Romney’s good deed

Kathleen Parker draws attention to something Romney did that he really deserves credit for:  When Rick Perry had his 53-second brain-freeze in which he forgot which agency he was going to shut down, Romney tried to help him.

The 53-second eternity has been replayed sufficiently, so we needn’t belabor the cringe-inducing amnesia of the 47th Texas governor. It was so bad that even disciples of schadenfreude ducked under their blankies and prayed for deliverance.

“Oops” was all that was left to Perry when he couldn’t recall the third agency he would stomp beneath the heel of his Texas boot. “I can’t,” he said when pressed by moderator John Harwood. “Oops.” . . .

As Perry was free-falling into the abyss of lost thoughts Wednesday night, he turned to his fellow contestants as if to say, “Please, someone, can’t you tell me what I think?”

Unhelpfully, Ron Paul suggested there were really five agencies he should cut. And then someone did try to help him, and this to me was the most memorable moment of the evening. From somewhere on the panel, a voice reached out to the struggling Texan, a suggestion that might help Perry gather himself and emerge from this utter humiliation.

The voice belonged to Mitt Romney. As Perry’s brain was hardening into arctic pack ice, Romney suggested that maybe the third agency he wanted to eliminate was the EPA. Yeah, that’s it! But no, it wasn’t. Pressed by Harwood, Perry said it wasn’t the EPA, but blast if he could remember what it was. (Later he said it was Energy.)

Romney’s suggestion when most of the others were squirmingly silent was an act of pure kindness and self-sacrificing generosity. It was not especially noticeable. But if you were Rick Perry in that moment, you were well aware that Romney was the one who tried to save you. When Perry finally said, “Oops,” it was Romney toward whom he looked.

Small, but not insignificant, this gesture of active empathy tells much about the man who extended it. He’s a nice guy in a season of nastiness, a trait that may also be his greatest political failing.

via A nice guy in a season of nastiness – The Washington Post.

She goes on to say that Romney’s niceness will hurt him because we are in a time of voter anger.  I would say, though, that anger doesn’t play all that well in a presidential election, which (I argue) is part of the problem with the rest of the candidates.  What voters yearn for is someone who can make them optimistic.  I’m not sure Romney can do that.  But still, I’ll give him credit for trying to help his opponent.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • WebMonk

    I had a very different take when I was listening. I thought he was purposefully giving the wrong answer to Perry.

    Since then, I have decided that initial impression was wrong, but it might be something of a Rorschach Test for people – do they think Romney was being altruistically helpful, do they think he was purposefully giving the wrong third department to discredit Perry, or do they think he was trying to demonstrate his own superiority by knowing Perry’s positions better than Perry, or was it a reflex action to finish someone else’s thought?

    (and I’ve heard a few other options bandied about the web)

  • WebMonk

    I had a very different take when I was listening. I thought he was purposefully giving the wrong answer to Perry.

    Since then, I have decided that initial impression was wrong, but it might be something of a Rorschach Test for people – do they think Romney was being altruistically helpful, do they think he was purposefully giving the wrong third department to discredit Perry, or do they think he was trying to demonstrate his own superiority by knowing Perry’s positions better than Perry, or was it a reflex action to finish someone else’s thought?

    (and I’ve heard a few other options bandied about the web)

  • Morgan

    “Romney’s niceness will hurt him because we are in a time of voter anger.”

    Nonsense, KP. What hurts Mitt is that it’s difficult to believe he operates from a set ideology apart from the latest polling.

    @WebMonk: I personally think he was just trying to get things moving by tossing out the EPA answer… and maybe trying to interject some humor along the way. The longer Rick dithered, the less time there was for Romney to talk.

  • Morgan

    “Romney’s niceness will hurt him because we are in a time of voter anger.”

    Nonsense, KP. What hurts Mitt is that it’s difficult to believe he operates from a set ideology apart from the latest polling.

    @WebMonk: I personally think he was just trying to get things moving by tossing out the EPA answer… and maybe trying to interject some humor along the way. The longer Rick dithered, the less time there was for Romney to talk.

