Political Animal


July 30, 2012 1:48 PM Is Romney a “Wimp?”

By Ed Kilgore

Many of you may have read or heard about Mike Tomasky’s cover story for Newsweek entitled: “Mitt Romney’s Wimp Factor.” It’s a pretty savage piece that has some serious sport with “daddy party” pretensions about the “manliness” of conservative leaders.

What personally interests me about Romney’s “wimpiness,” if you want to use that loaded term, is that his transparently flexible principles create a toxic dynamic in his relationship with his own strongest supporters. Here’s how Tomasky puts it:

He’s the most risk-averse major politician to come along in ages. He accepted the job at Bain Capital only after wringing out of Bill Bain a promise that, if the venture failed, Mitt would be welcomed back to Bain & Co.—at his old levels of compensation and seniority—and that the press and public would be fed some happy talk about how it had all gone as intended. And why didn’t he leave Bain in 1999 to go run the Olympics, as he always said he had, but instead take his now-famous “leave of absence”? To have the option of coming back; to minimize the risk. Even his flip-flopping, his taking of positions all over the map, is a form of risk aversion, being all things to all people, able to placate any audience, never stuck out on a limb unable to satisfy.
There’s another conservative yardstick on which Romney comes up short: he’s too smart, as in clever or book-smart, to be a real Republican candidate. All those stories about how intensely data-driven he was at Bain, or as governor? Weird. Liberals, men of caution and contemplation, are obsessed with data. Conservative men are supposed to be men of action—they have hunches and play them. In this one sense Romney is just like a Massachusetts liberal. When it’s said that conservatives still don’t trust the guy, it’s not just his past moderate record they distrust, but also this sense of Romney as approaching issues intellectually instead of instinctively, producing the lurking unease that if he got into that Oval Office, Romney might one day look at the evidence and decide that, by Jiminy Cricket, global warming does exist!

Precisely because conservatives have abundant reasons not to trust him, along with abundant reasons to believe they can bully him, Romney will perpetually be in what I call the “primary phase” of his political career. And that will make him a weak president who is never quite the leader of his own political party. That’s why I was suggesting in an earlier post today that whatever names appear on the signs at the Republican Convention in Tampa and on the bumper stickers of all those red-state SUVs, the real ticket is Ryan-Romney. This has nothing to do with Romney’s “manliness” or “wimpiness,” and everything to do with the devil’s bargain that’s brought him to the brink of his Oval Office dreams.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Mark-NC on July 30, 2012 1:54 PM:

    It seems that there are some things that can't be cured by deliberate lying - even in the land of Republican.

  • Solid Sid on July 30, 2012 2:09 PM:

    Romney never looks like there is any depth between his ears or behind his eyes....He has that "I am the boss and I know what is best for all and my view is the only that counts."

  • Texas Aggie on July 30, 2012 2:13 PM:

    It isn't that Mitt doesn't hold to his principles. It's that he doesn't actually have any principles related to the things most people are concerned about. He couldn't care less about personal integrity, making the world a better place, helping people who need the help, democracy, being productive, any of that. They aren't even on his radar.

    The principle that he is attached to is that he is going to show the world that he's better than his father, a failed presidential candidate. I suspect that he would even sacrifice a goodly portion of his personal fortune for that goal if he had to, although I'm sure it would be like having his gonads pulled off with pliers.

  • RT on July 30, 2012 2:14 PM:

    This week, the real ticket is Bibi-Romney.

    [Captcha: "guncomm description"!]

  • c u n d gulag on July 30, 2012 2:16 PM:

    There may be something else behind the was Mitt acts.

    I didnít hear about this until recently, but apparently, when Mitt Romney was on his Mormon mission in France, he was in a horrific car accident that killed a passenger in his car.
    A policeman who responded to the accident, declared Mitt dead. Instead, thankfully for him and his family, the policeman was wrong Ė but he was in a coma for awhile:


    I wonder if Mitt Romney didnít suffer some sort of serious, traumatic brain injury in the accident?

    This is purely conjecture, since, before the accident, Mitt was not a great student, and was still the undamaged @$$hole who cut the gay kidís hair.

    Still, Iím left to wonder if this didnít have some effect on him.
    It obviously did nothing for his sense of empathy Ė so Iím wondering if the accident, and subsequent coma, didnít exacerbated any underlying sociopathic tendencies, and diminish his decision making capabilities?

    Mitt doesnít talk about the accident. And you wonder why, since it might help humanize him?

    And maybe thatís what heís afraid of.

    Galtian Supermen donít almost die in car accidents on church missions in foreign countries. And thereís nothing Mitt hates more than showing some weakness.

    Extremely rich people condition themselves to eliminate any semblance of ďThere but for the grace of God, go I.Ē And they hate to be reminded that luck had as much, if not more, to do with their success, as skill.
    A passenger died, Mitt the driver, survived. To me, thereís certainly a large element of luck there.

    And maybe that's also why Mitt is so cautious?
    Maybe he suffers from some form of diminished capacity that only those closest to him know about?

    He has to be sure that he has much better than even odds, before he tries something.
    When he ran against Teddy Kennedy, he probably thought his money could buy him the office.

    But he may be right this time. The odds have been stacked in his favor by the SCOTUS.

    Again, this was comment was just some food for thought.

  • T2 on July 30, 2012 2:33 PM:

    I'll never forget a situation in Mitt's 2008 race against McCain. McCain had been spreading a pure and well known lie about Romney in his campaign material. Romney confronted McCain about it face to face in some news conference or debate and McCain just repeated the lie again right to Mitt's face. Romney just stood there and smiled.
    I remember thinking, this guy is chicken-sh*t.
    But, he can be a chicken sh*t president because that's all the Conservatives want him to be....a guy they can just tell what to do, and he'll do it without any back-talk.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on July 30, 2012 2:33 PM:


    Interesting speculation (if maybe a little unfair, but it's Romney so I'm done caring). But you lost me at the race against Kennedy. Anyone would an iota of political sense knew that Kennedy was going to win that election comfortably. I would think Mitt had to have seen it as a strategic investment to get his name out there, which paid off when he became governor.

