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Susan Katz asked, “Governor Romney, I am an undecided voter, because I’m disappointed with the lack of progress I’ve seen in the last four years.
However, I do attribute much of America’s economic and international problems to the failings and missteps of the Bush administration.
Since both you and President Bush are Republicans, I fear a return to the policies of those years should you win this election.
What is the biggest difference between you and George W. Bush, and how do you differentiate yourself from George W. Bush?”
Romney immediately replied, “Thank you. And I appreciate that question.” Mitt was so appreciative, he immediately reverted to the previous question.
Finally, he said basically the difference is that with new oil drilling technologies, he wouldn’t be as dependent upon Arab and Venezuela oils as Bush was and wouldn’t drive up a trillion dollar deficit. He did not distinguish HIMSELF from George W. Bush. For good reason. There is little to distinguish them. In fact, as with the last election, there are far more similarities than differences between present and past Republican office holders and seekers. These similarities are in the realm of character, motivations, socio-economic background, and proposed policies.
Considering the history of Presidential corruption, deceit, and instability going back to Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, and the Bushes, the trustworthiness of potential leaders should be at the top of voter concerns.
Characterwise, Mitt Romney and George W. Bush are both fast-talking, used car salesmen types who were the privileged sons of wealthy, politically powerful Republicans. If we take the comparison of their backgrounds, motivations and character to a deeper level, they are both Mama’s boys, driven by profound competition, hellbent on trying to outdo their fathers–to succeed where their fathers failed. Is this important? Yes. Anthropologically, it is immensely important.
Is Romney a Mama’s boy?
By 1946, the Romneys began trying to adopt a war orphan living in Switzerland. Then Lenore became pregnant, and after a difficult pregnancy – lying still on her back for a month in hospital during one stretch – and delivery, Willard Mitt (known as Mitt) was born in 1947. After the birth she required a hysterectomy. Lenore would subsequently refer to Mitt as her miracle baby.
Such “miracle babies” more often than not have a special place in the family constellation. When Mitt decided to marry Ann, Lenore was not in favor of his quick decision to marry. “I think Lenore had a hard time letting go of her youngest son….Her relationship with Ann wasn’t a warm one…she held back more., being cold to his future wife. ” Boston Globe, 6/27/07 [note] When the Romneys moved into the Governor’s mansion, only Mitt, as the baby of the family, was young enough to move in with them. [ABC news]
As he flew home [from two years of unsuccessful French missionary work] just before Christmas 1968, Romney worried about what awaited him and Ann. ”I didn’t know how we would feel.”
Ann joined the Romney clan in meeting him at the airport. Showered with hugs from his family, Mitt kept his focus squarely on Ann. Sitting with her in the third-row seat of his sister’s Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser, he wasted little time.
”Gosh, this feels like I’ve never been gone,” he recalls telling her. ”I can’t believe it.”
”I feel exactly the same way,” she said.
”You want to get married?” he asked.
When they made it home, he told his parents about their plans for an immediate wedding. His father was delighted. His mother was horrified. A pillar of Detroit society, Lenore Romney knew a wedding was not something to be rushed. But that was only part of her hesitation. ”I think Lenore had a hard time letting go of her youngest son,” Cindy Davies says, stressing Lenore’s special connection to the baby her doctors had said she could never have. While George had quickly forged a loving bond with Ann, it took longer for Lenore. Mitt and Ann agreed to wait three months to walk down the aisle. Boston Globe [6/27/2007]
When Lenore ran for the Senate when Mitt was 23, Mitt was her chief
campaign aide. Why is this important? It shows, as we shall see, how very close Mitt was to Mom.
My anthropological comparison of the character similarities between Bush and Romney, as well as John McCain and many other Republican patriarchs with competitive fixations impelling them to run for office, stems from an insight culled from two decades of Culture and Personality analyses of the backgrounds and motivations underlying the behavior of political leaders and wannabe leaders. The insight crystalized in the year 2000, when I sifted out a common psycho cultural factor that appeared to underlie and propel the character of many of the most destructive [warmongering] leaders of the past three generations of world history.
At that time, after years of interest in the relationships between personality and culture of political leaders, I found a most astonishing pattern that seemed independent of culture. Comparing the family backgrounds of the most destructive leaders of 20th-century political history, it turned out that nearly all of these leaders were “mama’s boys.” It didn’t matter what culture they came from. In fact, the pattern was all the more striking because, despite having different cultures and different socioeconomic backgrounds, men with this peculiar family dynamic had all led [or pushed] their people down paths of destruction and conflict.
