The Superb Mitt Romney



On December 4, I read an article by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post. It began,

The nation is heading toward the “fiscal cliff,” but have no fear: Mitt Romney is coming to the rescue — of Marriott International Inc.

In his first public comments since election night, the defeated Republican presidential nominee issued a statement Monday announcing his next step. An appeal to national unity? A charitable initiative?

No, he announced that he was rejoining the hotel chain’s board of directors. “It is an honor to once again be able to serve in the company of leaders like Bill Marriott,” said Romney’s statement, distributed by Marriott.

Good. I’m glad he has rejoined that board. Why shouldn’t he? He was named after the hotel chain’s founder, a close friend of his father’s. The Marriott company is part of Romney’s life. So? Romney was not a candidate who hated business, remember.

And how about Milbank’s little snark about a “charitable initiative”? Does he want to lecture Romney about charity? Really? Does he have the standing?

Milbank further wrote, “The country is in a crisis, political leaders in a standoff, and Romney is joining his buddy’s corporate board.” Well, Romney ran for president. He did so for many years. He ran as hard and as well as he could. He offered a very, very sharp contrast with Barack Obama.

And the people said, “Forward! Four more years! Fundamental transformation! Obama! The One!”

Yeah? Okay.

More Milbank: “Romney’s post-election behavior has been, in a word, small.” In my view, it has been gracious, dignified, and appropriate — utterly like him. A guy like Bill Clinton will never get off the stage. He is always in our face. Romney was on the stage for a long time — and now he has gotten off the stage, leaving it to our elected leaders.

Clinton will always be “the bride at every wedding, the corpse at every funeral.” He can’t help it. And the mainstream media abet him, of course. Romney is a much different cat. And if he had tried to stay on the stage, people would surely be denouncing him for that: “Can’t you take no for an answer? Didn’t you listen to the people on Election Day? Go away.”

One more thing: Dana Milbank wants Romney to be part of public affairs now. During the campaign, when it mattered, did Milbank say that Romney had something vital to offer the country economically and otherwise?

There’s no accounting for taste. Obama is the hero of “progressive” America, and the hero of black America. Romney is the great ogre — clueless, if not callous.

But who did all he could to snatch school choice from poor black children in Washington, D.C.? Obama did. These are children who, without choice, would have to go to wretched and violent schools. Schools where no learning can take place. Schools where no hope exists. Schools very much unlike the one to which Obama sends his own kids. Obama stood in the schoolhouse door.

The great hero! “Forward!” “The One!” There’s no accounting for taste — I long ago gave up.

In 2011, Politico quoted a “prominent Democratic strategist aligned with the White House”: “Unless things change and Obama can run on accomplishments, he will have to kill Romney.” In a sense, it is still happening, from various quarters.

Romney had his faults, and I have spilled my share of ink on those faults — both in the 2008 campaign and in the 2012 campaign. For instance, I think his approach in the second and third debates with Obama was tragic.

But, oh, the virtues! Romney is one of the brightest, most capable, most admirable men ever to run for president. He would have been an excellent and pivotal president, I believe — the “turnaround artist” we needed. But, in a democracy, the people get what they deserve. They now have what they deserve, or at least a majority does.

“Hang on, Nordlinger, are you saying that Romney was better than the country?” Yeah, I guess I am. Not being a politician, I have the luxury of not having to flatter The People. He was also better than most of us who sit, scribble, and crab.

At the moment, conservatives seem to be in love with Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, and a few others. Don’t worry. Let one of them be nominated, and his name will be mud. He won’t be able to do anything right. And if he loses the general — worse than mud.

Let me close with a memory from 1984. I was particularly engaged with the presidential campaign that year — I was coming of age, politically. It was an exciting and turbulent election. Geraldine Ferraro was thought to be a big factor — she would attract women and “Mediterranean ethnics.” Mondale clobbered Reagan in the first debate. It was white-knuckle time, for the Republicans.

At the end of the campaign, Reagan pulled away, winning 49 states to 1. And Jack Germond and Jules Witcover published a book about the campaign: Wake Us When It’s Over.

I remember being scandalized by that title: It was misleading, dishonest. I listened to Germond on The McLaughlin Group throughout the entire campaign. He never gave the sense that the campaign was a yawner. He never expressed a “wake us when it’s over” attitude.

That title was totally after the fact. And it taught me something: After Election Day, the truth about a campaign can go out the window. The revision can set in instantly.

It’s only January. I remember Mitt Romney as a very good nominee, on balance — and a sterling man who would have made an excellent president, possibly a great one. Already, however, he has been turned into a plutocratic, out-of-touch stumblebum who never really had a chance and never should have been nominated.

What a crock. But very human.

To order Jay Nordlinger’s book Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World, go here. To order his collection Here, There & Everywhere, go here.