Mitt Romney was scheduled to attend a private fundraiser in Franklin on Tuesday. This will be at least the third visit Romney has made to Tennessee recently, as he appeared at Nashville-area fundraisers in November and March. According to an invitation, the latest event was to be at the home of Lee Ann and Orrin Ingram. Gov. Bill Haslam, Romney’s state campaign chairman, was expected to attend, along with Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell.
Romney certainly cuts a dashing presidential figure, and he has considerable business and political experience, but questions remain about his character. Here are some of my concerns about the man I have come to unaffectionately think of as the Romneybot.
Does Romney lack empathy? Take, for example, his remark that “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs a repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich; they’re doing just fine.” Does he somehow equate the very poor with the very rich? Also, Romney has been accused of bullying when he was in high school and was called a “Lord of the Flies” type figure by an ex-classmate. The head of PETA recently suggested that Romney might lack compassion after he put his dog in a crate and strapped it to the roof of his vehicle for an 11-hour road trip. And he has been quoted as saying, “We should double Guantanamo!” making him sound like a man in need of a heart transplant.
Does Romney “get” how most Americans feel about their finances? He recently opined that his speaking fees of $374,327 last year were “not very much.” At a debate, he offered to bet Rick Perry $10,000 — an amount that, however facetious, reminded voters just how rich and carefree Romney is.
Where does Romney stand on women’s rights? When Rick Santorum and Rush Limbaugh made outrageous remarks about women who use contraceptives, Romney said and did nothing to contradict them. And Romney is a high-ranking official of the Mormon church, which says God favors “maleness” and so men must rule over women. As Sally Denton, who has written three books about the Mormon church, pointed out in a New York Times article, “The controversial and secretive religion is a multi-billion-dollar business empire ruled by a stern patriarchal gerontocracy. Only ‘worthy males’ can ascend to positions of power — both now and in the afterlife — and women are relegated to supporting roles. Male dominance is the essence of the faith ...”
Is he a hypocrite? Romney, who once ran a private equity firm and has raised large sums of campaign cash from Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, insists that “corporations are people” and has called federal government spending to assist tornado and flood victims “simply immoral” because it increases the national budget deficit. But when has he ever called government borrowing to fund wars and Wall Street bailouts “immoral”?
Why does he have a Cayman Island IRA estimated at up to $101 million by The Wall Street Journal? It seems Romney may have sheltered all or most of his Bain Capital wealth from taxes by putting it into an offshore “IRA” and only allowing it to be valued correctly once the appreciation was protected from taxes. I first became suspicious about Romney’s finances when he squirmed like a fish out of water when asked about releasing his tax returns during a presidential debate. Romney’s total wealth has been estimated at around $200 million. If he shielded half his wealth from taxes, that would seem to drop his effective tax rate from around 14% to perhaps 7%. How is that fair to non-millionaires who pay higher tax rates?
Is Romney his own man? In a telling exchange during a debate in December, Romney criticized Newt Gingrich for making a disparaging remark about Palestinians, declaring: “Before I made a statement of that nature, I’d get on the phone to my friend Bibi Netanyahu and say: ‘Would it help if I say this? What would you like me to do?’ ” Martin S. Indyk, a United States ambassador to Israel during the Clinton administration, said that Romney’s statement implied that he would “subcontract Middle East policy to Israel.”
I think Americans should remember and consider what happened the last time we elected a president who looked the part, but lacked the heart and brains to be an effective leader: George W. Bush.
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.