The fact that this unusual mother-son dynamic was distributed across cultures and across history made it even more startling/compelling. At the time my discovery was alarming as one of the principal characters in my sample, George W. Bush, was a leading candidate for the American presidency. The disastrous Bush presidency would, unfortunately, confirm my worst predictions. The other mama’s boys included Adolf Hitler, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Joseph Stalin, J. Edgar Hoover, Joseph McCarthy, Rudolf Giuliani, John McCain, Meir Kahane, Roy Cohn, Mao Tse Tung, Radovan Karadzic, Slobadan Milosevic, Baal Thackery, and conspicuously, Mohamed Atta, the lead World Trade Center bomber. [His co-conspirator, Osama bin Laden fit the paradigm, but the data was too sketchy to include him.] [ photo of Atta and his mom.]
When I analyzed the psychocultural dynamics and ramifications of this most unusual pattern, certain common elements stood out. The competitive mother-son -father triangle of the classic Oedipus complex was a given. Regardless of their cultural setting, the Mama’s boys had had serious father problems, and for whatever the reasons, they won their Oedipal competition. They were extremely fixated in the competitive mode and, surely, winning their mother reinforced it. The consequence of winning their mothers, however, was that, for all intents and purposes, they ended up rejecting identification with their father’s authority and so were left without a male authority figure to internalize as a conscience. For this reason they often ended up as their own opportunistic “deciders.” [Some ended up as closet homosexuals, others with different sexual issues; with some the wife would become the mother.] This problem with conscience fit a related type of psychosocial anomaly, the psychopath. Some of the above historical figures, most notably, Hitler, were known to be psychopaths, while others, though known to be somehow strange, were not, for a variety of reasons, considered psychopaths though they were often thought of as “unbalanced.”
To compensate for their unusual closeness to moma, these men often expressed supermacho fronts, and, stuck as they were in the mode of Oedipal competition, were super-competitive. As mama’s boys, they were intuitively concerned with appearing soft and always needed to show they were hard-nosed, willing to fight, powerful, and uncompromising, [like not letting the family dog INTO the car after it got sick riding on the roof.] Consequently, it was not unusual that they sought and ruthlessly climbed the ladders to political power, and when they reached it, were extremely sadomasochistic, eager to torture and cause pain for those they considered their “enemies” and eager to curry favor with their benefactors. Once having achieved power, they were dangerous, often blustering, had warmongering attitudes, and were eager to act them out; they, after all, didn’t have to fight. [Except John McCain whose military upbringing instilled a strong death wish.]
Underlying the mama’s boy character was the fact that these super-competitive political aspirants, free from conscience, made convincing, if not psychopathic, liars who were willing to say anything to win their competitions, regardless of whether or not they actually believed that what they were saying was true. In modern times, their consistently untruthful political expedience was given a label: “flipflopping.” The media’s sloppy toleration for muddying the difference between bending the truth for political advantage and sheer psychopathic lying unfairly exempted the politicians from responsibility for behavioral deviance that would not be tolerated in other human contexts. It made lying okay. It relieved these [psychopathic liars] characters from the normal scruples of honesty, which would end up severely punishing the masses whom they deceived.
In a most infamous example, Hitler, who ostensibly ran for office as a “National Socialist,” made secret deals with industrialists. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William Shirer, p.202 In one unbelievable night after he achieved power, 1 Hitler had his SS murder the genuine socialists of his party, Gregory Strasser and Eric Roehm, along with some 80 others “on his side” who he vaguely accused of plotting against him. “In Roehm’s view, Hitler’s election had accomplished the nationalistic revolution but had left unfulfilled the socialistic motive in national socialism.” According to Shirer, hundreds of people died during the purge and the final death toll may have been a thousand. Hitler had many killed in the purge who knew not why or what was happening. In the aftermath of the first killings he claimed many were killed because they were morally depraved , yet he “knew all along that a large number of his closest followers were sexual perverts and convicted murders….These things Hitler had not only tolerated but defended: more than once he had warned his party comrades against being too squeamish about a man’s personal morals if he were a fanatical fighter for the movement.. Now on June 30,1934, just after the first executions, he professed to be shocked by the moral degeneration of some of his closest lieutenants.” p.312 Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
Considering a more recent example, Mama’s boy Lyndon Johnson ran for office in 1964 as the “peace candidate” proclaiming “We seek no wider war in Vietnam,” and “Why should we send America boys half way around the world to do what Asian boys should be doing for themselves.” Then, six months after winning the presidency with the largest plurality in American history, the “peace candidate” began an unprecedented escalation of the war, ultimately sending a half a million American boys “half way around the world” for a war he promised ‘not to widen.” Daniel Ellsberg revealed, in a conversation with the New York Times after the showing of his biographical film on public television, that at least four hundred people at the Pentagon knew that Johnson was preparing for war [including Ellsberg] during Johnson’s” peace candidate” campaign, but none of them blew the whistle, including Ellsberg, much to his [later] regret.
