was looking forward to reading it.

lisa h. said...

thanks for this

Bruce Young said...

I'll be fixing the link to Senator Reid. I believe it can be found at