David Brooks Stands up for Fellow Rich Man Mitt RomneyPosted: January 21, 2012
I just read David Brooks’ latest column, and thanks to Charlie Pierce, for once it didn’t make me feel like throwing my computer across the room. If you haven’t yet read Brooks’ defense of Mitt Romney’s wealth, please do so ASAP.
Brooks read the new book about Romney by Boston Globe reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, and what he took from it is that–because of the gumption he must have inherited from his industrious Mormon ancestors–Mitt worked really really hard and pulled himself up by his own bootstraps! We shouldn’t be hard on Mitt for being one of the .01% of the 1%, because hard work was in his DNA or something. Brooks:
Mitt Romney is a rich man, but is Mitt Romney’s character formed by his wealth? Is Romney a spoiled, cosseted character? Has he been corrupted by ease and luxury?
The notion is preposterous. All his life, Romney has been a worker and a grinder. He earned two degrees at Harvard simultaneously (in law and business). He built a business. He’s persevered year after year, amid defeat after defeat, to build a political career.
Romney’s salient quality is not wealth. It is, for better and worse, his tenacious drive — the sort of relentlessness that we associate with striving immigrants, not rich scions.
Where did this persistence come from? It’s plausible to think that it came from his family history.
OMG! So Mitt’s success in business and politics had nothing to do with his father George Romney’s being head of American Motors, Governor of Michigan, and presidential candidate? It had nothing to do with with his dad’s Washington connections? Never mind, just read Charlie Pierce’s response. It’s priceless. Here’s that last part of it (Brooks quotes are in italics; Pierce quotes in bold):
George Romney, Mitt’s father, was born in Mexico. But when he was 5, in 1912, Mexican revolutionaries confiscated their property and threw them out. Most of the Romneys fled back to the U.S. Within days, they went from owning a large Mexican ranch to being penniless once again, drifting from California to Idaho to Utah, where again they built a fortune.
(Jesus, things really picked up there. One minute, Miles is eating beans and gravy in a Mexican shack and, the next minute, his grandson is heading up American Motors. What could have intervened in the meantime? Oh, I remember now. Big Business and Big Government! George Romney went to Washington, worked as a congressional aide and then became a lobbyist for the aluminum and auto industries. He also worked to the NRA during the New Deal. His contacts fast-tracked him into the upper echelons of the American automobile industry, whence he went into politics. These are avenues of immigrant striving that are largely closed to, say, Willard Romney’s gardener, and, very likely, to his grandchildren, too.)
It is a story of relentless effort, of recovery and of being despised (in their eyes) because of their own success. Romney himself experienced none of this hardship, of course, but Jews who didn’t live through the Exodus are still shaped by it.
Mitt Romney can’t talk about his family history on the campaign trail. Mormonism is an uncomfortable subject. But he must have been affected by it.
(We pause here for a moment to ask two important questions: a) Are there any editors at the New York Times op-ed page? And, b) Are they all freaking drunk or what? Yes, Willard Romney’s distant ancestors had it tough. This has little or nothing to do with why Willard is acting like a rich foof on the campaign trail for the second consecutive presidential election cycle. Go back far enough, and David Brooks’s family are low-browed slouching primates eating antelope with their hands in the Serengeti. This would not excuse bad table manners on his part. And Mitt Romney does not decline to talk about his Mormonism on the campaign trail because it’s too painful. He declines to talk about it because half his lunatic, Bible-banging base thinks it’s a cult in which is worshipped Satan’s longjohns.)
His wealth is a sideshow.
(Hell, Willard doesn’t even know he’s rich. That’s how all that money snuck off to the Caymans when he wasn’t watching. To hell with better reporters. Can we at least have a superior class of courtiers?)
Thanks to Charlie Pierce, a David Brooks column just made my day. I hope my good mood holds through the South Carolina returns tonight.