Lyndon Johnson’s mama’s boy successor, Richard Nixon, campaigned with a “peace plan” to end the Vietnam war, which turned out to be an attempt to bomb Hanoi into submission in the infamous “Christmas Bombing ” of 1972.
In an unpublished article contemplating the 2008 election, I wrote:
Correlating mama’s boys with mad authoritarian leaders opened the way for identifying and labeling both the covert forces and overtsymptoms of psychopathic political behavior. By unraveling the behavior of authoritarian politicians back to their [spoiled] childhoods, it became possible to see how and why the abnormalities of mama’s boys evolved into adult psychopathic political character. Once identified, the mama’s boy syndrome turned out to be a potentially malignant, highly integrated complex of psychocultural neuroses. The political mama’s boy, both in his origins, development, and “maturity,” was a spoiled, conscience-free, insecure, controlling, power mad, chameleon sadomasochist who was ultra competitive, deft at habitual lying, obsessed with winning, overtly super macho, exceptionally paranoid, and, most dangerously of all, scared to death of being perceived as soft. 2
In one way or another, they were all hands-down winners of their Oedipal competition with their fathers, a victory that nullified conscience and led to a competitive obsession to prove themselves, demonstrate their power, and defeat their “enemies.” The mama’s boys fit into a psycho-political complex in which super-ambitious, conscience-free, sociopaths combined their extraordinarily competitive need to win, their chameleon character, and their uncanny ability to lie, cheat, usurp, procure, or otherwise charm their way into power, where, once ensconced at the controls, they showed a devastating propensity to vent their sadism
The APA manual of mental disorders [the DSM .Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders] says “the clinical diagnosis of anti-social personality disorder should be considered when an individual possesses at least three of the following seven characteristics:(1) Failure to conform to social norms (2) Deceitfulness and manipulativeness (3) impulsivity, failure to plan ahead (4)irritability, aggressiveness; (5) reckless disregard for the safety of self or others; (6) consistent irresponsibility;(7) lack of remorse after having hurt mistreated or stolen from another person. The presence in an individual of any three of these symptoms, taken together, is enough to make psychiatrist suspect the disorder.” (Martha Stout, The Sociopath Next Door, P. 6)
In the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney revealed nearly all of the characteristic elements of the flipflopping psychopathic patriarchal mama’s boy pattern. Like George W. Bush, he is competitively fixated and obsessed with achieving what his father failed to do. Like the typical chameleon psychopath, he has been able to convincingly mold his message to fit what he perceives/determines his audience wants to hear. [Using the "etch-a- sketch" strategy in his last debate, the bellicose Romney suddenly presented himself like a complete and total peacenik. ] He has been accused of reversing his positions so often that many don’t even pay attention to it anymore. By lying to the audiences he wants to win over, he reveals that he will do anything to win. [psychopathic criteria # 2]. His rejection of his own Massachusetts Health Care bill is on the face of it an exercise in mind boggling illogic. As are his flipflopping positions on women’s issues.’ He wants to have it all. Moderation, for his stint as Massachusetts governor, and radical conservativism for the new racist anti-Obama Republican “Tea Party” base.
When he was 23, Romney directly embraced mama, campaigning for and with her in her failed bid to win a Senate seat. [insert picture of MR on cover of Time on mom’s bed during her senate campaign.]
In 2002, running for governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney used his mother to help describe his pro-choice views. At one gubernatorial debate Romney said:
In 1970 there was a women who ran for U.S. Senate in a conservative Republican state. She took a bold position, because this was before Roe v. Wade. A position that she was in favor of choice. She lost, but she did it with great honor and with boldness. She was my mom Lenore Romney. She had strong personal views on the issues which she abided by. She also believed in the separation of church and state, as I do. Let me make this perfectly clear. I will preserve and protect a women’s right to choice and this should not be made a political issue in this campaign.
[Buzzfeed politics, 4/9/12]
In high school, Mitt exposed his conformist bully nature in a recently publicized incident where he led his gang to attack, pin down, and cut off the long blond hair of a seemingly gay classmate whose appearance was, apparently too different for Mitt and his gang to tolerate. When exposed in the campaign, Mitt, who did the cutting, showed no remorse, [psychopathic criteria #7] first claiming not to remember. However, one of the participants, now a lawyer, said he remembered the incident clearly describing it in legal terms as assault and battery.]
