I met Mitt Romney yesterday. Well, if you can consider shaking his hand and saying hello “meeting” him. Mr. Romney is the governor of Massachusetts and a probable candidate for President in 2008. As with all presidential campaigns, the early path has to run through Iowa. And so Governor Romney found his way to Cedar Rapids to give the commencement address at Coe College on Sunday and then meet with various political groups yesterday. One of the groups he was meeting was our Christian Action group here in Linn County. Since the head of that group is also one of our elders at Noelridge, they held the meeting there at our little church. So for half an hour or so, I sat back and ran sound while Governor Romney answered questions brought by our local people.
I have a difficult time trying not to be cynical about politicians. Now, of course, Romney will tell you he’s not a politician. But he sure comes across as one. Besides the perfectly-styled hair, the booming voice, the picture-perfect blonde wife who gushes about their family, well, there’s something in the performance, too. I was pretty impressed, he was doing a pretty good job at what was, I imagine, his usual 5-minute introductory speech. But then he introduced his wife, and she came up and said a few things about their children and grandchildren. OK, nice so far. But then she says how she knows people have been saying a lot of nice things about her husband, but how she knows that the most important things to him are his family. Now that statement by itself is just fine. But as she says the phrase “people have been saying a lot of nice things about my husband”, the Governor emits far too loud a chuckle and an obvious “aw shucks” kind of look. It was so obviously rehearsed that it was painful. And from there on out, the cynicism kicked in. He was just another politician performing.
I suppose the American system is just so big now that it’s unreasonable to think that a “normal guy” could be elected president; so, instead of electing the best “normal guy”, we have to elect the best politician. But back in my heart somewhere I wish a really real normal guy could make it. I know I’m not the only one who feels that way – go read Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series. He propels his “normal guy” hero on a path from history teacher and CIA consultant all the way up to POTUS. And of course then Clancy lets him give all the conservative speeches that Clancy (not-so-)secretly wishes a real POTUS would give. So the dream is alive… just unlikely.
So now we’re back to Mr. Romney. It will be interesting to see how his (as of yet unannounced) candidacy goes. His success will largely depend on who decides to run against him. I will also be curious to see if his Mormon beliefs hurt him any. I tend to think that the religious right will look past it. Oh, are we really starting the presidential election cycle already? The season in Iowa seems eternal. I guess we still have one more year of relative peace.