Newsweek Magazine wants us to think so. Its latest cover blares: “Romney: The Wimp Factor — Is He Just Too Insecure To Be President?”
Along with the rest of the politically hyper-conscious, I’ve been observing Mitt Romney for years. I’ve also interviewed him one-on-one and read a comprehensive biography of the man by two Boston Globe writers. There is much to like about the Romney, but he also has some shortcomings. Insecurity, I’m reasonably certain, is not one of them.
Romney has the two qualities that minimize insecurity: immense confidence in his ability and rootedness in faith. President Obama, by the way, also has these qualities, and they more than trump the forces in his life — an unstable family and identity issues — that might have made him insecure. Romney’s faith is religious; Obama’s is ideological.
But back to Romney. His self-confidence caused him to leave the secure world of business consulting for the unstable world of investing in start-ups and companies that needed to be turned around. After he succeeded wildly in that ultra-risky world, he risked his reputation to attempt to save the 2002 Winter Olympics.
But is Romney comfortable in his own skin? We can never know this for sure about anyone, but Romney sure seems to be. Indeed, he may be comfortable to a fault. His conspicuous consumption — the new fancy new home with the car elevator, etc. — during the campaign tells me that Romney is not the least bit uncomfortable with about his massive wealth; nor should he be. But politically it may have been shrewder to defer this consumption.
I was unhappy when Romney called for the Obama campaign to apologize for suggesting he was a felon. One doesn’t ask thugs to apologize and the approach should be the same when it comes to their political equivalent. But this isn’t evidence of Romney’s insecurity or wimpishness. Romney has a gentleman’s upbringing, so he sometimes defaults to speaking as a gentleman would. George H.W. Bush had the same tendency and, in fact, Newsweek suggested in 1987 that he was a wimp.
But you’re not wimp if you punch back. Michael Dukakis found that Bush could brawl and Romney, though he had difficulty coping with John McCain, is brawling pretty well this season. He laid the wood on Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum when it counted, and now has Obama spending ad money whining that his anti-business remarks have been taken out of context.
Romney’s delivery can be a bit hesitant at times. But he’s improved enormously in this respect. He’ll never match Obama’s teleprompter-aided cadences, but that doesn’t mean he’s insecure.
Over the weekend, I watched (courtesy of C-SPAN) Romney’s 2002 appearance before the National Press Club to discuss the Winter Olympics. Romney’s performance was superb. In answering questions, he displayed fluency, commanding knowledge, and even humor.
I don’t expect him to produce this sort of performance during the campaign. At the Press Club, he wasn’t running for office and thus could revel in the good will of the assembled liberal journalists who were appreciative of his efforts on behalf of the Olympics. And that subject was one over which he had complete command.
These days, Romney realizes that, like any credible Republican presidential candidate, he’s always one statement away from a media assault. This reality, and Romney’s plausible sense that the election is his to lose, engenders caution. But the caution stems from reasonable calculation, not insecurity.
Candidate Romney will never be as confident as CEO Romney. But if elected president Romney, though remaining a candidate, will resume his place as CEO.