You would think that last Thursday, the day Obamacare was made legal by Chief Justice John Roberts, would be a day best spent in bed with the shades pulled down. But as it turns out, it was one of the most inspirational days of my life. I had the great honor of attending a private dinner at a Newport estate for special guests Reince Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Tagg Romney, the eldest son of governor and presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. It was a special evening beyond any of my expectations.
To properly set the table for you, Newport, Rhode Island, is a gem of a city by the sea. But it sparkles brightest in the summer, and this night even more so. The weather was beautiful, and there was the buzz of the America’s Cup World Series AC 45s racing off of Castle Hill and Fort Adams earlier in the day, along with the anticipation of the night’s speakers and what they’d say after Obamacare was deemed the law of the land.
Before we were seated, I met with former Rhode Island gubernatorial candidate John Robitaille, who had invited me to the event, and who but for 2% of the votes would be Rhode Island’s current governor. What he said in our meeting hit the nail on the head. Thursday’s ruling is only going to help Governor Romney in November, because the measure was always sold by the president as not being a tax. And that’s exactly what it is.
Robitaille said team Romney is fired up. He said he’s in touch with the Romney campaign at least twice a day and told me how enthusiastic he is about their organization and the work that’s going on behind the scenes. Professionalism would be a good description.
I chatted with former Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri before he went on to give a heartfelt introduction. He said this is the most important election of his adult life. He talked about his friendship and respect for Governor Mitt Romney, which goes back to the days when they were both governors. And then he turned the stage over to Chairman Reince Priebus.
Reince said you get a name like his when a German and a Greek get married. But not to worry—his kids have normal names. He talked about growing up in a Greek family, saying that it was just like the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Looking at his phone, he said that his mother could be calling him right now.
Reince talked about growing up and how much he loved his grandfather or papous (pah-POOH) in Greek. He said he doesn’t know what it is about grandsons loving their grandfathers so much, but as a kid he would follow his papous everywhere. And because they spent months at a time together in Greece or America, they were very close.
Papous’s favorite thing to do would be to look over the Encyclopedia Britannica, take out the book with the letter “P” on the binding, and read to Reince about the presidents of the United States. He would tell Reince stories about every single president—“Some true,” said Reince, “and maybe some not so true, but they were great stories.” He said Papous did it because he loved America and what America stood for.
Reince commented on the current situation in Greece. He said it’s what happens when the “takers” of society take over a country. He said when you’re a taker, you become irrational. Right now, Greece is a country of irrational takers.
Rational conservative principles can take you a long way in this country. Reince said it takes time, though, and a real grassroots effort. He said he and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, his best friend, got started at least 10 years ago when Scott was a Milwaukee County executive. He said the reason Scott Walker is a success is that Americans at their core are conservative. He said their grassroots effort staked everything on Scott. And their winning formula for every candidate they helped and are helping is simple. First, you need to believe in conservative principles; second, you need to run on them; third, and most importantly, you need to govern by them.
With Reince at the helm, I expect a lot of good things in the future for the Republican National Committee. He understands that the Tea Party is not on board with your father’s Republican Party. He knows that you get Americans together not by asking “Are you in the Republican Party or the Democratic Party?” but rather “Are you concerned about your kids’ or your grandkids’ future?” For a lot of us, that’s a big yes.
I had the great pleasure of speaking with Reince after his speech. I told him I was the guy on the Helen Glover Show at 920WHJJ right before his segment with Helen that day. On the show, he said that coming to Rhode Island will mean he’s been to all 50 states. Based on the enthusiasm he generated at the dinner, I think there will be plenty of reasons for him to return to the Ocean State real soon.
Like Reince, another not-so-common name is Taggart. The eldest Romney son opened his talk by saying that it’s usually the fifth or sixth child that parents go out on a limb with on the wild and crazy name thing. But he said his parents did the opposite, naming him after a friend of his father, and then going with Matt, Josh, Ben, and Craig for his younger brothers.
Tagg Romney said he didn’t want to get into campaign tactics that night; rather, he thought it would be good to share some stories from the perspective of a son. He talked about how he helped his dad stock the shelves the night before the big opening of the first Staples store. He talked about how his dad didn’t initially want to leave Massachusetts to help solve the $400-million Olympic deficit, but his mom told him he needed to do it if he felt he could help.
He also talked about a little red rowboat. The Romneys had a small two-bedroom cottage in Pocasett, Massachussetts, which is about a two-hour sail across Buzzards Bay from Mattapoisett, where I grew up, and right at the beginning of the Cape. One afternoon, Tagg took the red rowboat out to go fishing. His parents had guests visiting, so he wanted to impress them by bringing home some fresh fish for dinner. Once he was far enough out, he dropped the anchor and began fishing. After a while, he had caught some fish and was ready to go home. He then realized how far he was offshore and noticed his anchor line was missing. It was never tied to the bow cleat.
When he finally reached shore, he walked up to the house, showed everyone what he had caught, and under his breath told his Dad, “I lost the anchor.” As he walked away, his dad said, “You lost the anchor? Well, where is it?” Pointing out to the bay, Tagg said, “Out there somewhere.” He continued to walk away, and rather than drop the subject and get back to his guests, his dad said, “Well you need to find the anchor.” Tagg said he knew this was another argument he was going to lose, so he walked down to the boat.
As Tagg and his dad rowed out, his father explained to him how to use points on land, create a grid, and do a search. Forty minutes later, they found the anchor. Tagg told us he learned two important things that night about his dad. One, that he is the cheapest guy he knows. The anchor maybe cost $1.50. And two, that his dad truly believes that if you focus your mind on a problem and then work and work and work, you can solve that problem.
Tagg happened to sit next to me for dinner. I told him how much I enjoyed hearing his story. We were both heading home to our families afterwards. When I was driving home, all I could think about was how truly memorable this summer night in Newport was and how some frugality and hard work is a change I can believe in.