As a thirty-six year old father traveling with his wife and five children, Romney showed careless disregard for the health and safety of the family dog, [psychopathic criteria #5] strapping its kennel to the roof for a twelve hundred mile ride, whereupon the stressed-out dog created a fecal and urinary mess. Here’s how Fox news commentator Lanny Davis saw the incident.
” And what did Romney do, even after knowing of the dog’s diarrhea? Did he realize that perhaps Seamus should be shown some mercy, cleaned up and allowed in the car, to sleep on someone’s lap? No. Here’s how the Globe described what Romney then did: “As the rest of the boys joined in the howls of disgust, Romney coolly pulled off the highway and into a service station. There he borrowed a hose, washed down Seamus and the car, then hopped back onto the highway. It was a tiny preview of a trait he would grow famous for in business: emotion-free crisis management.” Emotion-free crisis management??! But I am a forgiving person. If today Romney, looking back, were to say, “You know, in retrospect, that was a cruel thing to do to our dog — I was young, it was a long time ago, I am sorry” — if he said that today, I’d forgive him. But instead — Romney being Romney [Criteria #2 once again, showing no remorse]— he defaults into saying something utterly implausible. He recently told Fox’s dog-loving Chris Wallace that Seamus actually loved it up there! He then told Wallace that the dog was in an “air-tight container,” not mentioning the diarrhea. Air-tight container??!…This is the ultimate Purple Issue — it cuts across Republicans, Democrats, blue states, red states, liberals and conservatives….
Here’s one dog lover’s opinion — mine: I think anyone who puts his dog in a cage on top of a car for a 12-hour drive and then deludes himself or tries to delude others that the dog really enjoyed it — to me, with all due respect, I feel such a man shouldn’t be president of the United States.”
Romney is consistently irresponsible [Criteria #6] in re:foreign affairs. When the US ambassador was killed in a terrorist attack in Benghazi, he sought to take political advantage hours after his death in his fervor to mar the President’s foreign policy even as the smoke had yet to clear in the immediately unfolding conflict.
In London for the Olympics, he made ego-driven impolitic comments about the security problems, attempting to come across as the “Olympic Games expert.”
Then there was the deceitfulness and manipulativeness [Criteria #2] that he revealed in his 47% speech.
The clandestine recording of Mitt Romney’s crass appeal to the millionaire old boys club gathered in Boca Raton, Florida, dismissing 47% of the electorate who support Obama as dependent freeloaders “who believe they are victims” exposed how crudely primitive the mentality of Romney and his supporters of upper upper class of right wing patriarchs really was.
“There are forty seven percent who are with [Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.”
This right wing ideological mind set that sees half the adult voting age population as dependent children, sucking at the breast of the government is such flimsy ninth grade pseudo-sociology, that it is even more nutty than something Newt Gingrich would make up. It is a sociopathic, vulture capitalist rationalization of Republican old boys who every four years invest fortunes in advertising trying to get into power by fooling the majority of the nation into believing that they, the wealthy minority, have the interests of the “middle class” at heart.
The Republican leadership is consistently characterized by culture and personality patterns. Characterwise George W. Bush and Mitt Romney are of the same super-privileged mold of convincing chameleon psychopathic liars. In the realm of character and socio-econoencemic background, there is no distinction between them. Mitt Romney is a chameleon. He wears a suit and tie speaking to his millionaire old boys club about the dependent 47%, while he carefully outfits himself in jeans when coming before the 47% that he disparages when clothed in his suit and tie.
Could the person who tackled and forcibly cut the hair of a “different” classmate, who cruelly continued to drive a sickened dog on the roof of his car, who promises to deny health insurance to America’s most vulnerable people, even after [his very own] universal health bill was passed, who calls half the nation dependents who only want to suck at the breast of governmental to survive, ever, under any circumstances, even begin to be trusted to lead the diverse patchwork quilt of the American people?
The real answer to Susan Katz’s question is in that in what matters most, underlying character and values, there is very little difference between George W. Bush and Willard Mitt Romney. They are both great liars and shame on the American people if they are fooled TWICE within a decade by slick psychopathic imposters.
Samuel Leff is a Margaret Mead-trained anthropologist whose specialty has been American culture for more than four decades. He has taught anthropology at Adelphi, Hunter and Hofstra Universities. An activist participant observer of the ’60s, he was a close confidant of Abbie Hoffman’s.