Posts Tagged ‘george romney’

The Day I was bullied by Romney.

May 12, 2012

Mitt Romney circa 1962

Several weeks ago I did a blog post entitled: “I was  Mitt Romney’s Boss“.  If you recall, in 1962 when I was 16 years old, I was a volunteer for the Republican   gubernatorial candidate in Michigan, George W. Romney.  They put me in charge of the mimeograph room where I worked for the summer. Shortly after I began, the candidate’s son, Mitt, joined me and we spent  the next few months  together cranking out campaign flyers and strategy notebooks.

The recent news about Romney’s “hi-jinks” as a teenager has brought up a pretty ugly memory of that summer, one that I have repressed for the last 50 years, but about which I can  be silent no longer. I’m ready to talk about the day I was bullied by Romney.

It was mid-August. Always a hot and gritty time in Detroit.  The campaign was moving into high gear. We were all excited about the new poll results that had just been released showing that George Romney was soaring ahead of the colorless Democratic candidate, John Swainson. To celebrate I asked my mother to take me shopping at Hudson’s to buy a festive outfit that I would wear to the headquarters the following day.

The next morning I put on my new lavender velveteen “smoking” jacket, attached the accompanying pink ascot to the collar of my shirt, and headed down to the Romney for Governor  offices.

When I opened the door, I saw Mitt at the mimeograph. He didn’t look up. He was trying to take out some paper that had gotten jammed in the drum. Mitt was dressed in his usual clothes. Old jeans and a torn t-shirt with mimeograph ink smudges almost covering up the silk screened message: “Real Men Do It in a Rambler.”

Then, pulling out the jammed paper, he said, “Andy, dang it,  I think we got it now.” He  turned toward  me. I was still standing in the doorway,  trying to look nonchalant, just  kind of waiting for him to tell me what a cool outfit I had on.

But that isn’t what happened. Instead  Mitt did a double take. His mouth dropped just about down to his pupik. Then as if experiencing a gradual realization of something hideous, his visage turned ugly, even sinister; his expression changed into a crooked sneer.

“Well,” he snarled, “If it isn’t Liberace.”

I didn’t really understand the sub-text of his comment, so I said in all innocence, “Not really. I’ve never learned to play the piano. My mom took me shopping yesterday for this new outfit. I thought it would bring a little color to the mimeograph room.”

For the rest of the morning, Romney was silent. It wasn’t that he behaved with any kind of hostility. He just ignored me. Wouldn’t look me in the eye.  When I tried to help him crank the machine, he pulled his hand away and gave me  a dark look.

Finally, in order to break the ice a little, I told him that maybe we could take a break. I offered to buy him some brunch. At that point, Mitt completely lost it.  He started screaming at me. I don’t remember the exact words. Something like: “You can take your domestic partnerships and shove them up your ass.”

Then Mitt grabbed me by my hair. It was long then, a  shock of it came down over one of my eyes. With his other hand he pushed my head into the hollow drum of the mimeograph machine and started cranking it around.

Finally he stopped and yanked my head out. I backed away and looked in the mirror. What I saw left me grief stricken. Needless to say my ascot was unrecognizable, turned black by mimeograph ink,  the lapels of my smoking jacket in tatters.  We had been copying flyers that his dad was going to hand out at the Cadillac Plant in Hamtramck the following day. On my forehead there was a smudged but readable print of the  headline in 48 point Times New Roman font saying: “Romney for Jobs.”

That was all. He told me to get out and if I ever showed my face again at the headquarters, he would tie me to the top of the  family station wagon, drive to the south of town and dump me into the Detroit River.

I try to practice forgiveness in my life. To be able to do so has always been a grace. But I realize now that, in spite of the fact that this horrific memory has been repressed for 50 years, it has had a profound impact on me that continues to this day. In a sense, the entire arc of my life has been an attempt to overcome the humiliation I felt from that encounter with Romney. How else would you explain the fact that every morning when I get out of bed,  I put on a safari suit and pith helmet and insist that Leslie and Hayley refer to me as: “Sahib”? Or what happened on Leslie’s last birthday, when I surprised her by waking her up and taking her out to the driveway where I presented her with  a brand new Humvee painted in desert camouflage.

I feel better now having written this down, gentle reader. And, Mitt, if you are  taking a breather from the campaign and trying to relax by reading this blog,  I want you to know that you are forgiven.

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I Was Mitt Romney’s Boss

January 9, 2012

Mitt Romney circa 1962

I’ve been experiencing some exquisite  schadenfreude over the accusations and counteraccusations of the Republican presidential hopefuls. Lately the long knives are out  on Romney accusing him of never having worked an honest day in his life. I am here to tell you this is not true. I know because I was Mitt Romney’s boss. Don’t laugh. This is not one of those archly sardonic blog posts that my loyal followers have come to expect in “Ask the Agent”.

Before Romney was a conservative Republican presidential candidate, before he was a liberal Republican governor, before he was in charge of the Salt Lake City Olympics, before he either created or destroyed  tens of thousands of jobs at Bain Capital, Mitt worked for me.

Back in 1962 when I was 16 years old and living in Detroit, I decided to get a little practical experience in politics and went to work for the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Michigan. The candidate was George Romney, who had been the president of American Motors. He actually coined the term “compact car” which he used to describe the Nash Rambler.

me circa 1962

Republicans were different back then. Some of them weren’t so bad. And Romney was better than most. He was an ardent supporter of civil rights. He had a pretty enlightened attitude toward the labor movement.  He was a problem solver, not an ideologue. He ran for president in 1968 but was defeated for the Republican nomination by Nixon. Romney made the mistake (I would say he had the honesty) of admitting that he had been brainwashed about Viet Nam. That did him in.   There were a lot of people like Romney in the Republican Party back then. They weren’t perfect by any means.  Their great flaw was that they had a certain complacency and a narrowness of outlook,  probably as a result of  spending too much time with their buddies  playing golf at the country club.  But still, they were for the most part  decent practical men. Most of them have abandoned the GOP now and left it to the lunatics.

Back to my story. I went down to Romney headquarters in an office building near the Detroit River.  I was designated the person to run the mimeograph machine (no  Xeroxes back then). It was a dirty job, but somebody had to do it. One day another 16 year old showed up and I had to train him in the art and science of mimeography. That person was the candidate’s son, Mitt Romney. Actually I was only his boss for about an hour.  After I showed him how to use the mimeograph, we worked together and continued to do so for the next few months –as equals.

I’d like to be able to tell you that the child is father to the man, that even then I was able to see the chameleonlike nature of Mitt that has become so manifest in his search for the ultimate prize. I’d like to be able to tell you that when we were in a room with one group of people, Mitt would say that mimeographs were enshrined in the Constitution by our founding fathers. But when we were with others, he would say that mimeographs were part of a sinister liberal conspiracy to turn America into a socialist hell like North Korea or France.

But that would not be true. Mitt and I  had a pretty good time that summer. We sort of yucked it up in the mimeograph room, talked about teenage stuff, went out to lunch together, that sort of thing. He was pretty down to earth for a guy who’s father was running for governor. That was admirable, although it probably speaks more to the character of  his parents than to him.

I wish that Mitt had become more like his dad, George. I think America would be a better place. And the Republican Party would certainly be a more responsible political institution. But  if he were more like George Romney, then Mitt wouldn’t  really be a viable Republican candidate for president, would he? Actually, now that I think about it, if he were more like George Romney, he’d probably be a Democrat.