Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee for president in 2012 -- but his slippery political views and his alien weirdness makes him a very difficult candidate to get to know. Now, one book -- Alex Pareene's "The Rude Guide to Mitt" -- tells you everything you need to know to understand the life and worldview of the man who will likely oppose President Obama this fall.
This is a candidate who enacts the blueprint for Obamacare while governor of Massachusetts, and then makes repealing the national health-care plan a top priority of his campaign. This is a candidate who runs in Massachusetts as pro-choice -- even campaigning to the left of Ted Kennedy on some issues in his Senate 1994 Senate race -- but now says he would support a state Personhood initative that would make many forms of IVF and birth control of questionable legality.
And of course, this is a man with such a strange social disconnection that he not only thinks it's perfectly fine to put a dog in a crate strapped to the top of a speeding car for a 12-hour nonstop trip, but he repeats the story years later with a chuckle.
Millionaires, Mormons, unimpressive scions and ideologically fungible panderers have run for president before, in spades, but only Romney combines all those elements in one robotic package, topped off with appropriately immobile hair.
So who is the real Mitt Romney? "The Rude Guide To Mitt," tells the story of Romney's life, from his conflicted relationship with his father, his early marriage to Ann Romney, the behind-the-scenes tale of his business career, and Romney's launch into politics. Among its many revelations:
� Bain Capital didn't actually do much venture capital work. Mitt Romney hates risk. Venture capital is very risky. Instead, Bain made its name, and made its investors' fortunes, with leveraged buyouts: seizing control of companies with huge sums of borrowed money and flipping them a few years later for a massive profit.
� Mitt Romney didn't really save the Salt Lake City Olympics. He simply raised ticket prices 14 percent above the previous games and auctioned off the best tickets on the Internet. He promised Bank of America executives that they'd get paid back before taxpayers if they extended more credit. And most important, he lobbied Congress, at least until George Bush entered the White House and put Olympic spending right in his budget.
� Mitt Romney did not save the Massachusetts state budget. Conventional wisdom has it that he inherited a massive budget deficit and turned it into a massive budget surplus without raising taxes. Romney did raise taxes, but he called them "fees"; the deficit ended up not being as big as projected; and half the supposed "surplus" was an accounting trick. He managed to cut 600 jobs from the sizable Massachusetts state government payroll, which he now paints as a massive and unprecedented reduction in the size of state government. (You're allowed to brag about firing people when you fire public employees.)
� Mitt Romney is very weird. He seems incapable of natural conversation and frequently uncomfortable in his own skin. He's simultaneously dorkily earnest and ingratiatingly insincere. He suggests a brilliantly designed politician/android with an operating system still clearly in beta. All video of him attempting to interact with normal humans is cringe-inducing, as a cursory YouTube search quickly demonstrates. (Martin Luther King Day, Jacksonville, Fla., 2008: Mitt poses for a picture with some cheerful young parade attendees. As he squeezes in to the otherwise all-black group, he says, apropros of nothing, "Who let the dogs out? Woof, woof!") He seems to have been told that "small talk" is mostly made up of cheerfully delivered non sequiturs.
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Salon Media Group
April 15, 2012
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