Romney Behind Closed Doors

You’ve got to love the people you serve. 

It’s a saying I’ve heard time and again within the precincts of Mormonism.

You’ve got to love the people you serve. At least in the abstract. 

But it’s hard to watch Mitt Romney’s leaked Florida fundraiser footage without feeling that the presidential candidate harbors a disdain bordering on contemptuousness for millions of Americans he is presumably running to serve.

Conservative commentators like David Brooks and William Kristol have already taken Romney to task for skewing facts about who pays taxes—just about everyone besides the elderly and the very poor. And for his characterizations of the beneficiaries of government programs ranging from Social Security to WIC to Medicaid to Veterans’ as careless and self-pitying. And for the incredibly divisive way he went about addressing the difficult budgetary issue of government entitlement programs. For if ever there was an issue that needed a sense of shared responsibility and sacrifice, entitlement spending is it.

Some of his most intrepid observers on the campaign trail also pointed out that the leaked footage revealed a very different Romney than the one they’re used to seeing on the stump. His private audience with wealthy donors showed him to be confident, smooth, in command of the room. In public, he’s stiff and “sing-songy.” He does anthems and applause lines. When challenged, he bristles.

We’ve tried to decode that Romney public prickliness here at RD. We thought it might be wonkiness, or personality flaw, or class privilege, or just plain weariness.

But now it’s hard to shake the sense he doesn’t like us very much. Us being the public. The ones he is presumably running to serve.

So, let’s say it again: anyone who thinks Mormonism will play some unusual or outsized behind-the-scenes influence on Romney’s campaign need only roll the Boca Raton fundraising dinner video.

You’ve got to love the people you serve. At least in the abstract.

And that love—Romney saves it for the donors behind closed doors.

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Joanna Brooks is the author of The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith (Free Press / Simon & Schuster, 2012) and a senior correspondent for Religion Dispatches.