Helping a man down
Mitt Romney's campaign to become the Republican Party candidate who will run against Barack Obama in November has run into a few difficulties. So I've decided to add my two cents to his problems.
This might seem like an unfair thing to do, to kick a man when he is down. But another theory says that the kindest thing you can do to someone who is falling is to help them to get to the bottom as quickly as possible. Then they can start to rise again.
Since the start of the year, Romney has been the favourite to win the Republican nomination. But his problem is that he can't enthuse supporters: he comes across as a one-dimensional bureaucrat who lacks passion. That's why many Republicans still prefer "ABR" as their candidate: Anyone But Romney.
Rick Santorum, one of Romney's main opponents, won the recent primaries in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri. He is also leading in the polls for the next contest, in Romney's home state of Michigan on 28 February. Suddenly, Romney's back is up against the wall and he has started attacking Santorum.
What better time then to report the short conversation that I had with Romney in Iowa at the end of 2011, just before the state's "caucus", its version of a primary.
I went to hear Romney speak at a hotel in Davenport, a city at the eastern end of the state, where the Mississippi River forms the border with Illinois. He seemed like a nice enough guy: good looking, moderately funny, but, well, uninspiring.
During this and other speeches, Romney dished out lots of anti-European rhetoric. A typical comment was: "We don't want European-style policies here in the US. Europe doesn't even work in Europe".
After the speech, I was able to talk to Romney briefly. I asked him why he was so anti-European. (Ironically, right-wing Republicans regard him as suspiciously European because he speaks French.) I told him that "life's not that bad in Europe, you know", and pointed out that "in Sweden, for example, the standard of living is very high".
I don't know why I chose Sweden. Probably because the government plays a big role there, something US Republicans regard as socialism, if not marxism. (Actually, they regard almost anything a government does as socialism.)
"Iowa, Ohio, Idaho, Illinois, Sweden, Norway — who cares?"
Romney's response to my comment about Sweden was instant: "Yeah, well, life's pretty good when you've got oil". I was dumbstruck.
Sweden, Norway...these Nordic countries are all the same aren't they, Mr Would-Be President? (For the record, one key difference is that Sweden's has virtually no oil; Norway has lots of the stuff.)
To be fair, most Europeans wouldn't know the difference between Iowa, Idaho, Illinois and Ohio. But then again most Europeans aren't trying to become the "leader of the free world".
Anyway, Mitt, it's your 65th birthday on 12 March. So, what would you like as a present from me: an atlas, an encyclopedia or a tour of Europe? I'm at your service, Sir. Really, I'm only trying to help you.