Merlene Davis: Romney gave us peek at human side, but I want more

Herald-Leader columnistAugust 31, 2012 

There were parts of Thursday evening at the Republican National Convention that had me so wrapped in warmth, I almost forgot I am a registered Democrat.

I loved learning about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's dedication when he was a bishop in the Mormon church and, at one time, president of the Boston stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Ordinary folks said Romney is a man of his faith and that he tirelessly worked at it, trying to make their lives better because of his beliefs.

They told me more about Romney than I had heard before, more about the human side of the man and not just the bean counter.

Then came the video that showed more humanity. I found myself closer to liking Romney than I had till then. But I needed to hear something out of Romney's mouth that might draw me to his corner of the ring.

Admittedly, that would be a high bar for Romney to jump, but I was willing to give him my full attention.

So, after dismissing legendary actor and director Clint Eastwood as a jaw-dropping misfire in an otherwise well-choreographed evening, I set aside all distractions to hear the man who would be president.

He started out just fine. Unlike his vice presidential running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, Romney didn't see a need to make things up.

But then Romney said, "We are a nation of immigrants."

Well, some of us are.

What about the Native Americans? They were here long before Europeans arrived. They aren't immigrants. Did he forget about them?

And what about the black folk who were brought here in chains? That wasn't so much immigration as slavery.

Throughout the convention, though, speaker after speaker came to the podium, preparing to reach back into their recent heritage — sometimes one generation, sometimes more — to tell stories about how hard work and the American ideal enabled their ancestors to prosper in the United States.

The unspoken opposite of that sentiment seemed to be that if there are groups in America that are falling short of that ideal, it is their own fault. Success seemed cut and dried.

That ideal leaned more toward business ownership than public service. It was more about employing people than being a good employee. Success was measured by the number of digits in front of the decimal point in our bank accounts.

However, the people who spoke glowingly of the faith-filled Romney didn't mention his money; they talked about caring and helpfulness. They considered those traits, drawn from his faith, to be Romney's success.

I like money as much as anyone else, but I have a problem with money being the focus of my life, especially when the Bible assures me that my eyes should be directed elsewhere.

I can't fault Romney for that. There are more than a few ministers who focus more on material wealth than on blessings.

Then Romney talked about how badly this country needs more jobs, and higher-paying ones at that. I agree. And, yes, the economy is in the cellar.

He then talked about his parents and how his mother ran for the Senate because she thought women as well as men should have a say-so in government. He talked about the women he had hired and about the female governors we have in America today and about former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

I saw a lot of that talk as Romney's attempt to regain footing among women after several missteps by Republicans regarding a woman's right to choose an abortion.

Soon after that, though, the speech turned to words spoken on a campaign stump, words that Democrats and Republicans alike will use. Truthfully, my mind wandered. Instead of feel-good and revealing, the words he used were negative. I've grown tired of that kind of politics.

I kept going back to a sentence, a phrase, Romney slipped in that almost went unnoticed by others. It struck me as wrong:

"When the world needs someone to do really big stuff, you need an American."

He couched the sentence within words about the late Neil Armstrong and his walk on the moon. But after "joking" that no one has to see his birth certificate — and after aligning himself with Donald Trump, one of the most visible of the birthers who repeatedly question President Barack Obama's birthplace — that statement didn't sit well with me.

Obama is legally our president. He is an American. Let it go.

We have a lot of people hurting in this country, regardless of whether the blame falls at the feet of Obama, Congress or a global economy that is mowing down several other countries as well. Let's talk about that. Let's talk about bringing comfort to those who need it.

Booker T. Washington said, "In any country, regardless of what its laws say, wherever people act upon the idea that the disadvantage of one man is the good of another, there slavery exists. Wherever, in any country, the whole people feel that the happiness of all is dependent upon the happiness of the weakest, there freedom exists."

Let's talk about reining in the debt without hurting the weakest among us even more. Let's talk about a government that understands that workers as well as business owners deserve acknowledgement and favor. Let's talk about the compassion that is inherent in all faiths.

Corporations are not people.

I am pleased to see the human side of Romney and to know that his faith is a big part of who he is. Now I need to see that human side reflected in his politics.

I want to see that in Obama and the Democrats, too.

Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: mdavis1@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog: Merlenedavis.bloginky.com.

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