We’re feeling vulnerable and surly these days in western Massachusetts, as the leaves turn yellow, the Red Sox fade, and winter looms. Our corridor of New England along the Connecticut River endured, during the summer months, a ruinous tornado in Springfield, an earthquake, of all things, and Hurricane Irene, which knocked out roads and historic covered bridges in our hill towns and across neighboring Vermont, and left a lot of people homeless and adrift. It’s our Katrina moment, we sometimes think, with slightly grandiose self-pity, as Republicans in Congress demand budget cuts if FEMA is to pay for disaster relief in the blue states.
We don’t see much of Mitt Romney, our governor from 2003 to 2007, in these troubled times. Then again, we never did. Our most indelible memories are of Mitt leaving—“the sight of Mitt’s back,” as a friend of mine put it, as he went off to lay the groundwork for yet another campaign. Mitt ran for the Senate against Ted Kennedy in 1994, lost, and left the state to salvage the Salt Lake City Olympics. When he returned to run for governor in 2002, he had to go to court to prove that he sort of lived in Belmont, outside Boston. Then, after a couple of years in the state house, he left again to campaign for the presidency, spending two thirds of his time out of state in 2006. Mitt has sold his house in Belmont and now lives in the important primary state of New Hampshire (at his estate on Lake Winnipesaukee) or San Diego or maybe Utah—anywhere but Massachusetts.
In the Republican debates, Mitt pretends that his ties to Massachusetts are tenuous. When Rick Perry tries to Pin the Dukakis on Romney (“Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt”), Romney lamely claims that George W. Bush created more jobs in Texas than Perry. Although Mitt never talks about his own years at Harvard (after graduating from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, he took joint degrees from the Harvard Law School and the Business School), he accuses Obama of hanging out in the “Harvard faculty lounge.” Mitt’s greatest achievement as governor, the Massachusetts health care system (which passed with Ted Kennedy’s support and two dissenting votes in the state legislature), is now his greatest liability among Republicans, who see it as a stalking horse for “Obamacare.” Mitt now claims it was right for our quirky state but not for the nation. He has yet to explain why.
When Mitt trumpets his experience in American business, he rarely mentions that Bain & Company, the consulting and investment conglomerate in which he amassed his $200 million fortune, is a Boston firm. I was attending graduate school in the Boston area in 1977 when most…
This is exclusive content for subscribers only.
Get unlimited access to The New York Review for just $1 an issue!
Continue reading this article, and thousands more from our archive, for the low introductory rate of just $1 an issue. Choose a Print, Digital, or All Access subscription.