Friday, June 8, 2012

Growing Up in America

Mitt Romney and the truth are barely on speaking terms.

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Rachel Maddow’s point is well-taken: what does it say about you when you’re caught in a lie and don’t care to correct it? Aside from the obvious character flaw of not being ashamed of lying in public to advance your own interest, it also suggests a glaring lack of maturity.

How could a man who, at the age of 65 and with a wife, kids, grandchildren, a vast fortune, and a career in business and politics, still behave like a snotty rich adolescent who isn’t above torturing a gay kid in high school — and still laugh about it fifty years later? Simple; Mitt Romney is still that kid. He’s never really grown up, he’s never really faced life-changing challenges that test his character in stark terms, and he’s used to having his own way — and telling others how to live their life — without being held accountable for anything.

I’ve known people like that all my life. Indeed, I spent a lot of time among them. (Yes, some of my best friends….) So I know what drives them. When he told ABC News in February that the Obamas should “start packing” because “it’s our turn,” he meant it not just in the political sense; he has a sense of entitlement that comes from being part of the elite that believes in the inherent right of the upper class to rule the nation. It’s not based on merit or accomplishment; it’s because he believes he is owed it.

This also explains why he and a lot of Republicans view Barack Obama — and Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter before him — as outsiders, as “others.” It’s their common middle-class upbringing and lack of pedigree that makes them unworthy of the office; they’re not members of the ruling class. (This in spite of the fact that Mr. Romney’s family history indicates that they are newly arrived off the Mayflower, so to speak. Being exiled to Mexico isn’t the same as wintering in Boca Grande.) Barack Obama compounds it by being “exotic” and therefore incapable of “getting it” when it comes to the economy or whatever quality it is that Mitt Romney and Karl Rove thinks he lacks to lead the nation. (Ironically, if Barack Obama had grown up to be a Republican, he would be lauded by the GOP for overcoming poverty, hardship, and Affirmative Action to become the embodiment of the American Dream. And his name would be Herman Cain.)

Maturity requires self-awareness and the ability to see yourself in the third person. How you live your life is based on more than just “what’s in it for me.” I have yet to hear from Mr. Romney any vision of leadership beyond the end of his own reach. (Even Ronald Reagan, for all his flaws, at least was able to do that.) The lying is just the tip of the iceberg. His inability to be honest with us in terms of the things he says about his opponent or explain his own failings or those of his surrogates (we’re still waiting for him to explain Donald Trump) demonstrates a profound lack of maturity and wisdom that disqualifies him. He needs to grow up.