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The Real Romney

 
 
Reply Tue 21 Aug, 2012 08:34 am
The Real Romney
by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman

Book Description
Publication Date: August 21, 2012

Despite his political prominence, Mitt Romney remains an enigma to many in America. Who is the man behind that sweep of dark hair and the high-wattage smile? A savvy politician or someone who will simply say anything to win? A business visionary or a ruthless dealmaker? A man comfortable in his faith and devoted to family or a wealthy elitist unable to connect with the average voter?

In this definitive, unflinching, and widely acclaimed biography by Boston Globe investigative reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, readers will finally discover the real Mitt Romney. Based on hundreds of interviews and years of reporting, The Real Romney presents a fascinating portrait of both the public and the private man, offering readers for the very first time a full understanding of this complex political figure.

Editorial Reviews

“The Real Romney pulls together lots of details into a narrative that’s absorbing and fair-minded.” (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times )

“Balanced and rigorous reporting on Romney’s life and career. . . . The authors are especially good on his close relationship with his father, a three-term Michigan governor who unsuccessfully ran for president in 1968.” (USA Today )

“The Real Romney lays out Romney’s story in full and clear detail, including fascinating in-depth stuff about his family’s history, showing us a Romney for whom family and faith remain unshakable pillars and who knows that his ‘power-ally is money.’” (The Los Angeles Times )

“A timely, balanced new biography. . . . An impressively researched and thought-provoking portrait of a man many Americans may want to know more about in the coming weeks and months.” (The Boston Globe )

“Kranish and Helman are veteran and well-regarded reporters. . . . They give a comprehensive account of the Bain years -- the greatest contribution of their book.” (Michael Tomasky, The New York Review of Books )

“The writers have thoroughly trawled through the would-be-president’s history. The book charts the various stages of Romney’s polymorphic life in impressive detail. . . . All this is well done. The analysis of Romney’s time at Bain is balanced and fair.” (The Economist )

“Kranish and Helman have assembled a genuinely compelling story and a more thorough record of Romney’s life than has yet appeared.” (The Washington Post )

“A fascinating story [that] sheds new light on an elusive subject. . . . It illustrates well how in his private life and in business, he has relied on a tight, protective circle all his life.” (The Financial Times )

“A comprehensive and eminently fair-minded biography of the GOP’s fitful frontrunner.” (The New Republic )

“An excellent biography.” (David Frum, The Daily Beast )

“Balanced and informative. . . A well-written and useful resource for Romneyana great and small.” (Louis Menand, The New Yorker )

“The great service of this new biography is that it humanizes Romney. The authors sniff over their subject with bloodhound thoroughness, dredging up old report cards, housing deeds, and family records and videos. They interview seemingly everyone who had contact with Romney in every phase of his life.” (The New York Times Book Review )

“Who is the real Mitt Romney? This well-researched biography by two Boston Globe reporters offers useful clues.” (Katha Pollitt, The Guardian )
About the Author

THE AUTHORS

Michael Kranish, deputy chief of the Boston Globe's Washington Bureau, has been a congressional reporter, White House correspondent, and national political reporter. Kranish coauthored, with other Globe reporters, John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography. He is also the author of Flight from Monticello: Thomas Jefferson at War.

MOST HEALPFUL CUSTOMER REVIEWS

January 26, 2012
By Frederick S. Goethel VINE™ VOICE

The authors, two reporters for a large New England newspaper, have written the most definitive biography of Mitt Romney that I have seen to date. Several book were written about Romney prior to the 2008 election, but none were nearly as complete nor did any have a true history of his life.

Beginning with Romney's ancestors, and proceeding to this day, the authors cover almost every aspect of Romney's life. He has, by all measures, led a pretty good life without the challenges that most people face as they go through life. He was in a severe automobile wreck when he was serving on his Mormon mission, but short of that, his life has been good to Mitt.

While reading the biography, it struck me that there are really three distinct Mitt Romney's. One side is the Mitt Romney that his wife, kids and friends know at home, one is the distinct "work" Mitt that is known to fellow workers and colleagues and then there is the "Mormon Church" Mitt that fellow members of his faith see when he is in leadership positions within the church. Each is different and distinct from the others, and makes figuring out the real Mitt a challenge.

When Romney is at home, he is a loving father who is devoted to his wife and children. He also appears to have fun, leaves his work at the office and is a prankster. He has no problem going on vacation and relaxing when it is appropriate. The fact that he is still strongly in love with his wife after over 40 years speaks volumes about him as a family man and he deserves credit for that. In addition, he is giving and regularly helped neighbors who had problems, without seeking any attention or credit for his actions.

