There is an old saying that the apple doesn't roll far from the tree, but in the case of George Romney's son Mitt it has rolled all the way into the next county.
I was 21 and voting for the first time when George Romney sought the Republican presidential nomination. He had gotten rich as chairman and CEO of American Motors while his son got rich as CEO of Bain Capital.
The father was ruggedly handsome and the son ain't bad looking either, but there the similarities end. This is because George Romney's greatest legacy was what one historian calls "his shocking authenticity" and courage in sticking to his positions "that was extraordinary", as well as admitting when he was wrong and being willing to change his mind.
Mitt Romney, of course, has no courage of convictions because he has changed his mind, sometimes several times, on every major policy issue, notably the health-care reform plan that was the hallmark of his only successful run for office as governor of Massachusetts.
In 1964, George Romney was in his second year as Michigan governor when he received a letter from a member of the top Mormon governing body reminding him of the teaching of the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith that "the Lord had placed the curse upon the Negro" and urged him to drop his support for the 1964 Civil Rights Bill lest God strike him dead for his apostasy.
In response, Romney redoubled his commitment and led a march the following year in downtown Detroit in solidarity with Martin Luther King for voting rights in Selma, Alabama.
In 1966, the Republican Party staked its electoral fortunes on opposing open housing for blacks. Romney begged party leaders not to do so but they refused. Then in 1968, when race riots racked Detroit following King's assassination while he was still governor, he warned that too tough a crackdown on law and order would result in "our system would become little better than a police state."
But my most favorite George Romney moment concerned the Vietnam War.
He supported the war after returning from a trip there in 1965. Then, after a second trip in 1967, he courageously began to criticize it. When a television interviewer asked, "Isn’t your position a bit inconsistent with what it was, and what do you propose we do now?"
Romney thought about that for a moment and then calmly responded: "When I came back from Vietnam in 1965, I just had the greatest brainwashing anybody can get when you go over to Vietnam" and said prophetically staying in Vietnam would be a disaster.
The remark destroyed his political career but cemented him as a man of courage and conviction for all time.