The Arrogance of Mitt

It’s not clear exactly what Craig was referring to when he spoke in the beginning of “that message” being lost, but it seems from this film that it amounts primarily to the promise of near perfection, and capable management. Nothing is ever spelled out, but the Romneys clearly see themselves as the answer, the ideal representatives of the way America ought to be, the correct way to live, to worship, to be. They bring the gift of traditional family, traditional faith, and lower taxes. They bring us Mitt.

The hurt reaction to his defeat is the response of a family whose generous gift has just been rudely cast aside. They are disbelieving. There is an ever-present patina of sweetness and grace—they are, after all, on camera—but beneath it is a deep and unmistakable arrogance. How could the body politic be so ungrateful, so misguided? How could they not see? Nowhere in the stunned hotel room does anyone even fleetingly consider that there might have been something lacking in Mitt, in them, or in their vaguely defined vision for the country. Nowhere is the thought that Barack Obama ran a better campaign, that his unique personal history, his vision for America, was somehow more in tune with the 21st century electorate, or that the American people had made even a defensible choice. No. This is not just a rejection of Mitt, but a disastrous national blunder.

One of Mitt’s advisers suggests that his concession speech ought to be more “pastoral” than political, that it was a time to soothe his disappointed supporters.

“To soothe is not my inclination,” says Mitt, who sees Obama as a certain disaster. “This is really serious, guys. This is really serious. I cannot believe that he is an aberration in the country. This is following the path of every other great nation, which is we’re following greater government, tax the rich people, promise more stuff to everybody, borrow until you go over a cliff. We have a very high risk of reaching the tipping point sometime in the next five years.” He frowns and shrugs.

He was more gracious in the speech itself, congratulating the president, and leaving out the prophecy of doom.

The film ends with Mitt and Ann saying goodbye to their Secret Service entourage and carrying their own luggage back into their home. They still have their handsome and loving family, their wealth, but judging by the portrait in this film, not much else. Mitt flops into his armchair without even removing his jacket, and stares out at the vista from his living room. I felt a little bit sorry for him, but relieved for America.

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Mark Bowden is an Atlantic national correspondent. His most recent book is The Finish: The Killing of Osama bin Laden. More

Mark BowdenMark Bowden is a national correspondent for The Atlantic, and a best-selling author. His book Black Hawk Down, a finalist for the National Book Award, was the basis of the film of the same name. His book Killing Pablo won the Overseas Press Club's 2001 Cornelius Ryan Award as the book of the year. Among his other books are Guests of the Ayatollah, an account of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, which was listed by Newsweek as one of "The 50 Books for Our Times." His most recent books are The Best Game Ever, the story of the 1958 NFL championship game, and Worm, which tells the story of the Conficker computer worm, based on the article "The Enemy Within," published in this magazine.

Mark has received The Abraham Lincoln Literary Award and the International Thriller Writers' True Thriller Award for lifetime achievement, and served as a judge for the National Book Awards in 2005. He is a 1973 graduate of Loyola University Maryland, where he also taught from 2001-2010. A reporter and columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer for more than 30 years, Bowden is now an adjunct professor at The University of Delaware and lives in Oxford, Pennsylvania. He is married with five children and two granddaughters.

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