The presidential debates offered us unscripted and revealing glimpses into each candidate's character. Very different -- and often conflicting -- Romneys emerged in each debate. Watching Governor Romney's ever-shifting debate personas, I couldn't help but think of that bestselling 1950s book and film, The Three Faces of Eve. It's a true case story of a woman's struggle with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) or multiple personalities. Romney also seems to struggle with his many competing and contradictory personalities--leaving voters to try to figure out his core character.
The Many Faces of Romney were on full display in each debate. In Denver, there was the Bully-Boss. This personality angrily interrupted both the president and the moderator; he behaved as if the stage was his corporate offices and he was riveted on firing the president.
In the first debate, Bully Boss-Romney was widely proclaimed the winner, especially of the white, male vote. But many women were appalled by his over-lord and high-handed tactics. We've endured too many glass ceilings and corporate bosses like this Romney.
In the second debate, moderated by Candy Crowley, Romney grafted on another personality to his Bully-Boss persona -- the Insistent Salesman. Boasting about his "binders full of women," Romney actually seemed to strut on the stage selling his gender policies and accomplishments with a kind of oily and newfound attention to women that he must have thought would charm us. It just pointed out how little attention this man with no platform for women's equal pay or reproductive rights has ever afforded us. Insistent Salesman Romney was like a cross between a Mormon missionary and a Fuller Brush salesman repeating ringing the door, hoping the Lady of the House will buy his faith or his product.
In the final debate, Mitt's bewildering choice of personality was the Yes Man, agreeing almost amiably with most of President Obama's foreign policy strategies -- from the Middle East to a 2014 Afghanistan withdrawal. After a campaign of irresponsible and dangerous saber rattling with Bully-Boss Romney threatening Iran and attacking Obama on Libya even as our consulate was under a terrorist attack, Romney's happy face diplomacy was shocking. His smiling and non-combative Yes Man prompted someone to Twitter that Romney looked like he was "on valium."
Perhaps Romney was dazed by the days spent cramming for his foreign policy exam. Perhaps, as some MSNBC commentators noted, Romney was playing to the few undecided white, suburban voters who wanted to make sure there was no hot-head with his finger on the nuclear button.
Whatever Romney's stealth agenda, his shifting personas on foreign policy are particularly disturbing. That's because a Commander-in-Chief must be clear and consistent, a calm in the international storm. Steadiness and consistency are the hallmarks of statesmanship and diplomacy. We can't have a Multiple Choice for Commander-in-Chief. The world is too volatile and what Romney blithely calls "the bad guys," are too dangerous to have a man of such shifting moods and character at the helm.
If we were again attacked, at home or abroad, which Romney would don the uniform of Commander-in-Chief -- Bully Boss, Insistent Salesman or Yes Man? Or would yet another sub-personality surface that we've not yet seen on stage? We have yet to see the Mormon Bishop Romney step out of the self-imposed secrecy on his faith. We have yet to see The Patriarch With No Daughters Romney -- a man who seems clueless about women's lives and issues.
Finally, there is more coverage of the Gender Gap in this election. What does it mean that the New York Times' Nate Silver's 538 poll analysis shows that women would give Obama a landslide victory, while men would give it to Romney? It suggests that women are looking at the whole his-story, not just the battles. We don't like the Boss-Bully, Insistent Salesman or Yes Man we've seen in these debates. We're choosing a president whom we've witnessed as a equal partner, a strong commander-in-chief, a devoted father of daughters, and a consistent champion of women.
This is an election about character as much as policy. Women are always judging a man by his character. We must always think about the future, not just the short-term "who won the debate" questions. We imagine that man as partner, father, and lifelong ally. Women live longer than men, so we must be more far-sighted.
An interesting discovery in longevity studies is that the number one factor for long life is consistency. People who are consistent make life choices -- routine good habits, preventative health care, and not making impulsive or overly risky decisions. If our country is going to achieve longevity as a super power, we must be consistent. That's why most women are voting to continue the clear and steady leadership of President Obama.
The big question about character is this: Does Romney have control over his multiple personalities? Does he calibrate them like product testing? Or do these many personalities control him? Before Romney could ever be President of these United States, he'd have to learn consistency and how to unite the shifting states of Romney.
Brenda Peterson is the author of 17 books, including Duck and Cover, a New York Times "Notable Book of the Year," and the recent memoir, I Want to Be Left Behind, which was named a "Top Ten Best Non-Fiction Book of the Year" by The Christian Science Monitor. For more: BrendaPetersonBooks.com