(David Corn, back in June, 2012) "A Case of Romnesia" [View all]
Mitt Romney has a history problem.
It's not only that past events and stances—say, his implementation of an Obamacare-like reform in Massachusetts, or his 1994 call for "full equality" for gay and lesbians—undermine his current efforts by calling into question his political integrity. Romney often distorts—or is detached from—significant realities of his personal past.
Voters and the media world received a glimpse of this last month when the Washington Post disclosed that Romney, while attending an elite prep school, once led a posse of schoolmates to assault a fellow student who was thought to be gay. Though the newspaper cited five sources, including several participants in the brutal episode, Romney, through a spokeswoman, claimed he had "no memory" of the matter. After the story appeared, Romney, still insisting not to recall the event, apologized for pranks that "might have gone too far." Yet his lack of recollection was tough to believe, especially given the searing memories the attack had left within others. More important, Romney's blank-out was in keeping with a pattern of selective and manipulative presentations of his past. He's not merely a flip-flopper; he's a self-revisionist.
I. The Father
Romney has a wonderfully colorful and much-storied family past. His great-great grandfather Miles Archibald Romney, an English carpenter, was one of the first Brits to convert to Mormonism. Following the call, Miles immigrated to Illinois. Three generations later—after plenty of family drama intertwined with the rise of the Mormon Church—the Romney family would yield George, Mitt's father. He would become an innovative auto executive, a well-regarded governor of Michigan (who in 1964 walked out of the Republican National Convention to protest nominee Barry Goldwater's opposition to civil rights legislation), and a presidential candidate.