Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Real Romney 3: The Vietnam War

In my latest reading of The Real Romney, by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, a lot of ground was covered: Mitt Romney's experiences as a Mormon missionary in France; Ann's dating of someone who reminded her of Mitt while Mitt was away; the conversion of some of Ann's family to Mormonism; and Mitt Romney's survival of a tragic automobile accident, which changed his perspective on life.  What I want to do in this post, however, is focus on Mitt Romney and the Vietnam War.

I said yesterday that Mitt Romney had problems with campus radicalism when he was at Stanford.  Mitt left Stanford to become a Mormon missionary in France, right when campus radicalism was heating up.  David Harris, a prominent anti-war activist at Stanford whom I mentioned yesterday, wondered if Romney would have swung to the left had he stayed at Stanford, for Harris said that "There were plenty of people who started to the right of Mitt Romney who ended up as full-scale hippies" (Harris' words).

At first, Mitt was a supporter of the Vietnam War, and he defended it in France when French people challenged him about it.  But Mitt changed his mind about the war when his father, George, changed his mind.  George sunk his race for the Presidency when he said in an interview that he had been brainwashed by generals and diplomats to support the Vietnam War, for that made him look susceptible rather than strong.  But Mitt agreed with his father.  This article at the Daily Kos, however, disputes that Mitt became a total dove, for Mitt believed that Nixon's bombing of Cambodia was sincere.

Although Romney retreated somewhat from his support for the Vietnam War, he still preferred the more conservative atmosphere that he encountered as a student of Brigham Young University to the counterculture and campus radicalism at Stanford.  Kranish and Helman say on pages 89-90 that BYU "prohibited many rock-and-roll bands, liberal speakers and student organizations, and even long hair on male students."  They continue: "During Romney's time at the school, the president of the university enlisted students to spy on professors deemed to be liberals.  Students who displayed peace signs were told to take them down."

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