Political junkies all recall how Mitt Romney’s father, Michigan Governor George Romney, self-destructed in a single instance in his quest for the 1968 Republican presidential nomination. Here’s my account of it in The Age of Reagan:
Had [Romney] changed his mind about that trip [to Vietnam]?, he was asked on a Detroit television show. Romney replied: “I just had the greatest brainwashing that anyone can get when you go over to Vietnam, not only by the generals but also by the diplomatic corps over there, and they do a very thorough job.”
Romney’s plausibility as a presidential candidate imploded instantaneously. “In a matter of hours,” James Jackson Kilpatrick wrote, “commentators across the country were remarking acidulously that it certainly took a long time for George to get his brain back from the laundry.” Goldwater, whom Romney had pointedly refused to endorse even after Goldwater had captured the nomination in 1964, now got his revenge: “When you admit that you can be brainwashed, you’re in trouble.” Democrats piled on, too. Eugene McCarthy displayed the wit that was shortly to become more widely known to Americans: “There was no need to brainwash the Governor. All he required was a light rinse.” Romney lamely tried to reverse the damage: “I wasn’t talking about Russian-type brainwashing; I was talking about LBJ brainwashing.” But it didn’t wash. He dropped ten points in the polls, and never recovered. The Detroit News, which had long supported Romney, urged him to get out of the presidential race with a brutal editorial. Taking note of Romney’s “inexplicable blurt-and-retreat habit,” the Detroit News said the brainwashing comment illustrated Romney’s “unfortunate incapacity to achieve stability and constancy in Presidential politics.”
It seemed inconcevable that MItt Romney was capable of a commensurate gaffe. Surely he had learned from his father’s classic blunder. Apparently not.
Today, when asked by Fox News to name his favorite novel, Romney replied: L. Ron Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth. OMG! OMG! Did the candidate whose Mormonmism is dogging him really pick the ur-text novel of the founder of the whacko cult of Scientology? Romney added that he doesn’t endorse scientology, but likes the novel. Serious sci-fi readers will be appalled. Evangelical Christians will be appalled. It is doubtful he’ll even get the Scientology vote (which probably ranks next to the Zoroastrian vote as a significant American voting bloc). The faact that it is such a wacky pick means that it is surely true.
Prediction. Romney will not recover from this. He is finished. I don’t care how much money he raises. Or spends. Picking Battlefield Earth will rank as one of the top ten political blunders of all time.