During the 2012 presidential election, I spent some time in Detroit to write about a young Mitt Romney, for a feature in Automobile Magazine. Here are some of the connections I felt with him, as I explained them here, back then.
I know where Mitt Romney is coming from
I was born in Detroit, to a father who wrote ads for Chevrolet in the 1950s and 1960s. Mitt Romney was born in Detroit, to a father who ran American Motors in the 1950s and 1960s. Figuring I knew some things about Romney that not everyone else did, I pitched a piece to Automobile Magazine.
In reporting "I love cars, American cars. I was born in Detroit," I learned that Romney and I have even more in common than I'd thought: Namely, loving fathers whose class and charisma we spend much of our lives trying, and inevitably failing, to live up to, even though they are dead.
But at some point, you do have to find your own natural way in the world. And as we've seen, Mitt Romney does not seem to enjoy running for office, and he doesn't seem particularly suited for it.
So why does he keep trying to square the wheel? His boyhood friend Phillip Maxwell told me he is still trying to honor his father's memory—and his father's religion—by becoming president of the United States.
I'd asked how, despite the claims of Maxwell and other loving childhood friends that Romney was the most principled man they knew, had Romney gotten such a reputation as a political changeling?
"Well, you've got to separate his principles from this incredible drive," said Maxwell matter-of-factly. "He's determined to claim the highest office in the land—to be the first Mormon to do it. He keeps that undercover because he doesn't want to frighten people."
There's a lot I would do to impress my own dad, even now that he's gone, especially now that he's gone. (Like writing a magazine story about 1950s and 1960s car culture in Detroit. During my reporting, I visited the old GM building where Dad worked, and had to hide a tear from the security guards.)
But running for president, even though my talents and instincts suggest I'm much happier and more useful doing something else?
You're welcome, America.
I think Mitt more than lived up to his old man today. Outdid him, even. Good going, kid.