Romney Didn’t Want to Be President? Don’t Believe It.

The Boston Globe has a really good behind-the-scenes look at what went wrong for the Romney campaign, including the still-baffling decision to put a Clint Eastwood improvisational sketch in a prime time convention spot in lieu of a very compelling biography video. But what really caught my eye is this assertion from Romney's son Tagg:

More than being reticent, Romney was at first far from sold on a second presidential run. Haunted by his 2008 loss, he initially told his family he would not do it. While candidates often try to portray themselves as reluctant, Tagg insisted his father’s stance was genuine.

“He wanted to be president less than anyone I’ve met in my life. He had no desire to . . . run,” said Tagg, who worked with his mother, Ann, to persuade his father to seek the presidency. “If he could have found someone else to take his place . . . he would have been ecstatic to step aside. . .”

I call bullshit.

This is a nice way to excuse a big loss like the one Romney suffered by saying, well, he didn't really want to be president anyway. It implies that had he really, really wanted it, you know, with sugar on top, then he'd have won.

But more to the point, it's an absurd notion, an extraordinary claim that I just cannot possibly accept just on this one man's word.

To run for president, and to do so at the level Romney achieved — faring strongly in 2008 and coming close to victory in 2012 — requires, I believe, a lust for power, a raw desire for the office that we mere mortals can't quite fathom. This doesn't mean that the candidate in question is evil or does not have honorable intentions for what they will do once in office, but being even a moderately successful presidential candidate requires a kind of insatiable need to be president that borders on the psychopathic. And I include Barack Obama in this — he's proven that, for all his faults and tendencies toward caution, he is a fierce and ruthless candidate.

To be a strong presidential candidate, let alone president, one has almost no choice but to be so.

(I always carve out an exception here for Eisenhower. I think the rule is that if you save the world from Hitler, you get to be president no matter what you're like.)

A while back I made the case that candidates who saunter into presidential races a little late into the process are themselves doomed from the start (thinking primarily of folks like Rick Perry, Fred Thompson, and Wes Clark) because the very fact of their late start is a signal that they didn't have the required drive to begin with. If they had, they'd have had their shit together to take on such a monumental task well in advance of anyone even knowing they were even thinking about it.

So I think that Tagg is either bullshitting the press, or he's being bullshitted by his parents. It's a benign bullshitting, I'll grant. Like I said, it's a comforting way to spin a soul-crushing loss. But you don't get to be the presidential nominee of a major party (and almost get there in a previous election) without really, really fucking wanting it.

Unless, I guess, you believe that God has commanded you. And that's almost the same thing.

12 thoughts on “Romney Didn’t Want to Be President? Don’t Believe It.”

  1. Besides, those grapes are probably sour.
    If Romney didn’t want to be president then he sure spent a lot of time, effort and money fighting his aversion to the presidency. I would think if someone ever had the disinclination to run for political office then they would simply not run for it. Millions of people manage to do this every day.

    I call bullshit.



  2. How do you even spin campaigning for President if it’s not such a big thing should you lose, when you’re going all out to win. Doesn’t make sense. That’s all that needs saying.


  3. I always carve out an exception here for Eisenhower.

    Same applies to Grant. Talents and skills that are effective in one field are not necessarily transferable to another.


  4. I think the rule is that if you [Eisenhower] save the world from Hitler

    Er, no. There are quite a number of far stronger candidates for that accolade, among them Roosevelt, Churchill, Zhukov, Turing and above all, Stalin. Eisenhower was a fine general, and his generalship probably shortened the war, but north Africa, Italy, and even the western front after D-day were sideshows. What was essential to defeating Hitler were first, that Britain should remain in the war, in order to oblige Hitler to divert resources from his invasion of the Soviet Union; and second, that the Soviet Union should win the land war against him.


  5. Except that there were more than a few prominent liberal bloggers who came up with this “Romney doesn’t really want the job” idea months before the election – so it doesn’t sound like sour grapes to me.


  6. The only person who has been president of the United States who I’m prepared to believe didn’t really want the job is Gerald Ford: and even he liked it enough to run for re-election. I read somewhere years ago (don’t know if it’s true) that the job he really wanted was Speaker of the House.


  7. Also, how seriously are you going to take “My father didn’t want to be president, but I pushed him into running” from a man who is known only as Romney’s son? Any bets on whether Tagg Romney already has the book contract and the ghostwriter lined up?


  8. Except that there were more than a few prominent liberal bloggers who came up with this “Romney doesn’t really want the job” idea months before the election – so it doesn’t sound like sour grapes to me.

    So, bloggers always get things right??? They seemed to make that conclusion based on campaign ineptness rather than something more concrete. I can see the possibility that Romney may have gotten tired at the end and voiced some misgivings, but I seriously doubt that he didn’t want it 12 months ago.


  9. Well, when you’re sitting at home watching your horses dance up and down in your elevators, your thoughts naturally turn to what next? Some people take up peasant shooting, others decide to have a life-size replica of their immense mansions made out of bricks of compressed money. Some run for President. It staves off the boredom for a few months.


  10. I don’t know. I kinda buy it. Mitt didn’t want to be president, he expected to be president. Or maybe in some Freudian way he thought he ought to become president because his daddy ran and lost.
    I think the same was true of W. He didn’t really want it, it was just the next thing to go for. Good fortune surrounded him with the people who could make it happen.
    Clinton wanted it worse than anyone I have ever seen. Reagan and Carter wanted it. Ford got it handed to him and decided he was better than the alternatives in ’76.


  11. Mitt Romney’s son put out another romney lie, like father-like son, ole Mitt lied to the american people every day of the week when he was running and spending millions doing it. I don’t know if the church reproved him for his outright lies which is totally against thier sacred doctrines, they had spoken out against his rejection of the 47% of the nations people whom he states that he didn’t care for and wouldn’t help if he had gotten in. He was seeking fame, riches as president of the US. He spends his time amassing with unethical dealings, hiding, money and lying about it. This is why the Bible and Book of Mormon speak ill about rich men as this is what they live for, believe in and are totally concerned about.


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