I had encountered Romney repeatedly over the years, and he always struck me as beneath the salt. I even invited him to speak at American Spectator dinners, hoping he would improve. Actually, he got worse.
In 2006, I had him as a guest speaker at a small, off-the-record dinner with 30 or so journalists. He was stiff, awkward, inept, and not very right-wing. He wanted to be president, so I thought I should keep an eye on him. I tried him again. I invited him to our annual American Spectator gala in 2007, much as I invited Donald Trump to our 2013 American Spectator gala. In 2013, Donald charmed the socks off of everyone in attendance. In 2007, as guest speaker, Romney was stiff, awkward, inept, and not very right-wing. Yet he did improve as a politician. He was contending for the nomination in 2008, and we had featured him on the cover of the magazine. He was frighteningly right-wing.
Then there was a final meeting I had with him after the dinners and after featuring him on our cover. It was at the spring White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and I was standing in the National Review hospitality room. Romney came in and made a beeline for me. We exchanged pleasantries, and after a 10-minute chat he bid me adieu. I shall never forget his goodbye. The would-be presidential candidate said, “Goodbye, Bill.” All I can imagine is that I had employed an obscure polysyllabic word during our conversation, and the senator deduced that he had been talking to Bill Buckley. It makes sense, no? Except that Bill had passed away in February, but who reads obits these days?