Posts Tagged ‘mitt 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.


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.

George Witte of Saint Martin’s Press Talks About the Work of an Editor

September 25, 2010

George Witte is editor-in-chief of St. Martin’s Press, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers. He has worked at St. Martin’s since 1984.  Over the years, George has acquired and edited books by notable literary novelists including Fred Chappell, Robert Clark, Claire Davis, Eric Kraft, Janet Peery, and Gregory David Roberts;  thriller writers P. T. Deutermann and David Poyer; and a wide range of nonfiction authors including Ray Anderson, Francis Bok, Jason Elliot, P. M. Forni, Emmanuel Jal, Stephen P. Kiernan, David Kirby, Irshad Manji, Bill Reynolds, Mitt Romney, Matthew Scully, Gerry Spence, and Charles Sykes.

George is also an award winning poet whose poems have been published in (to name a few): The AtlanticThe Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Southwest Review, and The Virginia Quarterly Review. His most recent collection of poetry is: Deniability: Poems published by Orchises Press in 2009; his first book, The Apparitioners, was published in 2005, and also is available from Orchises.

Andy: George, thanks for coming to the blog today. I’d like to talk about how you make acquisition decisions. I’d just like to add that this blog has done some entries on publisher rejection. Most recently we composed: Publisher Rejection Letters From Plato to Hitler. Let’s hope that St. Martins would publish the former and reject the latter.

 Andy: Can you tell us some of the books you have been working on lately? Maybe one by one, tell us what they are, why you are excited about them and what did you consider when you made the decision to acquire them?

George:  This spring and summer I have continued to work on the publication of David Kirby’s Animal Factory, a book on factory farms and their enormous environmental impact, which becomes more relevant each day.  (Last week’s massive egg recall is just one example.)  Kirby is a terrific investigative reporter and writes with a sense of narrative urgency; he knows how to organize complex information and science into a story about people, and he has a nose for important subjects.


Andy: That sounds like a very interesting book. One of my clients is Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, who writes about animal rights and animal emotions.  I’ll make sure he reads that book. What other book do you find exciting right now?


 George: Another recent book is Stephen P. Kiernan’s Authentic Patriotism, which seeks to reclaim the word “patriotism” from the current “us vs. them” climate of hysteria, and defines it as many of the founding fathers did: as service by citizens to country.  Stephen is a dynamic writer and speaker who inspires everyone he meets, and this book portrays a wide range of Americans who are doing remarkable, wide-ranging things that improve the lives of people in need…with no political agenda.

Andy: How many book proposals do you look at in a typical week? How do you sort through them?

George:  I read 20-40 proposals and manuscripts each week, most of the proposals for nonfiction books, most of the manuscripts fiction.  Nearly every project is represented by an agent, and the proposals are structured in roughly the same way: a descriptive overview of the book, a chapter outline (often with substantive text), at least one sample chapter, an assessment of competitive and/or similar books on the subject, and information about the author’s credentials.  All these proposals reach a level of professionalism, and all are “publishable.”

Andy: So what are the things in the proposal that really grab your attention?

 George: When I’m reading, I’m really listening…for a voice, a sense of urgency, a passion for the subject that excites me even if I have no previous knowledge of or interest in the subject at hand.  Yes, other things are important: how many books on this subject have been published recently, how have they sold, and how is this proposed book different?  Does the author have a “platform,” which can mean anything from he/she is a journalist who has published widely on the subject, or is an academic writing for a general audience, or is an expert for some other reason, or has contacts with individuals, groups, organizations, and media that can help the publisher sell, market, and publicize the book.  But the key thing is the author’s voice, which no amount of proposal-laundering and packaging can supply.  The best books have a distinctive sound and it’s audible from the very first encounter.

Andy: It sounds to me that you have pretty wide ranging interests. Do you have any special areas that might fit into the publishing program or are you just looking for good books that excite you and (hopefully) your readers?

George:  St. Martin’s publishes all kinds of books for all kinds of readers.  Different people want different things from books—some want pure entertainment, some want information about a specific subject that is important to them, some want to learn about a completely new subject, some want to be deeply moved, some want to change their lives and hope a book will show the way.  We read a wide range of books and look for those that seem the best for their intended audience.  These days, I’m looking for investigative journalism, current affairs/issues, a certain kind of memoir (usually those that connect with larger social questions), and narrative nonfiction.  I am not publishing as much fiction as I once did, but am open to a special literary novel. 

Andy:  But even if you fall in love with a project, it doesn’t mean it will get published. Where is the final decision made and who makes it?

George:  Final decisions are made at our weekly editorial meetings, with our two publishers having the last word.   

Andy: Could you tell us a little more about how you work with books after the book gets acquired?

George:  After acquisition, I’m in touch with the author along the way to delivery of the manuscript.  Some authors like to submit sample chapters or sections, others prefer to finish the book and begin editing then.  I work closely on editing—line to line as well as structural—and usually go through two drafts with the author before we have a final manuscript.   Then I circulate the manuscript to the people in house who will have a hand in its publication: art, sales, marketing, publicity, subsidiary rights, and others.  After it’s typeset, I seek out advance quotes to help support the efforts of the sales, marketing, and publicity departments, and I work with each department to provide information that will be useful in their respective efforts.   I attend a range of meetings to discuss these efforts and follow up with each department.  I work with the author throughout the publication and usually for at least three or four months after publication date, or longer if needed, to keep reaching out for readers. 

Andy: George, we are always hearing that editors don’t edit any more. It sounds to me that you are still of the old school.

By the way, I’m the agent for a lead title at St. Martins in the spring. It is called The Jersey Sting. Most people remember the unforgettable picture of the Hassidic rabbis in handcuffs. The book is about the biggest corruption scandal in New Jersey history (and that’s saying a lot.) The authors are journalists with The New Jersey Star Ledger and were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for coverage of this story.