In his column in The New York Times last month, Thomas Friedman said it best, on Mr Romney's return from a tour abroad, denouncing that immortal bulwark against fascism in London and fanning the fumes of apocalyptic war in Jerusalem: his foreign policy is that of George W. Bush on steroids. Now there is reason to doubt that this man even wants to be President of the United States, so eager is he to humiliate the nation with a pathetically infantile belligerency. He is running for Superman, and would embroil our society in a fitful history of tantrums without notice. He goes beyond having imbibed the degenerate indignations of his vulgar, shriveled base. He believes his own false biography, about the meaning of his badge of predatory wealth. We should trust his genius for exploitation.
O, Michigan! O, Republicanism when it worked. The natural human wellspring of patriotism once ran clear and humble there, speaking for the State of Mr Romney's birth through a US Senator in the time of Harry Truman: Politics stops at the water's edge. Arthur Vandenburg, Republican, led his Party away from cheap shot nativist attacks on the diplomacy of the United States, and helped to forge the most durable bipartisan foreign policy the nation had ever known: the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, the development of NATO to defend it. None of this would have been possible without the abiding moral force of that unarguable maxim, a policy which held until both parties resorted to the gross deception of the nation in the war in Viet Nam.
But there were two Arthur Vandenburgs. The Senator's son, a leading figure on his Senate staff, was selected by General Dwight Eisenhower to become his Appointments Secretary when he was elected to the Presidency. It was a natural gesture of continuity of policy, as well as a brilliant stroke in staffbuilding, by a man who knew something about hiring well; and it had the staunch support of the next generation of Republicans, led especially by Nelson Rockefeller of le tout New York.
This was an appointment not to be effected, however, as young Arthur Vandenburg, Jr suddenly took medical leave to Florida, to address a confidential sort of ailment. Only when Lyndon Johnson became President did he disclose the nature of Vandenburg's condition: blackmail. In one of the shabbiest conflicts between hypocritical, powerful media figures - Drew Pearson and James Reston in this case - and the political set in which they mingle, Vandenburg was threatened with being outed as a gay man, in this case, as the lover of Joseph Alsop. Eisenhower wrote a touching letter to Nelson Rockefeller, urging him quietly to continue to find gainful work for Arthur Vandenburg, Jr. There was no question of his working in the White House.