"I longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam and be representing our country there and in some ways it was frustrating not to feel like I was there as part of the troops that were fighting in Vietnam."
- Mitt Romney, Boston Globe, 6/24/07
"I was not planning on signing up for the military. It was not my desire to go off and serve in Vietnam."
- Mitt Romney, Boston Herald, 5/2/94
Okay, when I saw these two quotes, on Townhall.com this morning, I thought: This looks kind of bad. John McCain has a pretty clear record on Vietnam -- he bombed it -- whereas Mitt Romney spent the turbulent '60s proselytizing to the French. Now we find out that Mitt Romney both passionately wanted to serve his country under arms and had no interest in doing anything of the sort. At the very least, it doesn't seem terribly consistent. To a biased reader, it might even seem like he's full of shit.
But I knew that couldn't be right. So I read it again.
Here's where I'd gotten confused. Mitt Romney "longed" to be in Vietnam, but his "desire" was to be not in Vietnam.
Is this really a contradiction? Only if you don't appreciate that longing and desire are two totally different things.
Socrates knew they were as different as different could be. That's why he called one thumos and the other epithumetikon, the dark and light horses that pull the chariot of the lover's soul.
Mitt Romney famously snapped at Mike Huckabee: "Governor, don't try to characterize my position." (You might as well try to calculate Pi, Gomer.) In this case, though, to understand what Mitt Romney is getting at, you just have to go back and reread Pheadrus.
"Now, when the charioteer (Mitt Romney) beholds the vision of love (Vietnam), and has his whole soul warmed through sense, and is full of the prickings and ticklings of desire, the obedient steed (thumos, the desire to go somewhere other than Vietnam) then as always under the government of shame, refrains from leaping on the beloved; but the other (epithumetikon, the longing to be "in the shit"), heedless of the pricks and of the blows of the whip, plunges and runs away, giving all manner of trouble to his companion and the charioteer, whom he forces to approach the beloved and remember the joys of love."
(Only by taming both horses, by synthesizing longing and desire, can the soul of the lover follow the beloved in modesty and fear. Not unlike how Tony Blair used to look at George Bush.)
So you see? It all makes perfect sense, when you understand that Mitt Romney was talking about two entirely different parts of his soul.
Like the half that doesn't hunt, and the half that hunts.
It's all about the id and the superego. Of course Mitt wanted to get shot down over Hanoi and locked in a box for five years -- who wouldn't? -- but his better angels told him to go to Cannes and spread the Word of the Lord, except to black people.
The Fighting Romneys Extra
It's been six months since Mitt Romney was asked why none of his sons were in Iraq, and answered:
"One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I'd be a great president."
And he's still a candidate for the nomination. (Okay, barely.) Let's pretend a Democratic politician had said the same thing. How long would it have been -- in hours -- before he was forced out of public life forever?