August 11, 2007

The Fighting Romneys

Ragbrai In Iowa - Prior To Race, 7-26-07 (2).Jpg

by John Lucaites

A few weeks ago, The BAG suggested I take a look at the Romney campaign.  And I did.  And I struggled.

And then this past week in Bettendorf, Iowa, the “family values” candidate who looks like Ward Cleaver was asked whether any of his five sons had served in the military or were planning on enlisting to fight the “war on terror.”  His response was that his sons had “decided” not to because they had other career priorities (rather like Dick Cheney’s response to why he didn’t serve in Vietnam).

There is a degree of hypocrisy to this position, of course, particularly for a presidential candidate who is relatively supportive of the President’s “surge” strategy.  But then again, calling politicians hypocrites is like shooting fish in a barrel.  Not because they are inherently different than anyone else in this regard – in most cases they aren’t – but because they are constantly in the public eye, scrutinized as if they were supposed to be perfectly consistent in thought and deed.  Who among us would want to be judged to that standard all of the time?

But Romney did not stop there.

He continued: …[O]ne of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping to get me elected, because they think I’d be a great president.  My son, Josh, bought the family Winnebago and has visited 99 counties [in Iowa], most of them with his three kids and his wife.”

Read that last sentence again, then look at the photograph above, taken from the “Five Brothers’ Website.”  It is of three of the five Romney brothers after having completed an annual bicycle race across the state of Iowa.

Now look at this photograph:


It is of five brothers from the town of Waterloo, Iowa.  They were known as the “Fighting Sullivans.”  All five of them died on the same day during WWII when the ship they served on suffered a torpedo attack off of the Solomon Islands.

Choosing not to serve in the military because of career priorities is one thing.  Riding around the countryside in a political “campaign” and “strategizing” photo ops while out of harm’s way would seem to be something different altogether.  Even the allusion that they are similar is an obscenity.

John Louis Lucaites is Professor of Rhetoric and Public Culture in the department of communication and culture at Indiana University. John, along with Robert Hariman, are co-authors of the newly released No Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracy, and the blog No Caption Needed.

(image 1: image 2:

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