There are lots of disturbing things about Mitt Romney, from the unconscionable manner in which he built a great fortune to his abject refusal to unveil any more details about his proposed programs than he is about his tax returns.
It has nothing to do with his outlandish – distasteful – comments about the attacks on the US embassies in Libya and Egypt, although these are part of it.
It also goes far beyond his telling a group of struggling middle class, working Americans afraid of losing their jobs that he is unemployed, and saying to another group that he loves NASCAR because his rich friends own race cars. It is remarking to a third group that “corporations are people, my friend” with “my friend” sounding deliberately smarmy and condescending, and even though no entity, living or inorganic, with “Inc.” at the end of its name has given birth, sat beaming through a daughter’s piano recital, grimaced in silent, parental pain during a Little League game as their son dropped a fly ball, felt the disappointment of not being hired for a desperately needed job, or sat at a parent’s bedside as they slipped into death.
He annoys many people – especially me – with his smug arrogance, that congenital inability of his to relate to ordinary citizens and with his patronizing attitude that everyone else is beneath him for no reason other than his secret bank accounts in Switzerland are much larger than their account in the credit union at work.
Yet all throughout the campaign season, going back to the primaries in the dead of winter, something else, something much deeper, gnawed at me about Romney.
I finally put my finger on what it is about the Republican who would be president that is so bothersome: There is something fundamentally untouched about Willard “Mitt” Romney, something offensively virginal.
The few lines in his face that supporters might confuse for life experience are actually the lines of an overindulged child who has never been beaten and tear gassed by the police at a peaceful demonstration, or been locked away in a precinct house and denied the use of a toilet, and certainly not chained to the floor of a huge Air Force transport flying him hooded to a secret prison in a remote corner of a Caribbean island where the government providing the free flight hopes the world will forget about him.
“Overindulged child” puts Romney in perspective. He’s a man who never had to decide whether to pay the electric company or the rent, or balance whether buying a piece of fruit today means he might not have enough cash to refill a prescription next week. He has no idea what the word “struggle” means and he lets everyone else know it.
Romney gives off a kind of full-of-himself belief that being nimble and clever and lucky – very lucky, starting with the accident of birth that found him being swaddled by a talented father – transcends the reality of any sort of human suffering.
It is this remoteness from life that lets Romney shrug off as “boys will be boys” his bullying and torturing of a gay student at the cloistered prep school he attended.
It is the separation from life that allows Romney to talk about the dangers he faced in France where his cloistered life enabled him to escape the real dangers of Vietnam.
It is because his feet never quite touched the ground that enables Romney the candidate to assume an air of entitlement as he charters from one rally to another, telling outright lies to crowds of cheering supporters whose schools never taught them how to think critically.
Here’s the ultimate irony about Mitt Romney: While the howlers on the right – in streets and in the media – try to portray Pres. Obama as “the other,” someone not quite like us, the actual “other” is the GOP presidential candidate who has only a faint connection to what life in the United States is like for most of its population.
Follow Charley on Twitter @SuddenlyHomeles.