Mitt Romney's 'Peculiar Anger' Seems Vastly Overstated And Overanalyzed

Having read Alec MacGillis' take on the "peculiar anger of Mitt Romney" in the New Republic, I can't help but note that the most peculiar thing about it is that there don't seem to be compelling examples of either "anger" or "peculiarity." This assessment isn't exactly unique to me, either. Kevin Drum writes: "There's a lot of theorizing about where Romney's anger comes from, but there's not much evidence of this supposed anger in the first place." But, hey, let's consider the examples of Romney's "anger" cited in the New Republic piece.

There was that time at the debate where Rick Perry kept interrupting him.

MacGillis says "Romney's temperature shot skyward," he "barked" at Perry and "reached out and condescendingly put his hand on Perry's shoulder." I guess? Seems to me that Romney was complaining about Perry talking over his assigned response time, and when Perry finally shut his trap, Romney backed off and calmly zinged him with "Rick's had a tough couple of debates," and then it was Perry who looked like he was leashing his emotions.

Brian Lees, the former GOP leader in the Massachusetts State Senate says Romney's not a "stoic."

But few people are! Per Lees: "He got very animated about lots of things, impassioned, and sometimes angry." Is that outside the relatively normal parameters of standard human emotion?

He sometimes got cross with his kids.

As fathers are wont to do, trust me. His kids called Mitt's occasional bursts "Mitt-frontations," which is not a name you give something that's particularly scarring.

He once got in trouble at a boat launch in Massachusetts.

Romney was advised not to launch his motorboat, because "the boat's registration number was painted over" and launching it into Lake Cochituate would incur a $50 fine. Romney said, whatever, I'll pay the fine. He was handcuffed by a park ranger and "booked for disorderly conduct." Romney's defense was that he was not being disorderly. And indeed, it sure sounds like he wasn't!

"It was not the last time Romney would clash with a law enforcement official."

That's how MacGillis begins an account of how Romney, during a traffic tie-up at the 2002 Olympics, jumped out and started trying to direct traffic "over the objections of a sheriff's deputy." He also yelled at some kid, and may have even used the "F-word." This is hotly disputed, apparently -- whether or not a grown man used a curse word, like the vast majority of adults in America.

"Though the incident in Salt Lake City and the 1981 arrest at Lake Cochituate are the most extreme indications that Romney might have a temper, there are, scattered in his past, a handful of other occasions on which his anger seems to have flared."

Oh, well, if these are the most extreme examples, I'm afraid this thesis (Mitt Romney has "peculiar anger") is not off to a good start! But let's fill the rest of them out.

  • He once got "impassioned" about the Massachusetts GOP's failure to win seats in an election.
  • He got mad at a talk radio host.
  • He repeatedly failed to get mad at people who disparaged his religion.
  • He calmly took abuse from two students at The Cranbrook School who ganged up on him at a student government meeting.
  • He gets "agitated" sometimes when people are "screaming or using profanity or not being a nice person, being abusive or obstinate in a kind of nasty way." (It's somehow abnormal now for these behaviors to cause agitation.)

And then there is this whole confrontation that happened on an Air Canada flight last February between Romney and Skyler "Sky Blu" Gordy ("of the party-rock duo LMFAO") that occurred when Gordy reclined his seat before takeoff and Romney asked him to restore his seat in the upright position. This led to a huge fooferaw, all of which has been documented by the Wall Street Journal. There are two sides to the story, but I tend to actually favor Romney's version, because Skyler Gordy's "party rock" is an unforgivable stain on his father Berry Gordy's otherwise superlative musical legacy.

So, that's the case for Romney's "peculiar anger": he hates people who scream, he gets impassioned, he had two exceedingly minor brushes with law enforcement officials, he may have used a curse word at some point in his life, and he courageously took a stand against "party rock" while many good men sat back, did nothing, and allowed that evil to flourish.

And he hates being interrupted, which we know from some of his appearances on the trail. Now, whether or not someone "loses their shit" is sort of in the eye of the beholder. Romney clearly dislikes being heckled, but it's plain that his response -- strained politeness -- isn't quite at the "peculiar" level of say, Joe Walsh, who frankly has a hard time coping with life.

You may beg to differ, but I don't find any of these instances to be compelling examples of a "peculiar anger." Frankly, I don't think MacGillis does either, as most of the heavy lifting being done in this piece comes in the form of paragraph after paragraph of armchair psychoanalysts straight up speculating on what might be going on inside the dark recesses of the mind of the first ever American to ever get upset about a traffic jam.

There is nothing particularly special about this form of political analysis. As Ben Smith points out, the New Republic wrote the same piece about Mike Huckabee four years ago. What do Hillary Clinton's tears really mean? What can we divine of Al Gore's domestic policy agenda from the fact that he had a "daredevil streak" when he was fourteen years old? Nobody even cared, until your political scribes came along to make a big deal about it. Of all the methods that political writers use to pointlessly mystify the political process, the amateur therapist act is probably the most pointless. And in the history of political journalism, none of this dumb speculation into the psychology of politicians, undertaken universally by non-board certified nobodies, has ever amounted to a hill of beans.

At this very moment, if you go to read MacGillis' lame piece on Mitt Romney's non-existent seething anger, you'll likely see a link at the top of the page for another piece, penned by Justin Frank, titled, "The Psychological Foundation of Obama's Political Problems." What, is the practical foundation of Obama's political problems -- the ongoing economic crisis that's grinding thousands of ordinary Americans to a wet pulp -- not compelling enough to write about? Jesus wept.

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