Ex-mayor: Romney is political chameleon


Former Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner says he twice met George Romney, father of presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, and believes the elder would be disappointed in his son’s campaign strategies.

He met the late governor each time between the 1960s and 1970s — though Mr. Finkbeiner was unsure of the dates. The first time Mr. Finkbeiner met George Romney was at the dedication of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Eastgate Road in Toledo. He met George Romney again when Mr. Romney was secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Richard Nixon.

Mr. Finkbeiner said he respected George Romney because he was among the progressives in the Republican Party in the 1960s. “That was a time when you were really proud to be a Republican, whether a conservative, middle of the road, or progressive, because of the diversity of the party,” he said.

Mr. Finkbeiner broke into politics as a Republican in the 1970s, nearly unseating longtime U.S. Rep. Thomas “Lud” Ashley in 1974. Years later, as Mr. Finkbeiner rose in local politics, he became a Democrat, declared himself independent, and ultimately, a Democrat again.

Mitt Romney, Mr. Finkbeiner said during an interview, is different politically from his father, a position he states in a letter to the editor in today’s Blade.

“Mitt is a chameleon who changes where he needs to get elected. He is not a person who has any consistency or, in my judgment, integrity when it comes to critical issues confronting his voters,” Mr. Finkbeiner said, adding that Mitt Romney’s stances on abortion have changed since he was Massachusetts’ governor.

Unlike Mitt Romney, Mr. Finkbeiner said, George Romney had the rare ability to connect to people, a quality that he likened to former President Bill Clinton’s.

“Bill looks you right in the eyes and calls you by name,” he said. “George Romney did the same thing. But his gaze was more intense than President Clinton. It was penetrating, like he is focusing on every word you have to say. ... He just looked you right in the eyes. He has the bluest eyes that I have ever seen in a man. He was just as effective as Bill Clinton in making you believe you were the only person in the world.”

Chris Maloney, a spokesman for the Romney campaign, declined to comment on Mr. Finkbeiner’s opinion of the candidate.

Mr. Finkbeiner also believes that George Romney was more compassionate than his son.

“He was very much a champion of civil rights and affirmative action programs in the automotive industry for minorities,” he said. “ ... George was compassionate for civil rights in Detroit. He became more prominent in the days after the rights in the 1960s.

He and his wife, Lenore, joined hands with Henry Ford, Jr. I remember Henry Ford was the leader in the rehabilitation of the city after the riots.

“In my judgment, he [Mitt Romney] is saying whatever the moment requires him to be to remain popular without any real philosophy that he believes in.”

Blade staff writers Mark Reiter and Taylor Dungjen contributed to this report.