As I type, a Washington Post online headline announces, I assume gleefully, “Romney becomes persona non grata to a shell-shocked Republican party.” Isn’t that nice. I’m not going there, other than to note that the story quotes few Republicans by name, and the only one of any political prominence is Chris Christie, who was happy to play Judas in the final stretch to Election Day. I would think he’ll have a better future than Romney as a persona non grata among Republicans. As it happens, Christie, during the GOP’s primary season, was the darling of those now trashing Romney—they know who they are—as they urged and urged him to get in the race. They would have been better off recruiting James Gandolfini. Of course, they’d had earlier favorites. One of them was David Petraeus, a hero like no other in their view. Better luck next time.
As for Mitt Romney, he fought the good fight, and seemed to have a united party behind him after he asked Paul Ryan, a great post-Reaganite, to be his veep. A luckluster convention, not helped by Christie’s egomaniacal opening keynote, led to a trying September that saw the Obama media mug him at every turn. October after the first debate was a different story. In the end, one can’t say Romney lost ugly. But Mr. Obama certainly won ugly, hideously in fact. That was the single most depressing thing about the final outcome. The gentlemanliness of Romney-Ryan proved no match for the cowardly street-gang methods of the incumbent ticket. Evidently that’s the kind of country we’ve become, and some Republicans now want to join in the fun, to kick the loser when he’s down, very hard.
Our team of post-election analysts won’t waste your time on such smallness (see p. 14). They’d rather look ahead, face the future squarely, and prepare for the long haul, beginning with what’s before us right now. Not every one of them was surprised by the outcome and none assumes that becoming more like the winning Democrats will save the GOP. But there’s plenty to work with, beginning with the dire economic facts our country faces (p. 22), and continuing with developments at the state and local level (p. 25). The president can continue to play the punk—his bullying style is too juvenile to warrant a place at the bully pulpit; withal, he hasn’t changed much since his efforts to walk the progressive talk at Occidental and Harvard. But this time there’ll be no adults around to bail him out. He is on his own, the economy is all his, and the reasons why he was expected to lose even by many on his own side remain very much at play. He wanted four more years, and he got them. Beyond spitefulness and terminal decline, what does he have to offer?
Nonetheless, in the spirit of the season, I do have a Christmas Book (see p. 44) to recommend to him. It doesn’t feature disgruntled women law students demanding government-provided contraception even as they shun marriage and the very idea of modesty. Rather, it’s the most beautiful love story I’ve read about in ages.
Based on the more than 1,200 letters they wrote to each other between 1946 and 1954, Just Send Me Word: A True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulag, by the British historian Orlando Figes (Metropolitan, 334 pages, $28), tells the story of Lev Mishchenko and Svetlana Ivanova. He had courted her before the war, she had given him a rather hard time. The Germans imprisoned him during the war. For his trouble he was sent to the Gulag after it ended. She learned he was still alive, their correspondence began, fearlessly she even found ways to visit him at his prison in Pechora. Her devotion kept him alive (as well as many of his confreres, thanks to her parcels), and after Stalin’s death he was released. Soon they married, raised a small family, took care of her parents (his had been murdered by the Bolsheviks), and themselves, living as one to a ripe old age. A one in a million Gulag story with a happy ending.
Is it relevant to our disgruntled times? Just read it. It puts them to shame.