A PERFECT DOLL
MAUREEN DOWD| NYT NEWS SERVICE
HE took a rare personal interest in one of his investments: the Lifelike Company, which produced My Twinn dolls, fashioned to look like the little girls who owned them.
As Mark Maremont reported in The Wall Street Journal on Monday, Romney invested $2.1 million in 1996 for a stake in the company; the idea was brought to him by a Lifelike partner who was a friend from Brigham Young University and Harvard Business School.
Romney, who accuses President Obama of ‘crony capitalism’ on the Solyndra deal, introduced his brother-in-law to Lifelike officials, who dutifully hired the relative and promoted him to vice president with an annual salary of $100,000.
Romney’s Bain colleagues, according to The Journal, were dubious from the start and, indeed, the brother-in-law was fired and the company failed, despite a personal loan from Romney.
But I’m beginning to suspect that before the factory shut down, Mitt requested his own customized doll.
He has clearly brought a My Twinn on the trail a plastic replica of a candidate who’s often described as a plastic replica: white teeth, gelled hair, windowpane shirt, Tommy Bahama jeans.
(“I wonít vote for a Ken doll,” a Bradford, N.H., resident, Jason Reid, adamantly told me at the Bradford Market the other night.) Romney may have been a pampered prince of Detroit and a leveraged buyout king of Boston, the elite of the elite in the Mormon Church, in the financial world and in the political world.
But Mitt’s My Twinn has a hardscrabble background, struggling from the bottom up, fearing pink slips, sweating losing jobs and somehow, late in life, letting himself get talked into a presidential run.
Romney may have been a Wall Street predator, looter and vulture gnawing at the carcasses of companies and plotting a White House bid in diapers to finish what his dad started, as his Republican rivals have portrayed him. “Make a profit,” a younger Romney laughingly says in the attack film financed by supporters of Newt Gingrich.
“That’s what it’s all about, right?” But Mitt’s My Twinn is Just Like You.
Romney may be a shape-shifting opportunist full of ‘pious baloney,’ as Gingrich, a crazed Chuckie doll, asserts.
But Mitt’s My Twinn is humble, sincere and salt of the earth.
With many worried that America is in decline, a prospective race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is being caricatured here as ‘Saul Alinsky versus Gordon Gekko,’ as Don Baer, a former senior Clinton White House adviser, put it.
And the ones painting Romney as a ruthless Gekko, complete with a 1980s-era slicked-back mane, are Republicans.
Romney had planned to campaign against Obama in the fall by defending free enterprise. But now he finds himself having to do it in the Republican nominating contests.
His GOP rivals are not only trashing President Obama as a socialist, they’ve become socialists themselves in a last desperate and vain attempt to bring down the frontrunner, whose less-than-scintillating persona inspired one Democrat to note about Republican voters: ‘The dog wonít eat the dog food.’ Romney’s competitors have been running around New Hampshire and South Carolina trashing Romney for doing what Republicans do: throwing people out of work and making money.
To the giddy delight of Democrats, Romney’s rivals here have softened him up for Obama by making the case that Bain is the symbol of the central problem with the American economy: corporate profits are sky-high while companies aren’t hiring much.
Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, the authors of a new biography, ‘The Real Romney,’ tell this story: During the 1968 Republican primary, after George Romney made his notorious remark about getting ‘the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get’ on Vietnam, The Detroit News, ordinarily a supporter, blasted his ‘blurt and retreat habits’ and urged him to get out of the race.
Although Mitt has studied his dad’s mistakes in that race carefully, he seems to be inexorably repeating some of them.
He won Tuesday night, denouncing his rivals’ ‘bitter politics of envy,’ but he had a ‘blurt and retreat’ week in New Hampshire that didn’t augur well for the fall.
Though he was referring to getting rid of insurance companies that were not providing adequate care, his ‘I like to be able to fire people who provide services to me’ crack was a chuckleheaded move that played into the hands of foes.
And his inept attempts to paint himself as an Average Joe who somehow backed into the presidential arena earned him relentless mocking.
But, as the authors of ‘The Real Romney’ report, Mitt once told a church friend that Romneys were built to swim upstream. He was never a great natural tennis player, the authors wrote, but he compensated with strategic thinking and gamesmanship. As a friend of Mitt’s put it: ‘His strategy is simply to hit the ball back one more time than you do.’