There is hardly a politician running currently for office in the United States, who's every word and action is analyzed more vigorously than that of former Gov. Mitt Romney. He is seeking the Republican nomination for the presidency in the 2012 election.
David Brooks, the celebrated columnist for The New York Times and a regular guest analyst on PBS-TV Newshour, who earned his reputation as a conservative counterweight to the numerous liberal columnist featured on the op-ed page of the Times, in several of his recent columns went to great length to analyze not only "What makes Mitt Romney run?" but also how he is perceived by the electorate.
Brooks, who in 2005 served as the Hunter B. Andrews Fellow in American Politics at the College of William & Mary, in an interview with the Gazette proclaimed, he has become a moderate conservative Republican by "admiring Margaret Thatcher, the British Prime Minister, than finding myself liking Ronald Reagan position on the Cold War."
Now, it seems, he is using similar metrics to evaluate Romney, as a presidential candidate. He considers Romney, smart, analytical, traditional in family and personal life. But, he calls Romney, "other-directed." A borrowed phrase from sociologist David Riesman, who described such a person "attuned to what other people want him to be."
Brooks admits that he doesn't know what sort of person Romney actually is. "He's a reticent man. He is unwilling to talk about his roots, home and family history, so it is hard to understand what really going on in his head."
Someone, who is much more familiar with what is "going on" in Romney's head, is Mitchell Reiss, listed as a senior foreign policy and national security adviser to Romney.
Reiss, who until 2010 served as vice provost for International Affairs at the College of Williams & Mary, and currently is president of Washington College in Maryland, has been an advisor to Romney for the past seven years.
"I have had the opportunity to travel with Gov. Romney to Asia, the Middle East and Europe and, of course, to discuss foreign policy issues with him," Reiss said in an interview with the Gazette. "He possesses an extraordinary grasp of international economics, finance and trade. It was his experience in the private sector that gave him great fluency in those fields. He has quickly mastered the details and nuances of complex issues ranging from a rising China to the Middle East peace process."
Reiss noted that in meetings with foreign leaders, Romney "commands immediate respect while also establishing an excellent rapport." He added, "I believe that Romney would be able to serve as Commander-in-Chief on day one."
My interaction with Romney occurred shortly after he was selected to head the Salt Lake City Olympic Organizing Committee. He was brought in to reorganize the committee and save the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. It was a heroic effort in the wake of the bid scandal that resulted from accusations that the Salt Lake City Organizing Committee in 1998 had bribed members of the International Olympic Committee to gain the designation as host city for the 2002 Winter Games.
In an effort to assist Romney in his quest to repair the damage caused by the bribery scandal, I sent him a dossier describing the activities of the Olympic People-for-People Program that was such a successful part of the 1980 Winter Olympic Games held in Lake Placid.
I urged Romney, to launch a similar program during the 2002 Winter Games. Within days, I received several phone calls from his assistants asking for details. In the end, security concerns prevented the duplication of the 1980 Olympic People-for-People Program. But I have always thought that Romney's response and attention to details were an indication of his leadership qualities.
There was a sign on President Harry Truman's desk at the White House "The Buck Stops Here." Now, Romney's most important task is to convince voters, this will be true also under his presidency.
Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from The Virginia Gazette.