My latest reading of Michael Kranish and Scott Helman’s The Real Romney covered a lot of ground: Romney’s humorous social bloopers in his 1994 run against Ted Kennedy for U.S. Senate, and his struggle to define himself in that race; the death of Mitt’s father and mother; Ann’s battle with multiple sclerosis, and Mitt’s support of her through that; and Romney leaving Bain Capital (while still keeping a financial interest in it) to save the Olympics, which were in disarray because a couple of Utah officials gave gifts to the Olympic committee so the Olympics would be held in Utah.
I especially liked a story from Mitt’s 1994 race for U.S. Senate. Mitt visited the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans, and the director of the shelter, Ken Smith, was complaining to Mitt about how the high price of milk was killing the shelter’s budget, since the shelter went through a lot of milk each day. Mitt jokingly suggested that the veterans learn how to milk cows, but Mitt later realized that his remark was socially inappropriate. Mitt apologized, and he also helped bring down the cost of milk for the shelter.
Romney wasn’t doing this to look good, for he told Smith that he didn’t want any publicity for his deed. And Romney also wasn’t doing this to win the election in 1994, for he continued to help bring down the price of milk for the shelter even after he lost to Ted Kennedy. As Kranish and Helman say, “In fact, Smith said he understood that Romney was still supporting the shelter when Smith left in 1996” (page 190).
Mitt could be generous to people who needed help, but I wonder if he’s like Ronald Reagan (as some have portrayed him): he could be quite generous when he actually encounters a person with a problem, and yet he could pursue policies that arguably put people he does not encounter in dire straits.