Featured Historian Matthew Dallek: Mitt Romney is no George Romney

FEATURED HISTORIANS

Matthew Dallek: Mitt Romney is no George Romney

Source: Politico, 12-1-11

George Romney (center) gave his wife Lenore and son Mitt 14 (left), an affectionate hug at a Detroit news conference February 10, 1962 after he announced he would seek the Republican nomination for Governor of Michigan. | AP Photo

Romney has claimed that his greatest political inspiration was George Romney, the author says. | AP Photo Close

Mitt Romney is casting himself as the lone Washington outsider in the Republican presidential field with the best shot at defeating President Barack Obama. He describes former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as a “lifelong politician” who “spent his last 30 or 40 years in Washington.” He labeled another rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, as a career politician. Romney insists that, in contrast, he had “spent most of my life outside of politics.”

“Career politicians got us into this mess,” Romney said, “and they simply don’t know how to get us out.”

Romney’s complaint could well be his most hypocritical to date. For it belies an inconvenient reality that Romney’s father spent much of his adult life inside politics — as a liberal moderate in the Republican Party. George Romney was a three-term Michigan governor, ran for president in 1968 and served in the first Nixon administration as secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Romney also led a grass-roots campaign in Michigan to reform its constitution.

That résumé suggests just one aspect of Romney’s judicious devotion to the politics of governmental reform. He consistently harnessed the power of the state to lift up citizens’ lives — sharply contrasting with his son’s repeated denunciations of “career politicians” and Big Government liberals as failed economic stewards.

We’ve seen this cognitive dissonance before. Just as George W. Bush famously divorced himself from his father’s moderate GOP legacy, Mitt Romney is now skating past his father’s largely liberal Republican record in his rush to stand on the right of the Republican spectrum.

Yet Romney has claimed that his greatest political inspiration was George Romney. He told The New York Times in 2007 that running for president made him feel like a member of “a relay team where the baton passed from generation to generation.”…READ MORE

Matthew Dallek, an associate academic director of the University of California Washington Center, is the author of “The Right Moment: Ronald Reagan’s First Victory and the Decisive Turning Point in American Politics.”

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