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President Romney Would Have Asked the Tough Questions on Ferguson

August 29, 2014

Over the past couple of weeks, two media storylines have been developing on parallel. President Obama, conventional wisdom regurgitators assure us, has failed to deliver on his vision of a "post-racial" America. They are stunned--stunned!--that the President branded by his foes as a Kenyan-born Muslim might have lamentably concluded that his presence in Ferguson, Missouri would only make things worse. Meanwhile, Obama's conservative critics tout a buyer's remorse among voters that makes Mitt Romney well-positioned to win in 2016.
Imagine, then, President Romney's handling of the outrage in Ferguson. No doubt, the man who claimed he "saw" his father march with Martin Luther King, Jr., supposedly wept with joy when his Church finally allowed black clergy in 1978 and mistook Donna Brazile for Gwen Ifill would have posed the tough questions no one else was even thinking of asking:

"Who let the dogs out? Who? Who?"

When he wasn't harping on President Obama's "extraordinary errors" which are "more severe than even I would have predicted," Would-Have-Been President Romney weighed in on the killing of Michael Brown and the heavy-handed police response in Ferguson:

"I think that the federal government needed to communicate that this is a high priority and provide confidence to the people in the community that this was not going to be swept under the rug."

Of course, what Romney really needed to be swept under the rug was his own record on civil rights, race relations and immigration. For example, In July 2012, Mitt voiced his support for the GOP's nationwide minority vote suppression efforts, proclaiming "I like Voter ID laws." That August, the AP reported "Romney pushes on with discredited welfare attacks" which with good reason "could open Romney up to criticism that he is injecting race into the campaign." That same month, Romney joined his endorser, fundraiser and wife's birthday bash host Donald Trump in pandering to the GOP's birther base. As he put it at an event in Michigan:

"No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised."

With statements like that, it's no wonder Mitt Romney "expected" to get boos when he went to address the NAACP in July 2012. (Many have argued he wanted to get those boos, precisely because his real audience wasn't the African-American attendees in the room but the white Republicans watching on Fox News at home.) "I believe that if you understood who I truly am in my heart, and if it were possible to fully communicate what I believe is in the real, enduring best interest of African American families," Mitt told the assembled activists, "you would vote for me for president." (If they looked not to his heart but his record in Massachusetts, they would have learned that Governor Mitt Romney moved immediately--and unilaterally--to shutter the state's affirmative action office.) But unable to muster examples of his own commitment to civil rights, Romney the Younger nevertheless used his father's instead.

Yet always, in both parties, there have been men and women of integrity, decency, and humility who called injustice by its name. For every one of us a particular person comes to mind, someone who set a standard of conduct and made us better by their example. For me, that man is my father, George Romney. It wasn't just that my Dad helped write the civil rights provision for the Michigan Constitution, though he did. It wasn't just that he helped create Michigan's first civil rights commission, or that as governor he marched for civil rights in Detroit - though he did those things, too. More than these public acts, it was the kind of man he was, and the way he dealt with every person, black or white. He was a man of the fairest instincts, and a man of faith who knew that every person was a child of God. I'm grateful to him for so many things, and above all for the knowledge of God, whose ways are not always our ways, but whose justice is certain and whose mercy endures forever.

George Romney was a strong ally to the civil right movement; his son Mitt not so much. That may be why 93 percent of African-Americans voted for Barack Obama in 2012. And probably why there's not a whole lot of buyer's remorse there, either.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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