A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to have lunch with a major figure in conservative talk radio. Over our meal, he lamented (and here I paraphrase) that the GOP is on its way to nominating one of the most scrupulously moral men to stand for the presidency in the modern era, but that his virtues have gone largely unsung because of his aversion to boastfulness. It may be the case, he worried, that his opposition will demonize him long before the public ever gets a chance to know the real Mitt Romney (a process which the Obama campaign seems to have begun with the video I posted yesterday).
Thankfully, a new piece in The Daily has unearthed some of the background material that Romney himself is too humble to tout. Even those who were among Romney's fiercest critics during the primary (as I was at times) will find it hard to come away from the story without a newfound respect for the man. Here's a sample from the lede:
One cold December day in the early 1980s, Mitt Romney loaded up his Gran Torino with firewood and brought it to the home of a single mother whose heat had been shut off just days before Christmas.
Years after a business partner died unexpectedly, Romney helped the man’s surviving daughter go to medical school with loans for tuition — loans he forgave when she graduated.
And in 1997, when a fellow church member’s teenage son fell seriously ill, Romney sprinted to the hospital in the dead of night, where he kept vigil with his terrified parents.
And this of course omits the one story that has received limited traction so far: the tale of how Romney led an all-hands-on-deck effort to recover the missing daughter of one of his partners at Bain.
I don't mean to pick on Barack Obama, who seems -- from what I know, anyway -- to be a thoroughly decent --and, yes, dare I say it, likable -- man in his private life. But it seems to me that there is a profound difference between the incumbent president -- who would have viewed each of the scenarios above as a policy crisis -- and the former Governor of Massachusetts, who reacted to them with displays of basic human compassion.
Does this add at all to the rationale for why we should be comfortable with Mitt Romney being president? Perhaps not. But it's a pretty convincing argument as to why you'd want him as a next door neighbor. And as traits that you'd like to see in a president go, that's not a bad one.