  • DonS

    Ms. Parker is easily impressed. Actually, of course, the EPA is not a Cabinet department, though it has the “status of cabinet rank” together with the OMB, the U.S. Trade Representative, the Council of Economic Advisers, and the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. The actual cabinet departments are State, Treasury, Defense, Justice, Interior, Commerce, Agriculture, Labor, Health & Human Services, Transportation, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security.

    So, if it were me, these “cabinet-rank” things, a fairly new-fangled invention, should all disappear. Required elements of the EPA (regulation of environmental nuisances affecting more than one state) should be folded into either Commerce or Interior. The OMB and CEA should be in Treasury. The USTR should be Commerce. and the U.N. Ambassador should be in State.

    As for the actual departments, Homeland Security should be devolved back into Justice and Transportation, where it came from. Veterans Affairs should be back in Defense — I don’t see that service to veterans has improved measurably by giving them their own bureaucracy. Agriculture and Labor mostly work mischief, and their legitimate functions should be folded into Commerce. As in the private sector, when times are tough, it is time to get lean. In the federal government, it is well past time.

  • DonS

    Ms. Parker is easily impressed. Actually, of course, the EPA is not a Cabinet department, though it has the “status of cabinet rank” together with the OMB, the U.S. Trade Representative, the Council of Economic Advisers, and the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. The actual cabinet departments are State, Treasury, Defense, Justice, Interior, Commerce, Agriculture, Labor, Health & Human Services, Transportation, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security.

    So, if it were me, these “cabinet-rank” things, a fairly new-fangled invention, should all disappear. Required elements of the EPA (regulation of environmental nuisances affecting more than one state) should be folded into either Commerce or Interior. The OMB and CEA should be in Treasury. The USTR should be Commerce. and the U.N. Ambassador should be in State.

    As for the actual departments, Homeland Security should be devolved back into Justice and Transportation, where it came from. Veterans Affairs should be back in Defense — I don’t see that service to veterans has improved measurably by giving them their own bureaucracy. Agriculture and Labor mostly work mischief, and their legitimate functions should be folded into Commerce. As in the private sector, when times are tough, it is time to get lean. In the federal government, it is well past time.

  • steve

    DonS, of course none of this will happen. Nobody wants to inflate the unemployment numbers even if it’s with unemployed government seat-warmers.

  • steve

    DonS, of course none of this will happen. Nobody wants to inflate the unemployment numbers even if it’s with unemployed government seat-warmers.

  • DonS

    Well, yeah, Steve, that’s a no-brainer :-) But one can dream about doing the right thing, can’t one?

    But it’s not about the unemployment numbers. That’s just the current excuse for maintaining governments in their bloated states, at all levels. It’s about entrenched government unions, and about a lot of politicians and and other establishment types that have their power vested in big government.

  • DonS

    Well, yeah, Steve, that’s a no-brainer :-) But one can dream about doing the right thing, can’t one?

    But it’s not about the unemployment numbers. That’s just the current excuse for maintaining governments in their bloated states, at all levels. It’s about entrenched government unions, and about a lot of politicians and and other establishment types that have their power vested in big government.

  • steve

    Don, to continue the theme of stating the obvious: politics is not about doing the right thing.

  • steve

    Don, to continue the theme of stating the obvious: politics is not about doing the right thing.

  • WisdomLover

    Romney obviously has an interest in both Cain and Perry staying in and staying viable. If conservatives coalesce on Newt, Romney is finished. This is so even if he gets the lion’s share of currently undecided voters…which is likely. So it may have been a good deed. But it also helps Romney’s interests, since next to Perry himself, no one was hurt more by the gaffe.

  • WisdomLover

    Romney obviously has an interest in both Cain and Perry staying in and staying viable. If conservatives coalesce on Newt, Romney is finished. This is so even if he gets the lion’s share of currently undecided voters…which is likely. So it may have been a good deed. But it also helps Romney’s interests, since next to Perry himself, no one was hurt more by the gaffe.

  • Purple Koolaid

    Actually, I thought Ron Paul was being kind. And I’m not even a big fan of his.

  • Purple Koolaid

    Actually, I thought Ron Paul was being kind. And I’m not even a big fan of his.


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