Mitt Romney: The Man Who Turns Things Around

Michael Novak

12/17/2007 4:12:19 PM - Michael Novak

Mitt Romney came to national attention because of his skill in turning around failing enterprises. The Salt Lake City Olympics were in serious disarray when Mitt Romney was summoned from his business career to come rescue them. He made those Olympics a smashing success, one of the best in history. The State of Massachusetts was known as “Taxachusetts” when he was elected Governor – in the homeland of Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, no less – and, in more than one way, he turned Massachusetts around.

One of my best friends, a prominent pro-life leader in Massachusetts, told me often what a good friend Governor Romney was to the pro-life cause. When he declared for the presidency, she was proud to join his national advisory council. Another friend, a professor emeritus from Boston University, told me the same thing.

So I have been keeping my eye on Mitt Romney for the many long months of this electoral campaign. For a long time I did not have a single candidate to back. My one criterion was ABC: “Anybody But C....” I did not want to go back to the doublespeak of the 1990s.

As for the most admirable and leading Republicans, my view was, ‘Let them fight it out, and I’ll back the one who wins.’ Although I am still a registered Democrat (in the District of Columbia, what else is practical?), I do not want to vote for any candidates who are not pro-life. I may have to, but I don’t want to.

For me, abortion is one of those rare issues like slavery -- one individual exercising unchecked dominion over another human individual. This abuse is not compatible with the Lockean social compact. Those who cherish human rights cannot support it. That is why this Democrat has strayed toward Republican presidential candidates.

More and more this year, among the other pro-life candidates, I have been attracted by Mitt Romney’s good and cheerful disposition, level-headedness, and unruffable temperament (if there is such an adjective). You may think this is silly, but to me he both looks like and acts like a president. He would be easy to watch on the morning and nighttime news for the next eight years. His quiet and steady voice would be easy to take. He has the habits of an executive, not a legislator – action, not just talk. And I admire the way he honors his wife and his family – including his own mother and father. I like the fact that, as evidenced more in his life than in his conversation, he is a man of serious religious faith.

The discipline he has shown in his career tells me that he is tough-minded.

One of the great sequences in every World War II novel was an introduction to every ethnic and religious neighborhood in America, represented in almost every platoon and air command, and on any ship. I still remember as a Catholic boy learning my first admiration for the moral character of evangelicals when watching the war movie Sergeant York.

In war, a fellow’s religious background didn’t matter much, if he was a man of valor and skill and reliability. One learned to love such companions. Men learned to value much more what other men did than which prayer service they attended. In fact, many learned to respect men of other religions more than they ever had, just by watching the way their buddies lived – and died. American religious ecumenism was born under the stress of battle more than under church leadership.

I really admire several other Republican candidates for certain special qualities of their own. I have known the heroism of John McCain the longest, honor Rudy Giuliani greatly for his executive skills in leading New York through the disasters of 9/11, and have quite warmed up to the folksy wisdom of Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee. But I have gradually focused in on Mitt Romney as best representing what I would like to see in a President during the next four years.

In the United States, a President is not just an administrator or a manager – not just a policy wonk or even prime minister. The President has to be all those things in due measure. But our President is also, in an important way, our king, in the sense that he almost alone represents our national history and our narrative of America. He stands in the most distinguished line in our national life and literature – no other class of men plays so heroic a role as Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and Ronald Reagan. Looking at this leader, we wish to feel proud of our nation. We want a figure that seems to spring out of our history and to express it – coming from nowhere perhaps, a trailblazer, an exemplar of the better angels of our nature.

For all these reasons, and one more, I have decided to endorse a presidential candidate much earlier than I had hoped to do so. That additional reason is that his religion has been treated unfairly, and I did not want to stand by and let that happen. It is important to nip that evil in the bud. That factor has influenced my timing. But it is not an adequate reason for endorsing a man who would be president in perilous times.

I have watched Mitt Romney’s steadiness under fire, and I endorse it.