The work Romney is a different creature: he is driven, focused like a laser light on success and surrounds himself with talented people. He is extremely data driven and only makes decisions after completely crunching and mulling over the numbers. He is somewhat risk averse and is not a person to act on the spur of the moment. He also enjoys the roll of making the final decision. Tellingly, he didn't undertake the usual politics when he was governor of Massachusetts. Almost all politicians know that to survive and be successful in such a position, you need to know the other side and work towards compromise. That wasn't Romney. He didn't want to know the other side, and he acted as though he were the CEO of the State. He seemed to forget that there was a legislature that he had to work with, and by many accounts, he got little accomplished in his time in the State House for that very reason. In addition, he had a history of being one sided that was beginning to catch up with him near the end of his term. This is also the Romney that many people saw in Salt Lake City when he worked to get the Olympic Games back on track.

Finally, there is the Romney people see when he is in a leadership position in his church, which was the case for a number of years. He is considered to have strong faith and worked hard in his "spare" time for the church. Most disturbing about his church time appears to be his lack of questioning or thought about the tenants of the church. There is some leeway with church doctrine in certain cases, but Romney appears to have taken the strongest, simplest line with the doctrine and not varied, although he had that power. For instance, the church allows for abortion in several narrowly defined areas, including rape, incest, when the life of the mother is in jeopardy or when it is believed the baby will not survive the birth. Yet, when a member of the church need guidance on an abortion issue, where her life was threatened, Romney stuck to the strict side of the doctrine and warned her she could be excommunicated. There didn't appear to be any thought or human emotion put into the decision. He read the book, and followed it to the letter.

As a result, we have three fairly distinct personalities and one must wonder which one we will get if he is elected president. Or, will is be an amalgamation of all three depending on the circumstances? I guess that is up to the reader and voter to decide.

I highly recommend this book to all voters. It is always important to be informed when voting, and this is the least biased and most honest biography one could hope for. It will allow the voter to decide if Romney is presidential material or not and allow the reader to judge any statements Romney makes against his past record.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Romney Like You've Never Seen Him Before January 19, 2012 By Hank Peace

I think an evaluation of The Real Romney turns on whether it provides new information to the reader, information that would help a swing voter make up his or her mind. I think Kranish & Helman succeed on that metric. We learn that Romney's family history is deeply intertwined with the history of Mormonism and that he served an important role as a lay leader in the church. We learn that as a lay leader Romney counseled a woman facing a difficult birth against having an abortion. We learn that Romney keeps most acquaintances distant, but can be silly (or more, dorky) with his family and close friends. We learn that Romney assiduously courted gay voters during his run for the U.S. Senate. We learn that Romney ran the first post-9/11 Olympics (ok, I probably already should have known this one). We learn that Romney's advisors counseled against his ill-fated decision to focus on social issues during his 2008 presidential run.

Most of the book is devoted to the history of Romney's patriline post-Mormonism conversion sparked immigration, his work for his church, his career at Bain, his U.S. Senate run, his tenure as head of the Winter Olympics, and his tenure as governor of Massachusetts. His 2008 and 2012 presidential runs are given pretty cursory review. An entire chapter is devoted to Romneycare.

The Real Romney compares very favorably with a similar just-in-time-for-the-election biography from 2008--Obama: From Promise to Power by Chicago Tribune reporter David Mendell. Mendell's biography was pretty thin and wound up relying heavily on Obama's own book to cover Obama's early life. Romney has a much longer political career (going back to his U.S. Senate run) than Obama did in 2008, and the Boston Globe has been covering him much longer than the Chicago Tribune had Obama. It shows. This isn't a Robert Caro work, but it's an extremely valuable voice about Romney right now.

The Real Romney very much reads like a series of long newspaper articles. That's both good and bad. Kranish & Helman give the facts. But they don't engage in a lot of in-depth analysis. So the critical portions consist of repeating the attacks of his critics. This is unsatisfactory for a couple reasons: those statements are not explored in greater depth and they come off as sour grapes, both of which makes them difficult to judge.

This review is of the Kindle edition. Kranish & Helman don't provide footnotes or endnotes, but copious notes and the index take up about 40% of the Kindle edition. Unfortunately, the notes don't allow the reader to jump directly to the applicable text as endnotes and some Kindle notes do. The page numbers in both the notes and the index refer to the hardcover edition, so there is no way to use either to find something on the Kindle.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Story of a Man, not Sound Bites or Newspaper Headlines January 17, 2012 By Bill Makar

A fair assessment of Mitt Romney's life and times is a bit of a surprise coming from Boston Globe writers, a company owned by the New York Times and the leader in criticizing his tenure as Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Still, they offer the reader a fairly well-rounded knowledge of the man, his relationship with his father, and his experiences that have prepared him for the leadership role he seeks and also given his opponents ammunition.

The book is not a headline grabber in the sense of propelling or halting his ongoing campaign. It instead explores the many facets of a man who has struggled to merge his private and public life, the legacy of his father, the demands of his business concerns, the Massachusetts voting base, expectations of the conservative base in the national GOP primary, and what Romney sees as the expectations of the general electorate.

