The Problem with Mitt Romney

What Mitt Romney is trying to be: just a regular guy.

What Mitt Romney really is: a very wealthy guy. 

In The Last Great Ride, a book about his years in network television, the late programming genius Brandon Tartikoff told the story of how The Cosby Show, the biggest sitcom of the 1980s, went from an idea on paper to airing on (and saving) the NBC network. During what is known as the “development process”, Tartikoff had several long conversations with Bill Cosby over the characters and general direction of the show. At one point, Cosby presented the idea of his character being a chauffeur in Atlanta with his wife working a regular 9 to 5 job and them struggling to make ends meet for their family.

As Tartikoff told it, he said he took a deep breath – after all, this was BILL COSBY that he was talking to – before carefully shooting down what he felt was an utterly ridiculous premise. He told Cosby that America knew him not as a great actor, but as a very successful and rich comedian and product pitchman who had earned a college degree in the days since I Spy and other shows and movies. He said that asking America to forget everything they knew about him as a person and to imagine him, Dr. William H. Cosby, Jr, Ed., going around pitching pennies, just didn’t make any sense and would doom the show.

It was an angry Cosby who hung up the phone – stars don’t like hearing their ideas turned down politely or not – but within a day or so, he called back to tell Tartikoff that he’d thought about it and saw his point. And as we all know, Cliff and Clair Huxtable were a doctor and attorney respectively, who lived in an elegant and well decorated brownstone in New York City’s Brooklyn Heights.

I wrote all of that to say that Mitt Romney, if he wants to have any chance of winning the Republican nomination, has to relax and just be who he is: an extremely successful and wealthy former businessman who’s also a Mormon.

If I had the chance to talk to Mitt, I’d tell him to drop the pretense of trying to be a “regular” guy because HELLO, you’re not one. You’ll never be the guy voters feel like they can have a beer with because you DON’T drink alcohol. You’ll never be comfortable in a Pentecostal church, signing old-time gospel songs because you are a Mormon. You don’t hunt, fish or smoke cigars with your buddies. You don’t head down to Dennys for the “Grand Slam” special to save a few bucks when the grandkids are in town. You don’t fly Southwest when you’re not on a private or charter jet. YOU’RE WEALTHY!

So, unless you’ve broken any laws or cheated anyone while amassing your fortune, have a secret second Mormon wife and/or love-child stashed somewhere, or have a secret gambling or drinking habit, drop the pretense of trying to fit in and just be who you are. I’ll let you in on a little secret: the right-wing of the GOP and the Tea Party are never, ever, ever going to like you. I hate to break it to you like that, but it’s the truth. They’ll never accept you as a conservative because HELLO, you’re not a conservative! They’ll never forgive you for having been a moderate whose Romneycare became the template for Obamacare so stop wasting your time, money and energy trying to change their minds.

Play to your strengths. Talk about how while it may be convenient and possible for a career politician to never change their mind about something, a businessman who wants to be successful can’t afford that luxury. You, while not abandoning your core beliefs and principles, had to be open to changing markets and trends, new information both practical and scientific, and adapting your philosophies if you wanted to stay in business. Explain that you can’t afford to be locked into clinging to outdated positions and business models just so you can say, “I haven’t changed in 30 years and by God, should he let me live another 30, I won’t change then either.”

Philip Rosenthal, creator and executive producer of Everybody Loves Raymond, said in his book, It’s A Good Thing You’re Funny, that the best career advice he ever got came from another writer/producer, Ed. Weinberger who told him: “Do the show you want to do, because in the end, they’re going to cancel you anyway.”

Mitt, run the campaign you want to run, because in the end, it’s your name on the ballot. You may not win but, you’ll know that you ran the campaign you wanted to run and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.


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