Obama and Romney: Two Sons Unlike Their Fathers
History teaches that some famous sons emulate their fathers, while others prove exact opposites. Consider the relationship of President Barack Obama to his dad and candidate Mitt Romney to his.
Obama's connection to his natural father was severely limited because of geography and divorce. Though he was raised by an American mother and her Kansan parents, his relationship with his Indonesian stepfather was more relevant, with strongest influences coming from his mother, Ann Dunham, a professional anthropologist.
His Kenyan father was a brilliant, complex and highly ambitious man who married often. An abuser of alcohol in a culture that abhorred it, he was a reckless driver who drank, an ultimately fatal combination. The cool, collected son evidences none of the father's rash and destructive personality traits.
Mitt Romney's father was his lodestar, yet Mitt has rejected the progressive and noble ideals for which his father, George Romney, always strove. A liberal father produced a reactionary son.
Obama's father, a University of Hawaii Phi Beta Kappa scholarship student, pursued a Harvard doctorate in economics. Politically active, he held high government posts in his native land. Mitt Romney's father never graduated from college, served as Michigan's popular GOP governor for six years, and sought the presidency twice. George Romney's wife, Lenore, ran for the U.S. Senate, as did his former daughter-in-law, Roona Romney, and his son, Mitt. All lost.
During World War II, George Romney was the American Automobile Manufacturers Association's spokesman. He successfully directed cooperative arrangements allowing auto companies to achieve tremendous production goals. His tireless efforts stimulated war production needed to win the war.
Mitt Romney's approach to war was to duck it, avoiding the Vietnam conflict as a Mormon missionary in France. (None of his sons have volunteered for military service while their country is at war.)
George Romney later headed American Motors, where for eight years he mocked the "gas guzzlers" of the Big 3 while introducing the successful Rambler automobile. Ironically, when the auto industry faced financial collapse in the recent recession, his son Mitt cruelly urged Chrysler and GM to declare bankruptcy.
While Mitt Romney supports current GOP governors' attacks against organized labor, his father worked closely with liberal labor leaders Victor and Walter Reuther, seeking to improve conditions for wartime workers.
He decried the powerful influence of big business within the GOP and supported Michigan's Fair Employment Practices Act. He consistently advocated increases in teacher pay, vastly expanding Michigan's education system while encouraging effective teacher unions. Can you imagine Mitt taking such progressive stances?
George Romney supported the civil rights movement, created Michigan's first income tax, expanded the size of its government, and led moderate Republicans governors to oppose regressive 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater.
George was never afraid to take unpopular moral stands. When he stated that the Vietnam War was not "morally right," his popularity ratings plummeted from 39 percent favorable to 7 percent. Mitt lacks his father's courage, flip-flopping as he does on key issues like Social Security, abortion, immigration, taxes and health care.
George Romney served as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development during President Nixon's first term. He called for public housing increases and open housing to desegregate suburbs, all initiatives opposed by Nixon, whose "Southern Strategy" had courted white voters opposed to racial integration.
Obama was raised a Christian, and seems like many believers not to share the fervor and biblical surety of the fundamentalists of his faith while respecting venerable constitutional traditions of church and state.
Mitt Romney follows in his father's strict Mormon footsteps. Both have held high church positions. Described as "messianic," a young George Romney was a missionary in the slums of Glasgow. He said that work, teaching him to care for the underdog, meant more than any other life experience.
Barack Obama's service in the underprivileged sections of Chicago as a community organizer reinforced his social conscience. It motivated him as president to enact sweeping health care reforms based, ironically, upon Mitt Romney's Massachusetts' popular health legislation. Romney promises to abolish this program for all Americans.
Soon America will pick one father's son for the presidency. Which will it be?
Paul R. Dunn lives in Pinehurst and can be reached at pauland firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story