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Turnaround: A reader’s guide
Governor Mitt Romney bares his soul and sets the record straight between the lines of his critically defamed book

A WEEK AND A HALF after its publication, the new book from Governor Mitt Romney — Turnaround: Crisis, Leadership, and the Olympic Games (Regnery) — hasn’t exactly taken America by storm. As of Tuesday, it was stuck at 37,864 on Amazon’s sales list. By way of comparison, Leadership, the post–September 11 effort by former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, sits at 5789 nearly two years after it was published. Moreover, the initial critical response to Turnaround — which details Romney’s rescue of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City — has been tepid. "The same traits that make Romney, now the governor of Massachusetts, an unobtrusive leader don’t always serve the book," Publishers Weekly observed delicately. The Deseret Morning News, the Salt Lake City daily owned by the Mormon Church, was more blunt, calling Turnaround "disappointing, politically self-serving, and remarkably dull for the most part."

But Romney’s determined to do his darnedest to support his book, which he wrote with Timothy Robinson. The governor recently traveled to Utah to drum up publicity; today, from 12:30 to 2 p.m., he’ll sign copies of the 396-page tome at the Borders in Downtown Crossing, and talk it up on FOX News’ Hannity & Colmes program.

Since Romney is widely regarded as a likely presidential aspirant in 2008, civic-minded readers might be tempted to pick up a copy. But the list price is a hefty $27.95, and parsing Turnaround for glimpses into the workings of our governor’s head means slogging through chapters with titles like "Strategic Audit" and "Ongoing Marketing Efforts." Yet much of what Romney has to say is edifying. In the book’s intro, he tells readers he’ll be using his Olympic experiences to impart wisdom about career choices, management, and leadership — some explicit, some implicit: "Often, I will spell out what lesson I draw from the experience; often, you will have to find your own."

It’s a deal. The Phoenix read Turnaround cover to cover, scavenging for insights into the Mind of Mitt, clues about how Romney might sell himself to the national electorate, and as many bizarre factoids as possible.

Here’s what we learned.

Romney missed his calling as a motivational speaker. Sample exhortation: "Departures from the unexpected, refusals to conform to expectations in one’s own personal life, in one’s career, or in the lifecycle of an enterprise can produce immeasurable personal and organizational rewards." (page xviii)

Romney disdains the nouveau riche aesthetic. He recalls a visit to the home of Tom Welch, then-head of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. "After dinner, Tom graciously invited us up to his house. He had purchased a sculpture of an eagle that he was anxious for us to see. When we pulled up to Tom’s house, he took me in to show me the eagle. It was in his front window and had spotlights trained on it.... [H]is claim that you could see it from miles away was no exaggeration. It was lovely, but it seemed a little ostentatious, propped at the window, under a spotlight." (3-4)

Romney’s wife, Ann, nagged him into running the Olympics. "Ann reasoned that if the Olympics were in jeopardy, if Utah was in trouble and our country embarrassed, that these were compelling reasons for leading a turnaround. My response was, ‘Yeah, but why me?’... Ann replied, ‘Just think about it. If there’s any one person ideally suited for this job, it’s you.’" (6)

And besides, the Romney clan suffers from noblesse oblige. "[S]omewhere deep inside, I hoped to commit myself to things greater than making a living or building a fortune. It was the spirit of service in one form or another — a family poltergeist that has haunted my ancestors for generations." (7)

Romney’s female forebears were proto-feminists. Romney describes his great-grandmother Hannah’s journey to meet her husband, Miles, in Mexico. "She couldn’t find any men to travel with her because the great Indian chief, Geronimo, was on the warpath. She put her kids in a covered wagon and made her way on her own." Also, Romney’s mother, Lenore, once ran for the US Senate. (8, 10)

Furthermore, his father was a proto-environmentalist. George Romney — chief executive of American Motors, governor of Michigan, and a Republican candidate for president in 1968 — was green before his time, Romney writes. "Fuel-efficient cars would be popular because they would save money, he told his employees. The company’s customers would also save fuel and put an end to the pollution and excesses of the ‘gas-guzzling dinosaurs.’ It was progress. They were ahead of the curve." (11)

Romney’s run against Ted Kennedy was purely symbolic. When he challenged Ted Kennedy for a US Senate seat in 1994, Romney knew he wouldn’t win. "We recognized that there was no way I was going to beat him. A Republican, white, male, Mormon millionaire in Massachusetts had no credible chance." (14)

That said, Kennedy was a dirty trickster. "[Kennedy’s] ads reinforced people’s misperceptions about me as a money-grubbing businessman. He injected my Mormonism into the campaign in a highly visible way.... Ideas I brought forward were dissected and distorted to their illogical extreme." (15)

Running the Olympics wasn’t an opportunistic move. Seriously. "[D]espite suspicions to the contrary, I had no plans to parlay the experience into political advantage.... [H]onestly, I had no idea. I saw no political connection at all." (19)

Psychology Today got it wrong — Romney, not Laura Bush, was America’s post-9/11 "Therapist-in-Chief." "[The Salt Lake Games] helped heal the nation. The spirit of patriotism flowed unrestrained in the wake of the attacks of September 11. They helped bring the world together." (20)

Even if Romney is elected president, creates harmony between Democrats and Republicans, brings peace to the Middle East, and puts a man on Mars, he’ll still be droning on about the Olympics. "While in my professional life I’ve done things that are very interesting and challenging and rewarding, and I may do so in the future, I cannot imagine how anything could surpass the Olympic experience." (21)

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Issue Date: August 6 - 12, 2004
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