Of all the things I saw at the convention, the most potentially powerful was the series of presentations about Romney’s good deeds. It was both curious and moving, and unprecedented (at least in my memory) for an introduction to a presidential candidate at a convention.
Byron York describes it as leaving many viewers in tears, and I don’t doubt it. I already knew these stories about Romney—they’ve long been available to anyone interested in doing a little bit of research on the man—so they didn’t surprise me, although I was pleased to see the campaign was finally trying to get them to the attention of the American public.
I wonder, though, how many people saw it? How many people even watch the conventions, and how many were viewing that particular part? Even Fox cut away for some of it.
We’re used to sob stories about politicians, meant to tug at the heartstrings, both to laud politicians and to attack them. But usually they are about policies the politicians have promoted or blocked: Romney was responsible for the death of my wife when we lost our insurance as a result of Bain; Obamacare meant I got health insurance despite my pre-existing condition. That sort of thing is standard. But these stories about Romney’s extraordinary kindness and caring were not the usual tales about how his policies have helped people; they were personal, and specifically religious in nature, because they described hands-on (in some cases, literally) acts Romney performed in the service of his Mormon faith and his position as a Mormon lay minister.
I have never seen a politician use that sort of approach before. Perhaps it’s because few if any politicians have a record like that to point to. Perhaps it’s also because Romney may have needed to point it out more than most would have, because of his naturally cool demeanor, and because the campaign against him has relied so far almost entirely on character assassination.
Whatever the reasons, the degree to which Romney has been a practitioner of personal kindness and good works is extraordinary. Whether he wins the election or not, it’s clear that Romney is a very unusual human being, with a combination of brains, hard-nosed business sense and competitiveness, and personal kindness that goes way beyond anything most people consider necessary or even possible. For a politician, this is so unusual as to be unique.
So far, the Obama campaign’s “narrative” about Romney has been rather simple: out of touch, flip-flopping, women-despising, rapacious exploitative capitalist (pig, although they don’t say it). But the funny thing about lies is that all it takes to refute them is the truth, and there’s plenty of refutation available in the true story of Romney’s life. If people could learn those things, Obama’s Romney narrative would be blown out of the water.
But will people be allowed to learn them? If the stories had been about Obama, they already would have been hyped to the skies. But of course that’s not the way the MSM rolls for Romney.
There’s another thing about these tales. They seem almost too good to be true—very corny, very touching. In our cynical and ironic age they are almost unbelievable, like some sort of parody. What a square, goody-two-shoes—although the kind of square you might want to have around in a crisis.
Is any of this relevant to the tasks involved in being president? I’m not at all sure. But all of it is highly impressive—and most definitely relevant to the question of what sort of person Romney is, and whether he cares about people, which has become an issue in the campaign.
People keep saying about Romney, “the more I know of him the more I like him.” Not just on this blog, but in comments all over the internet. It strikes me that Obama is just the opposite—the more people know of him the more they dislike him.
ADDENDUM: Just in case you didn’t see the tributes, here they are:
ADDENDUM II: I hadn’t seen this one before, but it’s golden, and I think would be especially appealing to those liberals who might be on the fence about whom to vote for. The speaker’s sincerity shines through [Hat tip: commenter “jeanneb”):