Romney Loves Vietnam War, Doing Impressions
We thought that no moment of Mitt Romney’s life was left unmentioned in the Globe’s summer epic, “The Making of Mitt Romney.” But today’s New York Times features a much more focused profile of the former governor’s young adulthood that raises two issues the Globe glossed over. First, while Romney was on his Mormon mission in France, the rest of his generation was changed by the upheaval of the late 1960s. And two, while he was away, Mitt really missed Saturday morning cartoons.
During their missionary work, Mormon missionaries are discouraged from reading newspapers, listening to the radio or watching television, so Romney was insulated from the race riots and massive protests that the rest of his generation experienced.
Mr. Romney was so removed from the tumult at home that he was surprised to learn that his father, George Romney, had turned against the war while campaigning for the 1968 Republican presidential nomination.
“There had been this whole revolution while we were gone,” recalled Dane McBride, a close friend from the mission. “While we had gone from being adolescents to grown-ups with a lot of responsibility, our peers — from our perspective — were just tearing down the country, becoming dangerously childish.” He added, “It just seemed deplorable.”
We’re sure the men who faced being drafted into an unpopular war were participating in civic disobedience just to have some fun. And we shouldn’t be too hard on Mitt. During the dark days of his missionary work, he longed to be in the rice patties of Vietnam.
Mr. Romney, though, said that he sometimes had wished he were in Vietnam instead of France. “There were surely times on my mission when I was having a particularly difficult time accomplishing very little when I would have longed for the chance to be serving in the military,” he said in an interview, “but that was not to be.”
Why not? Does Mitt have an irregular heartbeat? Flat feet? Not quite.
While many Mormons — and eventually, some of his fellow missionaries — enlisted, Mr. Romney got a student deferment after returning from France. When the draft lottery was introduced in December 1969, he drew a high enough number — 300 — that he would never be called up.
Oh, cruel fate! How could you have denied the privileged Harvard student and son of a politician the right to fight in a war?
Just because he was busy doing missionary work during one of the most tumultuous periods of American history certainly doesn’t mean Romney isn’t qualified to be president. But the candidate’s late adolescent fascination with Loony Tunes does give us pause.
He could be goofy, quoting Sylvester the Cat this way — “Sutherickin Schatash! It’s humiliatin’!” — in letters to friends.
His letters from the period are snapshots of his late adolescence, by turns earnest and silly. In one letter, he quoted Snoopy, referred to himself as “a lonely duck” and signed off, “Love & Kisses, Daffy.”
After a promotion in early 1968, Mr. Romney complained that he was still subordinate to a fellow missionary. “I went into the president’s office and said: look president, ‘ith eitha you orh me that is goin to run thith place,’” he wrote to a friend, again imitating a cartoon character.
Romney is totally that guy who does Borat impressions to show how hip he is to the kids. High fiiive!