Hardball | January 23, 2012
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL . Mitt Romney has been running for president now for years, but with his resistance to get into the details of his financial success, his religion and his personal life, in many ways, he's still unknowable. So, just who is this man? And why is he running for president? That's a darn good question. Michael Kranish and Scott Helman are " Boston Globe " reporters, have co-authored of him, "The Real Romney ," that tries to unlock that mystery of Mitt Romney . Welcome. Michael , I guess, I want to read something from your book. It's something that was said following his defeat to Ted Kennedy back in 1994 . There was a looming question there, over a dinner one night after that race, a Romney fellow has this to say to him, it was something that was really eating at him, that one couldn't sum up in a sentence why he had run. Quote, "After all the weeks and months of that campaign, if you ask, why did Mitt Romney run for U.S. Senate and what did he stand for? Most people had no clue. Although the Republican recalled that Romney was saying, quote, 'We didn't do a good job of getting the message across.'" Well, what is the message, Michael ? Why is he running? Does he know?
MICHAL KRANISH, BOSTON GLOBE: Well, Chris , even in 2008 , after that campaign, there's a chapter of the book and the conclusion of that chapter has Mitt saying the sort of the same thing, that he didn't do a good job getting his message out. And running for president, clearly Romney's message is that he believes a business-centered country that has fewer regulations. That that is what he believes in. He believes government should be stripped away to some degree. That's why he's running from his point of view. He's also running to fulfill a legacy. If you talk to his friends and family, they will tell you how strongly he believes he needs to pick up where his father failed back in 1968 , when his campaign was pretty much exploded, when George Romney said that he had been brainwashed by the generals in Vietnam . And Mitt Romney feels a great sense of obligation to see that through and has long seen this as his path. But as you mentioned, he's often looked ahead to see how do I get to where I can win? And some people said that he lacks perhaps showing a core conviction and then will get to where he wants to be.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go back to Scott on this. It seems like -- I've just read " The Economist " this week. It said that Romney lacks conviction, passion and instinct. That's sort of the ball game, isn't it politics? If you don't have passion, you don't have conviction, you don't have instinct, is that a fair shot? I mean, it doesn't sound like he has any of the tickets.
SCOTT HELMAN, BOSTON GLOBE: Yes. I mean, I think it's a fair criticism and it's something he's faced throughout, I mean, going back to the Kennedy race in '94. He had a completely different political definition then as you know than he does today. And I think he has moved around a lot. And I think that goes to the heart of why people don't trust him. As one Republican said during that Kennedy race, his main cause appeared to be himself. He never got beyond that and gave a sort of race on death row for his campaign. You are seeing the same thing now.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about this whole question of money. Michael , he seems to be very nervous, almost giddily weird when the issue of his money comes up. He has that funny laugh he gets in to. He says maybe I'll release these. He's finally getting around apparently to releasing his tax returns for 2010 and an estimate for 2011 tomorrow. But he has been so weird about it. What is it about him and his wealth?
KRANISH: Well, you know, this is an issue again that goes back 18 years, back in the Kennedy race that we referred to. He challenged Ted Kennedy to release his tax returns and he said, what have you got to return? Release your returns. And Kennedy did not. Romney said, if you'll show yours, I'll show mine -- and neither did release their returns. It's an issue that he's been dealing with for many years. And you mentioned the moment where he said in that debate "maybe" in response to whether he'd release his returns.
KRANISH: That's pretty much the last word you'd want to use if people have questions about where are your core convictions. You want to show absolute certainty. And he said yesterday that this was a mistake and now will release a year of returns and an estimate of last year. It won't answer all the questions, obviously, when he was at Bain Capital . That goes way back '84 to '99. If we don't see those tax returns , then there will still be questions about that. If he is the nominee in the general election, you can be sure the Democrats will say what about those tax returns when you were at Bain Capital ?
MATTHEWS: Yes. Scott , is there something in his background, maybe not his LDS religion, but something in his upbringing that would never allow him to be anti-establishment? To never even tonight on the debate stage, to never try to -- Newt Gingrich for kind of being crazy kind of bring the house down guy. He seems like he can't be anti-establishment, Mitt Romney .
HELMAN: No, I think that's right. I mean, he's always been an institutionalist. One of the fascinating things from his past as you look at the sort of anti-war era. That's when he was sort of coming of age as a young adult.
HELMAN: And, in fact, there's a great picture we have in the book of him actually protesting the protesters at Stanford . I mean, he was somebody who was appalled by counterculture. He was -- you're right. He's about as far away from a sort of bomb-throwing kind of anti-establishment person as you can get. And his trick tonight, of course, in going on to Florida is to find a way to sort of go after Newt but to not make it look like he's putting on too much of a costume because it's not him. As David Gregory said, he's got to look like he's comfortable in his skin or the whole thing comes across as phony.
MATTHEWS: You know, I even get the fun, this is a little bit humorous, Michael , but I notice the way he dresses politically. He wears those mom jeans they were called on " Saturday Night Live ." It's very formal, the whole thing. Even rolls his sleeves up in a kind of an odd way. He doesn't like roll them up the way most people roll them up. He doesn't actually seem to open up his shirt collar. He opens it up, but it somehow seems to stick together somehow. The guy is so physically constricted. Is he ready for this business of politics at this level?
KRANISH: You know, it's interesting. Chris Christie said yesterday on " Meet the Press " that Romney is very "reserved," quote/unquote. And obviously, there's a little disconnect. If you are running for president, you are also very reserved, that is difficult. There's an anecdote in the book, for example, in the last campaign where the Florida advisers wanted him to ditch the suit and tie. They said, if you are going into a retirement community in Florida , you really need to look more relaxed. At that time, they responded that would look un-presidential. This time around, they've tried to take that advice but then it leads to criticisms like you just raised he looks like he's trying too hard. He's certainly more at home in the suit and tie.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think you're right. That's fair enough. It just doesn't click with the way things are . Anyway, great book, I'm sure. I'm going to read this thing. "The Real Romney ." Thank you, Michael Kranish . I read parts of it, it's great. And thank you,