Whenever I hear that Ann Romney quote about how it’s time to “unzip him and let the real Mitt Romney out,” I am reminded of a remark a 78-year-old Winston Churchill made when someone noticed the old man’s fly was open.
“Never fear,” Churchill replied. “Dead birds do not drop out of nests.”
The Real, Exciting Mitt Romney is a fairly dead bird.
Those who know him better than I do — his son Taggart, for instance — describe him as follows: “In his spare time, he wants to solve problems.. . . He wants to figure out, when he comes over to your house, he wants to figure out, ‘Well, your boiler’s not working. How are we going to fix the boiler?’ and ‘Have you noticed that some of your trees are dying out there? Why are your trees dying? What’s causing that? Can we figure that out, and can we go down to the hardware store and see if they’ve got something to fix that?’ And all of a sudden you see him driving a tractor in your backyard, and he’s pulling stuff up. He’s like, ‘Oh, these rocks were doing that.’ I mean, that’s just who he is.”
This is a guy whose idea of fun, apparently, is moving rocks around other people’s yards.
And his aides don’t paint a better picture. According to “Inside the Circus,” the recently released e-book from Evan Thomas and Mike Allen, Romney assigns point values when taking advice at critical points, based on his perceptions of his advisers’ relative wisdom.
Ha ha ha, whee!
Ann Romney described him as the “life of the party” back when she met him. I would like to have seen that party. What was the theme, chartered accountancy? After he left, all the attendees no doubt embalmed each other.
Romney is the sphinx without a secret. His deep, dark, titillating secret is that he has no deep, dark, titillating secret.
When Mitt Romney vanishes into a telephone booth, he places a phone call. When Mitt Romney takes you upstairs to show the secret portrait that has been hidden in his attic for decades, it looks just like him. When Mitt Romney gets very, very angry, you will still like him the same amount as before.
He’s Clark Kent, if he pulled off the comically large glasses to reveal smaller, more sensible wire-rims.
He probably doesn’t even shower naked.
Usually, you can pull off the glasses and the bulky sweaters and keep peeling until you reveal Anne Hathaway. But under Mitt Romney’s carefully cultivated facade of a somewhat awkward man bad at making inspiring speeches may well be — a somewhat awkward man bad at making inspiring speeches.
The last time Mitt Romney unleashed something, he put it in a crate on top of his car. And he’s still living that down. If you let him off the chain, aides worry, he might be worse than unhinged. He might be — boring. He might sound too rich. He might gaffe.
But whatever he’s doing instead isn’t working either.
People are, by definition, odd. In Romney’s effort not to sound odd he sounds even odder. There’s something uncanny about things that are too normal, too minutely engineered to match the pleasing ideal. They veer towards the uncanny valley. Romney is so busy trying to sound like a statesman that we don’t know what statesman he sounds like.
Has he learned nothing from every romantic comedy ever made?
In every movie where the protagonist strives mightily and tirelessly to change himself to win the affection of his beloved, the same thing happens: It fails. We prefer the real thing, warts and all.
If this were a Katherine Heigl movie, Mitt would be able to pull out his hair extensions right now and reveal his true self. But his true self did not poll well with test audiences. Those hair extensions were the most exciting thing about him.
How can the public cope? The public is a vast, gaping maw constantly demanding Entertainment with a capital E. And this millionaire’s secret life is not that he swoops around the city fighting crime. He stays in late at night and reticulates his splines. He is a pragmatic-minded “problem-solver” even to those who know and love him. He is so exciting that in the course of writing this piece about his exciting side I fell asleep twice.
But it’s still better than the alternative.
He’s the Jon Arbuckle of the campaign. “Let’s go to the airport to watch the airplanes land!” Jon suggests, on Friday nights. “Hoo boy! Time to sort my socks by color!”
Jon is never bored. But he is boring. To call his existence a madcap merry-go-round would be a bit of a stretch. Still, it seems to satisfy him. And, in time, the reader gets to like him.
We deserve that chance with Mitt Romney. He remains America’s awkward stepdad. On a really wild night, he’ll stay in and mispronounce the name of a hip musical artist. He may not be a wild guy like Rick Perry, allegedly singing his way along the urinals. But hey, he is an, er, committed problem solver and definitely knows how to make money!
“We have to unleash the real Mitt, a fun guy.” Pick one!
So unzip the Mitt! Remove the lid from the casserole! Release the houndstooth! Strap on your seatbelts, folks. This will not be a bumpy ride, but safety belts are required by law!
And look out for dropping birds.