Friday, February 10, 2012

Nowhere Man

An awful lot of people, including some of his oldest colleagues, seem to think that the real Mitt Romney is either elusive or non-existent. Frank Rich looks for the soul of the mystery man but doesn't find much:

Back in the thick of the 2008 Republican presidential race, I asked a captain of American finance what he had made of Mitt Romney when they were young colleagues at Bain & Company. “Mitt was a nice guy, a smart businessman, and an excellent team player,” he ­responded without missing a beat. Then came the CEO’s one footnote, delivered with bemusement, not pique: “Still, whenever the rest of us would go out at the end of the day, we’d always find ourselves having the same conversation: None of us had any idea who this guy was."
...
He can come across like an android who’s been computer-­generated to be the perfect genial candidate. When forced to interact with actual people, he tries hard, but his small talk famously takes the form of guessing a voter’s age or nationality (usually incorrectly) or offering a greeting of “Congratulations!” for no particular reason. Richard Nixon was epically awkward too, but he could pass (in Tom Wicker’s phrase) as “one of us.” Unlike Nixon’s craggy face, or, for that matter, Gingrich’s, Romney’s does not look lived in. His eyes don’t show the mileage of a veteran fighter’s journey through triumphs and hard knocks—the profile that Americans prefer to immaculate perfection in a leader during tough times. Even at Mitt’s most human, he resembles George Hamilton without the self-deprecating humor or the perma-tan.

Of course Rich is not exactly an unbiased observer, but it's a very common theme. Story after story tells of a man who can't or won't relate to people - neither average joe's on the campaign trail or his high-powered fellow vulture capitalists.

Rich's 4000 words probably offers what insight is to be had, but David Brooks tackles the same theme, only with much less penetration, in todays NYT.

I'm thinking maybe this is not a guy who is so much obssessively secretive as a guy who really doesn't live on the social planet. High functioning Aspergers/Autism perhaps?