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September 29, 2012

I Love Ann

The challenge is reducing the campaign — in this case, the “stretch drive” — down to 8 photos. That’s our mission for the next BagNewsSalon to be held a week from Wednesday night at Columbia Journalism School. One of the photos in the mix is this one published for the first time this week. Paul Moakley, the deputy photo editor of TIME uncovered it, and provides this backstory, the gist being that Romney and friends made this photo in ‘68 when he was doing missionary work in France.

One thing that’s interesting about the TIME post: Whereas you assume from the write-up that the purpose of the photo was to win Ann’s heart (“…it was playfully staged for his high school girlfriend and soon-to-be wife, Ann Davies.”), the article continues:

“The pictoral gesture worked. Davies joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prior to marrying Romney in 1969….”

Written that way, it’s not clear if the purpose of the photo was to win Ann’s heart or win her conversion. Or, maybe it was both.

In any case, while the comments in the TIME thread do battle over Romney’s missionary work during the Vietnam War, I’m more interested in the meaning and effect of this photo emerging now. If the intent was to further humanize Romney, giving us a more three-dimensional view of his life and, above all, a greater appreciation of the depth of his heart, it seems the overriding impact of the photo, at this late date, is to amplify how much these qualities have yet to come across.

(photo: Courtesy of Mitt Romney via Time Lightbox caption: Romney in France circa 1968. He made a series of photographs for Ann with the help of his friends while serving as a Mormon missionary in France.)

  • Thomas

    And still, it’s stagey and not intimate at all. He has a crew and is modeling for a postcard. It really suggests that his personality of grandiosity and flat affect is deeply unchanging.

    • boomerangst

      Yes, yes–Romney reminds me of my first husband and my ex made staged, grand, supposedly romantic gestures that were more to impress his friends than for me. My ex also thought the war in Vietnam was great but wasn’t about to go fight it–that was for the poor, the stupid and the minorities–not the rich people’s sons.

  • black_dog_barking

    At roughly the same time as Willard is lollygagging on the Côte d’Azur writing love letters in the sand, John Kerry was somewhere in Cambodia getting shot and shot at, shooting back. Which of these activities raises a national shit storm about the fitness of the man to be president of the United States?

    • jonst

      If so, the odds are Kerry was doing so in violation of international law. Me personally, I don’t see what one was doing as an 18 y.0 has much to do with the fitness of one in their 50s or 60s to be President. In most cases, away.

  • tinwoman

    It’s to make an unlikeable man appear likeable. That’s all it is.

  • bks

    The real question is, “Does Ann Love Mitt?” The more I see and hear her, the more I am convinced that she doesn’t even like him.


  • Lance Thruster


  • Scarabus

    Michael, why don’t you check your contacts to see if anyone has a similar photo from, say, the beach at Da Nang. Good way of providing some context.

  • GeorgeMokray

    Rmoney, like Bill Gates, strikes me as someone who really loves his wife. Not sure if they love their kids as deeply which strikes me as a little off.

  • Thomas Gokey

    Reading the image purely visually: I didn’t recognize it as Mitt at first, just some kid madly in love with someone named “Ann.” It made me want to root for the kid. What can I say, I’m a hopeless romantic. Realizing it is Mitt still made me want to root for this kid. This is the first image that makes me want to root for Mitt.

    So, Mitt’s a lover not a fighter? Make love not war? That would be nice wouldn’t it, except he supported the war, he just wanted other people to fight and kill and die in it instead of him.

  • glenn

    I have mixed feelings about this. I don’t think it’s fair to use hindsight to criticize a young man who’s trying to impress his girl. He had a whole life ahead of him, and like many young people, was heedless. OTOH, many of my peers his age were forced to grow up very quickly in Vietnam while he was playing on the beach.

    The real point is, what is TODAY’s Romney like? I’ve concluded he’s not presidential material. This picture is irrelevant.

  • Lance Thruster

    I think Mittens forcibly shearing another student for being different does, particulalry since there’s little evidence he’s matured much beyond that. I, for one, cannot wait until he’s just a distant, albeit unpleasant, memory.

  • glenn

    Kerry did recount that he was in Cambodia, but he was probably not in Cambodia, according to historian Douglas Brinkley, although he was very close to it. And if he were, he was certainly not doing it of his own agency, but was under orders.

  • Jonathan

    My first take is “this jerk thinks he’s pretty cute”; there’s something narcissistic about the whole production, particularly his pose contrived to fit next to the letters. I soften a bit if I grant that he might not have ever intended it for anyone else’s eyes other than his future wife’s. But whatever, here it is now. I agree with Thomas’s take.

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