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Michael J. O'Neil Headshot

I Like Romney

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Transparency: When he ran for president, Romney released twelve years of tax returns, noting that any single year's return could be a fluke. While they weren't actually full returns as often reported, it was a path-breaking gesture and it became the standard against which many future presidential candidates' disclosures would be measured.

Courage and Candor. Romney challenged the dominant sentiment in his own party by coming out against a war that could not be won. And he suffered the political consequences of sharing his observations candidly. Famously, he referred to a 1965 trip to Vietnam, observing, "When I came back from Vietnam, I'd just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get... not only by the generals but also by the diplomatic corps over there." Years later, most of the country eventually came to recognize that he was right. But in 1967, making such observations were fraught with political risk.

Civil Rights. Romney was an early supporter of civil rights, well before that became fashionable or even politically safe. In January 1963, Romney declared that "Michigan's most urgent human rights problem is racial discrimination -- in housing, public accommodations, education, administration of justice, and employment." This needs to be understood in its historical context, this was before, for example, the March on Washington. Civil rights were, at that moment, not yet even on the agenda of white America.

Self Made Man. Romney came from a modest background to head a large American company that made real things (cars) and employed tens of thousands of people. And he believed in proportionate compensation: He regularly gave back a significant proportion of his salary and bonus to the company when he felt that the total was excessive. And rather than demonizing labor, he partnered with it.

I like his wife also. Decades ago she decried our very poor record on infant mortality, maternal childbirth fatality rates, and low life expectancy compared to other developed nations and called for a national health plan in the long term and interim insurance for "all Americans who wish or need to participate." And she was also capable of separating her personal religious beliefs from public policy when she wrote: "The ultimate decision is left to the woman, because it is more important to lessen the physical and mental dangers... and remove the criminal element that it is to attempt legislated morality". This Mormon wife whose own religion condemned abortion was unwilling to impose her personal beliefs on others. Not a bad standard.

For all of these are reasons I have always admired Romney. George Romney.