Own It Like a (Rich) Man!
Romney’s family story is America’s story, and he should tell it.

Mitt Romney in West Palm Beach, Fla., May 17, 2012


Aoww! Uncle! All right, all right, all right. Romney it is. Now that it’s settled, can we talk? About this wealth thing?

In the 1961 movie Lover Come Back, Tony Randall plays a character who is the ostensible head of an advertising agency, which he inherited from his father. The real man in charge, though, is the womanizing cad- and bounder-in-residence Rock Hudson. In this exchange, Tony laments the challenges imposed by his wealth:

Tony: I’ve discussed it with my analyst, Dr. Melnick. He understands it. You don’t know what a handicap it is to be born rich.

Rock: Some handicap!

Tony: Don’t sneer! Wealthy people are hated and resented. Look what’s written on the Statue of Liberty. Does it say, “Send me your rich”? No, it says, “Send me your poor.” We’re not even welcome in our own country!

Rock: (laughs)

Tony: Yeah, it’s all very well for you to laugh. You’re one of the lucky ones. You were born in the slums.

Rock: (sarcastically) That’s lucky.

Tony: Of course it is. You’ve got everything going for you. Poverty, squalor! There’s only one way for you to go — up. But I started at the top . . . I’ve done it the hard way!

Just like the fictional character Tony Randall played, Romney started at the top. A segment of society will resent him automatically for his good fortune at birth, but most Americans won’t. We love successful people. Witness the success of shows such as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Answer? We all do! Look at the hype surrounding the public offering of Facebook. Is it snarly? Heck, no! It’s the biggest party Menlo Park has ever seen, and the estimates that founder Mark Zuckerberg will come out of it with a cool 19 billion bucks are reported by the media in a celebratory tone.

The recent story about “bully boy” Romney in the Washington Post is a mere opening sally in the cartoonish caricatures to follow. Salient phrases to savor from the novella-length story: “prestigious Cranbrook School,” “handsome campus studded with Tudor brick building and manicured fields,” “a school where boys wear ties and carry briefcases.” In light of such overwrought attacks, my advice to Romney is simple: Own it!

Remember Casper the Friendly Ghost? Wendy the Good Witch? Richie Rich? They were types we weren’t supposed to like — ghost, witch, rich boy — yet we loved these characters because they possessed all the great bennies belonging to each archetype: special powers of flight or materialization, and the ability to walk through walls, in the case of Casper and Wendy; the ability to have the greatest toys (which he shared) and use his wealth to solve people’s problems, in the case of Richie Rich. They all put their powers to work to help others.

Rather than being painted as Richie Rich’s bully-boy nemesis — Reginald Van Dough Jr., Rich’s nasty cousin — Romney could easily be the hero. Call him Moneyed Mitt. And he can do it in three easy steps.

1. Remember the story about Romney putting all the resources of his organization to work to rescue the abducted daughter of an employee? No? I told this story to an acquaintance last night, and he’d never heard it, either, but it moved him to think of Romney in a new light. Hello, Romney campaign? Please share this fantastic bit of Romney’s history, which shows how he used all the levers and privileges of his wealth for good.