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Romney Lost the Nomination Today

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.

Discussions - 20 Comments

Yeah, but John Travolta deserved the Oscar for his performance as Captain Stangeo! It might be interesting to see if Romney picks up points with the Pope of Scientology Mr. Cruise and his gaggleologists.

I'm glad to see that serious political commentators are paying close attention to the candidates positions on the issues.

Then we have Steve, for whom the candidates favorite novel is decisive. Maybe democracy is a bad idea after all.

John: You show an acute talent at missing the point. Congratulations.


Scientology is a nutball hodgepodge of idiotic sci-fi drivel that is sold for outrageous prices as “spiritual truth.”

It has a bizarre cosmology about how psychiatrists are reincarnated members of a secret police force that the evil intergalactic warlord Xenu used to inflict “Body Thetans” on mankind. Hubbard taught that Body Thetans are brainwashed space-alien ghosts that cling to our internal organs.

This is what Scientologists actually believe!

They are a shameful and lunatic cult that literally is at war with Western culture.

What exactly is the point, Steve?

Yeah, I actually bought Battlefield Earth years ago (big fantasy/sci-fi fan) and couldn't even read it because it was so bad - and this was before I even knew it was associated with Scientology. Here's what people like Tom Cruise "actually believe".

Americans don't elect people president they think are really weird. Period. Romney's Mormonism (I am realted to Mormons by marriage, by the way) already makes him suspect with lots of voters (check the polls on this); this tenuous nod to Scientology only reinforces this. It wasn't fair that his dad was undone by the "brainwashing" comment, but that's politics.

Yea, it's a crap book...some human survivor learns to conquer galactic empires in his spare time. Drivel, real pulp stuff, but good if you are 10 years old. That's 1.

The fact that L. Ron was a guru of major-league crackpot types is clearly 2. Hard to come back from that.

But 3? Haven't seen it yet. Steve is assuming that most people have heard of the book and can link it to the man and the crazy "religion" he started. I doubt it. But if he picked this novel, no. 3 isn't far down the road.

That's a bullseye.

Gore flunked the strangeness test, as did Kerry. GW's debate performances were to say the least, sub-par. But he was more normal than his opponents, so he won.

What would have happened had the Democrats nominated people not quite so weird in 2000 and '04 will be a "what if" of history.

Romney's Mormonism did not hinder him in Massachusetts, especially when he was out there strenuously pushing his pro-choice bona fides. But in a national contest, Mormonism is simply a non-starter. And will probably remain so for quite some time.

If Romney seriously wanted the Presidency, {and this would have been something he knew decades ago} then he should have converted to Christianity quite some time ago.

This same point that Steve makes about Romney will also tell against Obama. Despite Oprah raving about Obama, he's still got that name "Barack Hussein Obama," and that isn't going to fly in this country. Not to mention his muslim antecedents.

Voters want to have a sense where a candidate is coming from. They want to know him. It doesn't necessarily mean that they want him to be like them. But rather, that they want to think he's like them, but smarter, cagier, cannier, more capable.

Bill Clinton NEVER would have won but for the obliteration of the Soviet Union. And if GHWB pushed the issue, he probably could have prevailed over Clinton on the strangeness issue, but he flinched; he wouldn't go down that path. So Americans watched him travel around in the last weeks of the campaign asking them: "Who do you trust?" And the question left them puzzled, for they really weren't sure what GHWB was referring to. The Bush campaign flinched from the exposure of Clinton, his wife, his team.

THERE IS ANOTHER aspect here that Steve may have missed.

What is it?


Romney may have named that specific book as a way of gaining some attention, and perhaps some donations from Hollywood scientologists. There could be financial reasons behind this bizarre selection. Romney is famous for pandering. He's a past master of the art. This could have been just another attempt at pandering some arcane constituency. Just a thought.

If people really pay attention to this, and connect the dots to Scientology, then Romney has a problem. But if people write it off as a stupid answer to a stupid question, then he'll live to fight another day.

The American people aren't particularly good at avoiding "really weird" candidates. In the last cycle, for instance, they elected Jim Webb and re-elected John Murtha. The time before that, they elected Harry Reid.
They elected JFK, LBJ, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton -- all weirder, in one serious way or another, than Mitt Romney. Even so, I don't think this is going to kill Romney's chances, even if those chances are not great to begin with. Nor should it.

Like it or not, this is the Superficial Age, where a Dean Scream can sink you in no time. This was an off-the-wall, off-the-cuff choice for favorite novel, and I'm sure Romney wishes he could take it back.

It wouldn't have mattered. PBS has already sunk him with their two-part "Mormons" documentary.

Now if only Hillary could make a giant gaffe and embarrass herself irreperably.

Only thing Battlefield Earth has in common with Scientology is the author. Not a very good book, but I have to admit I kind of enjoyed reading it (lots of skimming). Not enough to recommend it to anyone else, and not enough to read anything else by LRH.
No big deal if people get to make up their own minds without a big hubbub by media and blogs! Sheesh!

Romney claimed that the Bible is his favorite book. He's previously cited Huckleberry Finn as his favorite fiction book. He cited Battlefield Earth as a fun sci-fi read. Note the sub-category.

"I'm not in favor of his religion by any means," Mr. Romney said. "But he wrote a book called Battlefield Earth that was a very fun science-fiction book." Asked about his favorite book, Mr. Romney cited the Bible.

Sounds like Steve Hayward's favorite books are called "Hyperbole" and "Out of Context".

Give up on Romney! Weird name, weird religion, weird book tastes. It's just a whole bucket of weird.

Jim Webb is not weird. If anything he stands out in Washington because he is a real guy and not some super polished, blow-dried glad hander.

I don't like all his politics, but wouldn't mind chatting it up with him. I think if I chatted it up with Romney I would want to take a shower.

Webb's a "real guy"? Yeah, I real guy who likes to write about sticking baby's penises in his mouth.

I make no excuses for his fiction, but I prefer to focus on his book about the Celts.

You mean he wrote about Celts sticking baby's penises in their mouths? What a sicko.

After the debate last night, I'd be happy to let Steven pull his comments in this post!

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