The working title on Romney
MAYBE IT was the working title: “W. Mitt Romney: The Heart of the ‘Tin Man.’ ’’
Whatever the reason, the politician who inspired the Wizard of Oz analogy decided not to cooperate with R.B. Scott, the fellow Mormon and distant cousin who was researching a book about him.
The book, due for release this fall, now goes by a much less provocative name: “Mitt Romney: An Inside Look at the Man and His Politics.’’
According to a press release from Globe Pequot Press, Scott “answers the question everyone is asking: ‘Can a flip-flopping Mormon really win his party’s nomination and then upset the popular, if now struggling incumbent president, Barack Obama?’ ’’
The author describes his work as “balanced.’’ But according to Scott, Team Romney operatives Eric Fehrnstrom and Beth Myers decided it was not balanced enough. During a meeting this summer to determine if Romney would be interviewed for the book, Fehrnstrom and Myers left Scott waiting at the Boston campaign headquarters, where a document outlining Romney’s primary strategy sat within tantalizing reach on Myers’s desk. Then, they told him the Republican presidential candidate wouldn’t talk to him. (Scott said he didn’t peek at the campaign roadmap.)
Scott was born in Salt Lake City and spent time as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New England. He’s a longtime journalist who worked during his early years at The Salt Lake Tribune and The Deseret News, before moving on to Time Inc. In the lead-up to Romney’s 2008 presidential run, Scott was one of the first to chronicle Romney’s shifting positions on abortion, gay rights, guns, the morning-after pill, stem cell research, and casino gambling.
With the economy dominating today’s political debate, those flip-flops are no longer generating much interest. But if it gets any altitude, Scott’s book could put them back in the spotlight, against the larger backdrop of Romney’s religion.
Scott said his interest in the Romney family started with Romney’s father, George, whom he interviewed early in his career. He’s also intrigued by the intersection of their family history. According to Scott, he and Romney “share the same great-great-grandfather, but in a setup that is uniquely Mormon, have different great-great-grandmothers.’’
Over the years, Scott knew Romney intimately in his role as church leader. According to Scott, when Romney called him for advice while planning a run against the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, he told him Mormonism would be “the issue.’’
Romney’s religion was an undercurrent in 2008, forcing the candidate to address it in a major speech. Doesn’t pulling back the curtain on it now deliberately reinvigorate religion as a factor in Romney’s 2012 presidential quest?
“Interesting question,’’ Scott replied. “It wasn’t part of my calculus, although it is a subject I know well. I hope it doesn’t become an issue. That said, I hope the book provides some candid insights into how the Mormon church and culture work.’’
Scott said no one can understand the full Romney unless “you understand how Mormonism and the roles he played within the church defined him and his family. If Romney were willing to talk candidly about the subject, I think he would say the same thing.’’ Romney didn’t discuss anything with Scott, candidly or otherwise.
It’s hard to tell from talking to Scott just how critical his book will be. He said that as a Massachusetts resident, he might vote for Romney, since there probably won’t be enough Romney supporters to change the electoral vote outcome in this Obama-friendly state.
He also said that no one he met while researching the book suggests Romney “would ever win the Mr. Congeniality prize. Along those lines, I suppose it can’t hurt if Americans conclude they could live with a president they don’t like provided that he is competent, committed, and moral.’’
Yet, Scott also questions Romney’s truthfulness on matters as trivial and basic as his given name: Willard Mitt - or is it Milton? - Romney.
About that working title: Scott said he got the idea while researching his book. He pulled it from a quote from a Boston businessman who was conveying an unflattering view of Romney. But in the legendary “Oz’’ movie, the Tin Man who so desperately wanted a heart turned out to have a big one. If only Romney could have that script.
Joan Vennochi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.