The stories and accounts from his personal life, Bain & Company, Bain Capital, the 2002 Olympics, Governor's Office, to becoming National Candidate are not those that have remained untold, they are known. But "The Real Romney" offers context and a steady hand. The candidate that was in the media's view the conservative alternative to McCain in 2008 and now without any major policy shifts, the "moderate" frontrunner in 2012 shows how the mainstream media can frame these candidates into characters to fit their storylines and ratings. Hopefully, voters will look beyond the 10-second sound bites and distortion from other campaigns (including Romney's) when they assess a candidates ability to lead.
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BumbleBeeBoogie
 
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Reply Tue 21 Aug, 2012 08:37 am
@BumbleBeeBoogie,
NEW YORK TIME REVIEW

Romney vs. Romney
‘The Real Romney,’ by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman
By GEOFFREY KABASERVICE
Published: April 13, 2012

It’s unlikely that Mitt Romney saw the film “The Graduate” when it appeared in 1967. He was a 20-year-old Mormon missionary in France at the time, isolated from the cultural influences that shaped most Americans of the baby-boom generation, and his taste in movies ran to more wholesome fare like “The Sound of Music.” If he had seen it, though, one doubts that he would have scoffed along with his contemporaries during the scene in which a smarmy businessman declares that the key to the future is “plastics.” He might have considered it useful career advice.

Critics have noted Romney’s plastic qualities ever since he entered politics: the elasticity of his views, the android awkwardness of his interactions with voters, his slick evasions and platitudes, his sculptured features and molded hair, and his apparent lack of appetites and passions. But plastic is also durable and indispensable, and although a majority of Republican voters in the primaries so far have preferred Anyone but Romney, he appears poised to win the party’s presidential nomination. Despite the growing possibility that Romney may soon occupy the nation’s highest office, he remains an enigma to most Americans, and his campaign seems predicated on the hope that voters will see in his smooth surfaces whatever they want to see.

The great service of this new biography by the Boston Globe journalists Michael Kranish and Scott Helman is that it humanizes Romney. The authors sniff over their subject with bloodhound thoroughness, dredging up old report cards, housing deeds, and family records and videos. They interview seemingly everyone who had contact with Romney in every phase of his life. They conclude that he is in many ways an admirable man, deeply devoted to his religion and family and possessing stellar qualities that made him a success in business and public service, including his leadership of the 2002 Winter Olympics and his governorship of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007.

But “The Real Romney” leaves an unsettling impression. Romney’s peculiar misfortune is that the things that defined him have become liabilities in his presidential pursuit, leading him to minimize or repudiate his own beliefs, legacy and accomplishments. Even as he shifts into the front-runner’s role, he is running on who he is not — namely, Barack Obama — rather than on who he is, and cannot stand openly for the things that matter most to him. If Obama is our first post-racial president, Romney, with his strategy of absences and denials, bids to become our first postmodern president.

Romney’s political problems begin, in a basic sense, with his family history. The authors trace the intertwined histories of Romney’s ancestors and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, beginning with his great-great-grandfather Miles Archibald Romney, who became an early convert to Mormonism in 1837. Mitt’s great-grandfather had undertaken the pioneer journey to the Utah Territory as a boy, and when he refused to abandon what Mormons considered the divinely ordained practice of “plural marriage” — he had three wives at that point — he fled federal agents to establish a colony in Mexico; the family remained there after the Mormon Church agreed to ban po­lygamy in 1890 as a condition of Utah’s gaining statehood. Mitt’s grandfather was not polygamous and returned destitute to the United States after Mexican rebels confiscated the colony’s property. Mitt’s father, George Romney, was elected governor of Michigan in 1962, ran unsuccessfully for president in 1968, and became a member of Richard Nixon’s cabinet as secretary of housing and urban ­development.

It’s an exotic but unquestionably American success story, even though the first generations of Mormon Romneys spent their lives in bitter conflict with the United States. Mitt Romney takes evident “pride in his standing” as a member of “one of Mormonism’s first families,” according to Kranish and Helman. He has given the church millions of dollars and has occupied high positions in its hierarchy. He abides by his faith’s prohibitions on alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and profanity. The authors portray him as an adoring husband, a devoted father and a doer of many unpublicized good deeds.

Mormonism’s emphasis on family, patriotism, community and hard work explains much of Romney’s worldview. The church’s generous support of Mormons in need, financed by the 10 percent tithe on members like Romney, may give him the idea that the poor are well taken care of in America. And his criticism of “the bitter politics of envy” echoes his father’s complaint that his family was forced from his childhood home “because the Mexicans were envious of the fact that my people . . . became prosperous.” Romney’s plastic image to some extent stems from his difficulty in relating to people outside Mormon circles, though within those circles he is seen as warm, funny and charming.

