The Corner

Romney Revision

Everything you thought you knew about Romney’s dad is wrong — or so claims my friend Chris Bachelder of Hillsdale College, in this interesting article just published in the Michigan Historical Review. His thesis:

Governor George Romney of Michigan is most commonly remembered for his 1967 comment that he had been subjected to “brainwashing” by American military and diplomatic officials when he participated in a 1965 fact-finding mission to Vietnam. This remark is generally considered to have destroyed his prospects of winning the 1968 Republican nomination to be president of the United States.

      There is much more to Romney’s story, however. Perhaps because he has not been the subject of much serious scholarly analysis, the “first draft” of history penned by journalists has gone largely unchallenged. This article will argue that Romney’s chances of winning the Republican nomination had become fairly remote by the time of his famous gaffe. When he said that he had been brainwashed, his status as the front-runner in public-opinion polls, which he had enjoyed at the end of 1966, had already evaporated. Nor, despite the concern in 2007 about his son Mitt’s Mormonism as a possible impediment to his own presidential hopes, does the elder Romney’s religious faith appear to have played a direct role in his failure to become his party’s nominee. Instead, this article contends that Romney’s presidential quest was severely hampered by his refusal to endorse Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater’s presidential candidacy in 1964, his unwillingness to enthusiastically align himself with the Republican Party organization, and his ultra-independent personality and style.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.


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