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Romney: The New Chutzpah

Don Rose 29 November 2007 No Comment

The classic definition of the Yiddish word chutzpah is: the boy who murders his father and mother, then pleads for the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.

Today we must update that definition.

Willard (call him by his middle name, “Mitt”) Romney, a vigorous advocate of George Bush’s war in Iraq, was asked why none of his five grown sons were in the armed services or otherwise supporting our noble adventure over there.

His response: “One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected.”

This is the same Mitt Romney who, when asked whether he would go to Congress for authorization to bomb out Iran’s nuclear facilities, responded instead that “You sit down with your attorneys and [they] tell you what you have to do.”



Which lawyers? Abner Mikva? Alan Dershowitz? Clarence Thomas?

No answer here, but the assurance that he’ll let the lawyers sort out the answer.

Thank you, American Bar Association!

This, too, is the man who somehow keeps confusing Obama and Osama –or is it Osama and Obama—well, one of those guys on his wrong side, anyway. Sort of the way old Joe McCarthy gave a speech in which he referred to the former governor of Illinois as “Alger…I mean Adlai…Stevenson…” invoking the name of accused Communist spy Alger Hiss, the scandal du jour of the early ‘50s. A common mistake, of course.

Give this guy credit for a certain amount of political honesty: When running for governor of Massachusetts he supported abortion rights and, reluctantly, a level of gay marriage. Then, when questioned about these Republican no-no’s during his presidential campaign, he openly acknowledged he took the positions purely for the political expediency of getting elected in liberal Massachusetts.

Now, how many pols do you know who will admit they did something purely for political expediency?

Of course he reversed course on those issues in seeking the presidency—but this is no longer for expediency, they are now his deepest, most heartfelt positions. Until something better comes along, like illegal immigration, the GOP’s hottest button du jour.

His current commercials show him to be against bi-lingual education, driver’s licenses for undocumented workers and all the current shibboleths.

He is smart, tough and rich beyond belief. He managed to win in liberal Massachusetts, though his performance as governor was spotty.

He also bears the burden of being a Mormon, a little-understood faith in most quarters, with an unsavory history (polygamy). Many fundamentalist Christians see them as a non-Christian cult, but Romney has managed to pick up the support of several prominent leaders of the evangelical/political right,

He has been leading the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire at the moment, now running a tad behind (but in a statistical tie) with Mike Huckabee there, though trailing Rudy Giuliani nationally. This is the period, however, when all the polls are beginning to shift to some degree.

He could win the Republican nomination, but his support of the war, divisions within the evangelical right, his harsh anti-immigration stance and history of flip-flopping will make it next to impossible for him to gain crossover Democrats, which is the only way a Republican is likely to win next year.

Thus we are unlikely to have our first Mormon president named either Willard or Mitt in 2008. But you must admire his chutzpah for trying.


Don Rose is a progressive legend in Chicago and the Midwest, having run the Jane Byrne mayoral campaign that upset Mike Bilandic and strategizing in scores of other liberal races as well as having been the press secretary for Dr. Martin Luther King when the civil rights leader was in Chicago. He is a regular columnist for The Chicago Daily Observer.

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