  • ET on July 30, 2012 2:40 PM:

    I don't know if Wimp is the word I would choose.

    It seems a lot of negative things coalesce in him as a candidate. Much like Dubya, his relationship with his dad and how his dad fared politically seems to drive a him. And not in a good way. He seems to just the opposite of what his dad did and because his dad stuck to his principles and was punished for that, Romney does just the opposite and jumps from "principle" to "principle" depending on what holes he needs to fill up.

    He is also pathetically desperate to be president - never a good thing in a presidential candidate. Those that want to so much are the last that should have it.

    He seems to feel entitled to the presidency. He already suffers from an overweening sense of entitlement because of his family's wealthy and standing that I wonder if this is something he just feels is owed to him.

    That sense of entitlement seems to also mean that the rest of us should just take him at his word. He is "Mitt Romney," "upstanding" Mormon, successful capitalist, former governor, scion of a powerful family - how dare people actually demand to know more about him. All of those things = good person and good people don't need to be vetted so shut up "you people."

    Then after all that throw in the arrogance from his Wall Street days shake and stir and out pops Mitt.

  • Kathryn on July 30, 2012 3:05 PM:

    Romney's demeanor, his way of walking with frozen, insincere smile, his having his wife talk tough while he sits passively by gazing fondly at her, his wife driving the jet ski while he holds on behind her, his walking back of so many misstatements, his two faced approach to any position he has now or use to have. He's comes off pretty wimpish to me in the classic sense of being the opposite of macho. Not a fan of overly macho, but Mitt seems prissy to me and then there is the lying.

  • Mimikatz on July 30, 2012 3:06 PM:

    The stuff about the accident is interesting. But if Mitt is afraid of showing weakness, how come he keeps asking forretractions and apologies? Don't they know it conveys weakness?

    It is abundantly clear that it is a disaster for Mitt to try to trust his instincts. That is when the gaffes and stilted word salads come. It is as if he so walled off large parts of himself that what is left can't really communicate--too many synaptic paths are blocked or something.

  • bleh on July 30, 2012 3:12 PM:

    Precisely because conservatives have abundant reasons not to trust him, along with abundant reasons to believe they can bully him, Romney will perpetually be in what I call the ďprimary phaseĒ of his political career.

    I disagree. I think he will be in the "primary phase" until the day he wins or loses. And if he wins, I'd guess that all bets are off.

    He'll kiss ass, twirl like a weathervane, and mouth all the right slogans every day until November, but he won't lift another finger for them once he's elected.

    Oh, he'll throw the Teabaggers an occasional judge, and he'll sign any reactionary social legislation they manage to pass against a Dem filibuster. Why not? It won't affect his bottom line. But if it does, he'll flip-flop on them as quickly as he has on everything else.

    One thing Vulture Capitalists are very good at is throwing overboard what is no longer of use to them. Once -- FSM forbid -- he's in the White House, whatever number they've been calling will stop answering.

  • Hedda Peraz on July 30, 2012 3:16 PM:

    Like spaghetti, when Mitt is exposed to a bit of hot water, he turns into a limp noodle!

  • RT on July 30, 2012 3:20 PM:

    gulag wrote: "A passenger died, Mitt the driver, survived."

    Who's the first politician you think of when you read that? Ted Kennedy. I suspect that's the reason Mitt doesn't talk about his accident.

  • Cha on July 30, 2012 3:34 PM:

    Aren't bullies just cowards? Willard is deathly afraid of the truth. He's hiding EVERYTHING. What's really behind those tax returns, his time as gov of Mass, the Olympics he ran that was BAILED OUT BY OUR US GOVERNMENT, and there's the freaking BAIN of his existence.

    The same could be said to them about ...WHAT'S UP WITH "YOU PEOPLE", WILLARDS?

  • Ken D. on July 30, 2012 3:50 PM:

    I yield no one (or very few) in my lack of admiration for Mitt Romney. However, I despised the "wimp factor" crap that Bush I threw at Michael Dukakis as juvenile and degrading to what is left of the electoral process. I sincerely hope the the Obama camp, and Obama supporters, stay as far away from this as possible. We can at least try to act like adults.

  • SecularAnimist on July 30, 2012 3:59 PM:

    The "manliness" stuff is BS to bamboozle the rubes. Much like "conservatism".

    The essential quality needed by a Republican president is the ability and will to be an obedient, compliant corporate stooge.

    And Romney simply OOZES that quality.

  • June on July 30, 2012 4:44 PM:

    It also needs to be said more that Ryan's "smarts" amount to spending vast amounts of time tying up everyone's attention with his "brilliant" ideas, which turn out to be largely useless/extremely damaging. And with the way Ryan whines every time Pres. Obama runs it down as to why he's giving him a D+ on his busywork, Ryan's not exactly a profile in courage himself.

  • Ted Frier on July 30, 2012 9:59 PM:

    Exactly. Everything about Romney -- his gaffes, his unease with people, his spastic and frenetic movements, his secretive elusiveness, his overall creepiness -- is either caused or exacerbated by the fact that he has made the Devil's Bargain to win the presidency and is the prisoner of a party not its leader. Nothing about him is authentic. He wakes up every morning wondering who he is.

  • RT on July 31, 2012 12:18 AM:

    @Ted: Romney is the personification of the GOP establishment, having lost control of the party to the loons they pandered to for so long.