I worked with Mitt Romney, in my first job out of college at Bain & Company in late 1984. My desk was right down the hall from the Bain Capital unit, so I was chosen to be the backup for the Bain Capital administrative assistant. I covered for her when she was out for the day or on vacation.
The other secretaries and I referred to the Bain Capital guys as the Stepford Guys, or the robots, or the Ken dolls. All eight of them were almost eerily similar in demeanor: stiff, remote and unapproachable. Most of them were young, so it was likely they were emulating their fearless leader – Mitt Romney.
I never saw Mitt lose his temper, act unprofessionally or be a real bastard the way some other high level Bainies could be. Trust me, working for a bunch of highly educated, highly paid, driven executives could be a real bitch if you were support staff. The only reason that I enjoyed my time there was because my work ethic and output were superior, so consultants wanted to be on my good side. If they needed a secretary to work overtime to get a presentation out the door on time, I was always the first choice. Consultants would often come to my desk with Frusen Gladje ice cream, chocolate and Red Sox tickets as inducement.
But although Mitt wasn’t unpleasant in any way to work with, he was so difficult to connect with, it was almost creepy. When Romney first started running for president, my husband asked me what he was like. I promptly replied with the first thing that popped into my mind: “There’s no there there.” Gertrude Stein originally said that about a place, but in this case it seemed to describe a person perfectly.
During my time at Bain, I attended an intimate (six people) dinner party at a Bainie’s condo that included Romney and his wife. Aside from the host and his wife and my date and I, Mitt and Ann were the only other attendees. Now, I realize that even at a private gathering, he was still essentially at work. Most people are wary of relaxing too much with co-workers, no matter what the venue. But when we left the dinner, my friend and I marveled at how detached Mitt had been all evening. We hadn’t been expecting him to get drunk and dance on the table, obviously, but his complete lack of connection during the evening made us uncomfortable.
What was interesting to me especially was that his wife Ann’s behavior was identical to his. I know that Romney family friends try to portray her as Mitt’s softer side, but I never saw any softness or warmth in her.
The Mitt Romney we saw in the beginning of the campaign – aloof, stiff, completely out of touch – that’s the real Romney. The guy we’ve seen recently – the jovial, more likeable man of the people - is a mask, developed and rehearsed to get him elected president.
I don’t think he’s a bad person. But I don’t see how anyone so divorced from other people can do a good job as President of the United States. Cold, detached and dispassionate may (arguably) be good qualities for a businessman, but very scary in the leader of the free world, who holds people’s lives in his hands.