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Today Votes the Mitten: Will It Be Romney?

Filed under: The Squib Report   Tagged: , , , , , , ,

The “mitten” is, of course, Michigan, and today the Republicans there are participating in a primary election. In a welcome change of pace from the past couple of weeks, the media is not treating the contest as the most pivotal event ever to occur in western civilization.

Today the focus is on Mitt Romney, because he hasn’t won a big contest yet (he did win the Wyoming caucus, which hardly anyone noticed) and because his father George was governor of the state for much of the 1960s. It’s illuminating to read up on the New Yorker coverage of George Romney’s infamous 1967 slip that he had been “brainwashed” during a trip to Vietnam two years earlier, which sure did a number on his chances at a presidential bid the next year. Check out the last line of William Whitworth’s Comment from the September 23, 1967, issue:
It seems to us that, in their fascination with Governor Romney’s Vietnam ordeal, the newspapers have ignored something at least equally significant in this episode—that the debate over the war has reached a point at which a prominent moderate Republican seeking his party’s Presidential nomination has publicly declared that the United States should never have entered the war.
Doesn’t that sound like the kind of thing you would read today? Of course, thus far, Mitt has chosen not to emulate dear old dad; his position, as expressed in an April 2007 speech, is that “walking away from Iraq, or dividing it in parts and then walking away would present grave risks to America.”

As it happens, the very same issue has a Letter from Washington by Richard Rovere that also mentions Romney’s catastrophic utterance. It’s interesting to see Rovere grappling with a highly unpopular president and war—within six months, the country would see LBJ withdraw his reelection candidacy, and American forces taken by surprise in the Tet offensive. I don’t draw Iraq/Vietnam comparisons lightly, but the whole thing seems mighty familiar.

On another political topic, the polling debacle in New Hampshire a week ago got me thinking about that profession a bit. It must be bizarre for a politician to have some consultant come in and say, “White males hate your guts” or whatever. I fully expect to get a letter someday informing me that I really need to shore up my numbers among Hispanic professionals over 35.

The man who started it all is George Gallup, and The New Yorker’s Russell Maloney, who seems to have been a real mainstay at the magazine back in the day—I’ve been running into his name a lot lately—did a bang-up Profile on him in 1940. It’s called “Black Beans and White Beans.” We learn that Gallup was apparently given to quoting Talleyrand to the effect that “the only thing wiser than anybody is everybody.” Paging James Surowiecki!

—Martin Schneider

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