George and Lenore Romney visit Chicago, September 1967 (Photo: Edward Kitch/AP).
As Marbury has noted before, Mitt Romney's political persona was formed in the shadow of his father's. George Romney was a popular governor of Michigan and ran for the presidency in 1968, but self-destructed after describing himself as having been 'brainwashed' by the generals over Vietnam.
Mitt, the youngest of four Romney children, worshipped George, and the cheap but irresistible psychological narrative of his career is that it's an attempt to surpass his father and put right George's failure.
In the current edition of New York magazine Benjamin Wallace-Wells has written a wonderfully vivid and detailed portrait of George, centring on his presidential run. It's full of the sound and fury of America in the late 1960s.
Romney was no ordinary Republican. In 1967, in the wake of the Detroit riots, he embarked on a rather quixotic tour of the American ghetto, visiting seventeen cities and meeting with black leaders - including Saul Alinsky, the father of modern community organising, an inspiration to Obama, and now a bogeyman for the American right. I didn't know that.
Among many great paragraphs, this one:
In Watts one day, Romney and Lenore were sitting in the back of a sedan, being chauffeured to the airport by a local driver, with Romney’s bodyguard riding shotgun. According to a story that circulated all through the campaign, Romney leaned forward: “Say, what is that word they keep saying to me? I don’t understand, it begins with an M…” The driver and the bodyguard racked their brains as Romney tried to pronounce it, working his western consonants around an inner-city accent. Then the driver straightened up and said, “Governor, I think what they’re saying is”—and here he let his voice get kind of ghetto—“mo’fucka.” And then, because Romney was legendarily a Mormon and these vulgarities may have been somewhat beyond him, the driver clarified: “Motherfucker, sir.” And Romney sank back into his seat, like a part of the car that had been mechanically retracted.
Read the whole thing here.