Doug Robinson: U. alum offers close look at Mitt

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 1 2011 12:20 a.m. MDT

Perhaps it was inevitable that Ron Scott, a veteran journalist, would write a book about Mitt Romney. Their paths have been crossing, one way or another, for decades and, if that weren't enough, during his research for the book Scott made this small discovery: They are distant cousins.

Their great-great grandfather was Parley P. Pratt.

"Mitt Romney: An Inside Look at the Man and His Politics" has been years in the making, and this week it makes its debut in bookstores around the country, although it was released in Utah last week.

The 66-year-old Scott, an Olympus High and University of Utah graduate, has followed the Romneys since attending the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco. When ultraconservatives led by Barry Goldwater took over the convention, Michigan Gov. George Romney stormed out in protest, with son Mitt in tow.

"That's what got me interested in politics," says Scott. "The fact that George was a Mormon and had the courage to take a stand. I was a fan after that." He has continued to track the family's political ambitions since then. "It was clear then that Romney family was a force to be reckoned with," says the author.

Scott began writing the book in 2007 when Romney was making his first run for the presidency, but the project was shelved when he dropped out of the race. Scott finished the book last June in time for Romney's run at the 2012 nomination.

Officially, it is an "unauthorized" book and probably the better for it. Among the things we learn in the book is that Romney likes control, including control of information and his image. Scott says he offered Romney the opportunity "to read, comment on and challenge every single word of the manuscript' and told him he would be allowed to correct factual errors. After it was revealed the book would be largely "positive" but would contain some "negative" material, the offer was declined.

A good journalist doesn't think in those terms; he merely writes the truth or his perception of it and lets the chips fall where they may. Scott thinks that Romney comes off well in the book.

Scott researched the book by interviewing Romney family members, friends and staffers. How accurate is it? Scott, who wrote a brief sketch of each of Romney's sons, says he submitted a sketch of Matt, Mitt's second son, to a Romney staffer to pass along for review. According to Scott, when asked if it was accurate, Matt said, "Yeah – but how did he know all this?"

Scott has watched Mitt's rise in the world for decades. He was aware of Mitt when the latter was a student at BYU and Scott was writing for the University of Utah's student newspaper. Scott went on to become a writer and editor for Time Inc. publications Time, Sports Illustrated and Life and was part of the small editorial team that founded People Magazine. He found himself defending Romney on occasion with his bosses there.

After a brief stay as sports editor of the Deseret News in 1978, Scott moved to Boston, which was and is Romney country. He got his first glimpse of Romney when the latter was at the church pulpit conducting a meeting as bishop of Scott's new ward. He later served as president of Scott's stake. The book details an intense encounter they had behind closed doors in church one day. Later, in 1994, Scott says Romney sought his advice in his bid for Ted Kennedy's Senate seat.

Scott certainly has a unique perspective of Romney, having seen him in so many different settings. The Scott-Romney connection even included an appearance before the same judge after separate arrests — a judge who also happened to be a local Mormon leader (you'll have to read the book for the story).

In 2005, Scott wrote a long piece for Sunstone magazine. It was largely a "positive" story about Romney, but Scott made waves because he was the first to note Romney's penchant for flip-flopping on issues — something his opponents latched onto. "That piece got quoted all over the place," says Scott.

In the book, Scott examines Romney from every angle. Among his takes: Romney is madly in love with his wife. He is ambitious. He is intelligent. He has a knack for business and finance. He took too much credit for "saving" the Salt Lake Winter Games, using it for political capital (the book excerpts a column written by Deseret News columnist Lee Benson on that subject).

He's more liberal than his fellow Mormons and many Republicans. He is a bit of a political butterfly, blowing with whatever political winds are blowing rather than with any deep-seated beliefs. He's a genuinely nice man, but a little stiff and awkward with people in the political arena (according to Scott, Mitt's own father urged him to relax and stop listening to his handlers). He is a good man, with strong unrelenting morals and principles.

"This is one of those elections that personality is not going to be the driver," says Scott. "We've got serious issues. Competency will be the issue."

Email: drob@desnews.com

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