Everyone is watching the candidacy of Mitt Romney for the GOP Presidential nomination. Both Rudy Giuliani and John McCain have stumbled in the last few days, so it could be that Mitt will catch some mo. As we contemplated the tragic fall of Lyndon Johnson the other day, I couldn't help recalling that the Vietnam war ruined Mitt's dad, too.
George Romney was an automobile executive, a devotee of public service and a three-time Republican governor of Michigan. He was a good-government kind of Republican, fond of low taxes and a good business climate, but also a friend of civil rights and other progressive initiatives. He was considered a front-runner for the Presidency on the GOP ticket in l968, running ahead even of Richard Nixon, the eventual nominee and winner. That is, until he gave an interview in late l967 or early l968, I can't remember which, in which Romney came out against the Vietnam war, declaring he had been "brainwashed" during a l965 fact-finding mission in Vietnam. Some people took offense at what they believed was his insensitivity, in view of the ordeal of prisoners-of-war being paraded on TV. Other people thought he had a screw loose--how could a reasonable, balanced person have been "brainwashed?" It went over, as they say, like a pregnant pole vaulter...it really ruined his reputation and sank his campaign. It was too bad, because George Romney was fundamentally a good guy.
It is too early to tell how, or if, the Iraq war will affect the younger Romney. But his father's experience is just another example of how destructive the Vietnam war was--it ruined everyone it touched.