The truth about Romney

My many American friends keep pestering me.

They want to know whether to vote for the black communist Muslim who doesn't have a birth certificate because he appeared fully formed in Chicago the day after the Roswell Incident, or for the rich white man with whom I roomed at Harvard Business School in the early 70s.

"Make up your own minds," I tell them, but my friends take their democratic duty seriously and like to be informed. They bombard me with piercing political questions.

"Tell us about Romney," they beg. "Is it true he had a breed of sheep named after him? At what age did he start tying dogs to the roofs of cars? What sort of dogs? What brand of car? How did he cope with convertibles? What was his highest tally of dogs on a single roof?"

I have never been one to tell tales out of school, but the truth never hurts. So, "yes", I tell them respectively, "18, poodles, Cadillacs, with difficulty, and seven".

That's enough for most of them, as you'd expect. Off they toddle to make their mark for the Republican cause.

But others want more. They want to know his character.

"In every Harvard intake," I tell them, "there are always a few, a very few, who bear the stamp of greatness. They may not in the end go on to great things - the booze may undo them, or the calumny of rivals, or a sense of the futility of striving, or just plain bad luck, but there is something about them that marks them out - an aura, a numinous and indefinable quality that charges the atmosphere of any room they enter. But perhaps you'd rather hear about Mitt."

"Yes, yes," they squeal, "tell us about Mitt."

And my mind goes back to one blistering June afternoon in 73. I was lying in bed, immersed in a thriller by Maynard Keynes when Mitt burst into the room, a poodle in one hand, a tie-down in the other.

"Let's go for a drive," he said. That was so typical of Mitt - impulsive, excitable, different. Back then we may not have been as sophisticated as young people now, but we knew how to make our own fun.

Mitt pressed a button on the wall and within seconds the car elevator had delivered us a Cadillac. As we powered through the leafy lanes of Massachusetts, scattering like chaff the construction workers, schoolteachers and other layabouts who see themselves as victims, Mitt slid a cassette into the dashboard and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir drowned out the yelps of the poodle.

Oh, the heady days of youth, the idealism, the sense that all things were possible, especially in the 70s, the days of counter culture, of independence, where everything was up for questioning, where mere precedent meant nothing.

"Mitt," I said, "that religion of yours."

"You mean my beloved and enormously profitable church created by the convicted fraudster Joseph Smith," asked Mitt, and you could hear the rigorous critical intelligence in his tone, "the rules of which were inscribed on golden tablets that only Joseph Smith ever saw, tablets handed down by the angel Moroni whom only Joseph Smith ever saw, the church whose first 12 apostles in 1835 included my great-great grandfather Parley P Pratt, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints?"

"That's the one," I said. "I've never quite understood the two ofs in the title."

"Oh Joe," said Mitt. "Who cares about a brace of confusing prepositions? We are young, free, inquisitive and about to change the world. I have a dream, Joe. It comes in the form of a five-point plan. First, I'm going to make vast wealth from business management."

"Like your father did," I said.

"Yes," said Mitt. "Then I'm going to become a state governor."

"Like your father did," I said.

"Yes," said Mitt. "Then when I turn 60 I shall make a run for president."

"Like your father did," I said.

"Yes," said Mitt. "And I shall fail."

"Like your father did," I said.

"Yes," said Mitt. "But unlike my father, I shall run again four years later and I shall shake babies and kiss hands and adopt any position required of me in order to become president and then when I become president the world will honour my iconoclasm and my independence of mind and my refusal to follow in the footsteps of others by naming a breed of sheep after me. Oh, and I'll nuke Iran. Daddy would like that."

The Press