His upstanding life fails to win Romney the political credit that would normally extend to such a paragon, because many people do not understand or approve of the religion that inspires him. Over the last several years, about a quarter of Americans have told poll takers they would not vote for a Mormon. Liberals are skeptical of a religion that until 1978 refused to grant full membership to anybody with even one drop of African blood and still bars women from the priesthood. Mormon leaders have supported extreme right-wing organizations like the John Birch Society, denounced the theory of evolution, condemned much of American popular culture, and led the fights against the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and the gay marriage movement over the past decade. Christian conservatives might be expected to support Mormonism’s political agenda, but many believe that the religion is not Christian but a heretical and even satanic cult. Because of this opposition from both left and right, Romney is forced to play down his distinctive heritage, resorting instead to generalized expressions of faith and patriotism.

A similar bipartisan mistrust extends to Romney’s accomplishments in business and politics. Kranish and Helman illuminate Romney’s work for Bain & Company and its private equity offshoot, Bain Capital. Prudence, aptitude for data-driven analysis and providence enabled Romney and his team to report what the authors call “the highest returns in the business in the 1990s” and gave Romney a fortune that they estimate as “at least $250 million, and maybe much more.” But many Americans have reservations about leveraged-buyout firms like Bain that acquired struggling companies using borrowed money, saddled them with enormous debt, and often walked away with incredible profits no matter whether the companies prospered or went bust. Even many Tea Party conservatives resent the “creative destruction” that the financial industry brought to bear on companies and communities, and see the loopholes that allowed investors like Romney to pay taxes at lower rates than many working-class Americans as further evidence that the economic system is rigged in favor of the 1 percent.

In 1994, when he was trying to displace the liberal icon Ted Kennedy from the Senate, Romney cast himself as what Kranish and Helman characterize as “a passionate supporter of abortion rights,” as well as a “socially innovative” advocate of gay rights (although not gay marriage), progressive taxation and gun control. He retained these positions as the Republican governor of a Democratic state. His signature political accomplishment was the bipartisan passage of breakthrough health care reform, which the authors deem an overall success, particularly in achieving near-universal insurance coverage for Massachusetts residents.

Romney’s quest to become the presidential nominee of the conservative-­dominated Republican Party, though, has required him to jettison his past positions as well as distance himself from his health care program, which was the model for President Obama’s. The authors manfully resist the urge to call Romney a hypocrite for these reversals. They suggest that he has been “applying a business model to politics,” and that in business, “changing positions in an evolving market can be the secret of survival.” Unfortunately, he has not so far succeeded in showing that “his shifts were not expedient but reasoned and heartfelt.” As a result, Romney hasn’t convinced conservatives he has seen the light, while moderates and liberals hope he doesn’t really believe in the increasingly extreme positions he has espoused.

The argument that Romney is not a moderate at heart emerges most clearly in the book’s comparisons between him and his father, who was a leader of the moderate wing of the Republican Party in the 1960s and ’70s. This is ironic, since Mitt has said he “grew up idolizing” his father, and the authors imply that his motivation for wanting to be president is “avenging his father’s loss” in 1968. But Romney appears to have little in common politically with his father, and his candidacy in no way aims to uphold the moderate legacy his father embodied.

George Romney was born into exile and raised in poverty, and he worked his way to prosperity in the automobile industry. As chairman of the American Motors Corporation, he was wealthy but nowhere near as rich as his son became and, unlike his son, was known for refusing bonuses that would have made his income too many multiples of the average worker’s salary. Civil rights for African-Americans was George Romney’s lifelong, passionate cause, undertaken in defiance of his church as well as the conservative wing of his party; Mitt has shown scant inclination to follow his father’s example. Where George saw the dissent and protest of the 1960s as legitimate responses to real social and political problems, Mitt saw only inexplicable disorder and lack of proper deference toward authority.

George Romney governed at a time when Republican moderation meant something. He stood not only for pro-business fiscal conservatism but for civil rights and civil liberties, Republican outreach to minorities and labor, an internationalist but noninterventionist foreign policy, wise public investments in infrastructure and education, and government programs to promote equal opportunities for all Americans. If his son has the courage to champion such positions in the face of conservative opposition within his party, he has given little indication of it in his campaign so far.

On the evidence in this biography, Mitt Romney is not so much a plastic politician as a personally upstanding and generally conservative man who will do whatever it takes to be elected president. His idiosyncratic background and deliberate efforts to obscure his beliefs and accomplishments mean that his election would not represent a victory for the conservative movement, but most likely would significantly advantage the right nonetheless. The blurred outlines of “the real Romney” may come into focus only if and when he occupies the White House.
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Geoffrey Kabaservice’s latest book is “Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party.”
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