I checked out Romney A Reckoning from the San Francisco Public Library having heard McKay Coppins, the author, in an interview on public radio. Both Romney and Coppins are Mormon. Romney gave Coppins access to his personal journals, texts and emails and they had weekly interviews while he was a U.S. Senator so that Coppins could write the book. The agreement was that Coppins would be the author and Romney would not have any influence over the final product.
While most politicians these days are extremely careful with their exposure to journalists, media and the spin, this relationship does speak to Romney’s candor and the notion that he has nothing to hide. While Romney became a very wealthy man starting and running Bain Capital, the book focuses primarily on his personal and recent political life. Often quite goofy and more humorous than expected, Romney predictably comes off as someone of character and courage. We get brief excerpts of his private journals, the assessment of the people around him, the turmoil of January 6th., his meetings with Trump. Romney A Reckoning is an interesting, entertaining, alarming, fun and fast read and an important view into our tumultuous political times.
At an event in New Hampshire a man confronted him with an accusatory question. “Are you going to compromise? the voter asked. “I don’t want to vote for anyone who’s going to compromise.” Romney, unable to restrain himself, replied, “Are you married, sir?”
Romney A Reckoning
I have never voted for Mitt Romney but gained much respect for him when he was the only Republican to both impeach and convict Donald Trump. Like his father George Romney, Mitt Romney did believe in civil rights and he is documented as marching with Black Lives Matters protesters after the murder of George Floyd. He is a rational person, believes in science and the notion that the planet is warming and climate change is real. But in many ways he is a throwback to an earlier type of Republican – a buttoned-down, well-mannered conservative capitalist who really does have an insane amount of money.
The quote below will always be a political liability no matter how you spin it. The visual of Mitt Romney at a rest stop hosing dog shit off of the family station wagon is simply too funny.
One prolonged subplot of the campaign had to do with a decades-old anecdote about Romney strapping the family dog, Seamus, to the roof of their station wagon during a road trip. One of Romney’s sons had shared the story with a newspaper reporter as a funny demonstration of this dad’s organizational skills: when Seamus experienced a bout of diarrhea, Romney moved quickly to find a rest stop, hose down the dog and car, and get back on the road without losing much time.
Romney A Reckoning
According to the book, Mitt Romney is a man who enjoys managing and solving problems whether they mean packing the family station wagon roof rack or working in the private or public sectors. Unlike, Reagan and current Republicans, he does not think that government is the problem, he thinks government just needs to be better managed. Indeed, it was Massachusetts health care plan while Romney was governor that was in many was the blueprint for the Obama-era Affordable Care Act. Perhaps one of his shortcomings as a politician is that he does not actually care for the theater that so often goes along with politics and is motivated by his technocratic, problem-solving impulses. Mitt Romney surely finds reality television shows ridiculous.
I really do believe if you’re not being booed, if people aren’t angry at you, you really haven’t done anything in public life.
A theme that is persistent in the book is how his Mormon faith often became a political liability. Mormonism for many Americans is and has always been a bit strange. This modern offshoot of Christianity and its Zionism finding a home in isolated Utah seems to often make other Christians uncomfortable. There is a chapter in the book about how Romney realized the existence of extremists in parts of Utah while on the campaign trail. What is odd is that the new Republican Tea Party Evangelicals are more comfortable with a vile, dishonest, racist, misogynist non-religious con-man than a morally upstanding character like Mitt Romney.
Near the end of the book, you get this very chilling realization that the violence unleashed by Trump has really made it into the highest halls of government.
When one senator, a member of leadership, said he was leaning toward voting to convict, the other urgently encouraged him to reconsider. You can’t do that, one said, think of your personal safety, said another, think of your children. The senator eventually decided they were right. There were to many Trump supporters with guns in his state, he explained to Romney. His wife wouldn’t feel safe going out in public.
Senators voting a certain way because they fear assassinations? Sounds like fascism not the home of the free and the brave. Romney A Reckoning . A fun read. You will find this book at a garage sale in a few years. Buy it. Read it. Hopefully the world will be a bit saner by then.