I don't know how the New York Times can run an entire Page One story about Mitt Romney's hair--some would end the sentence right there, but not me, I'm actually interested in Romney's hair--without mentioning Edwin Jones. It's like running a story about the invention of the steam engine without mentioning James Watt, or about the start of World War One without mentioning Archduke Franz Ferdinand, or about the causes of the 2008 financial crisis without mentioning subprime mortgages.
The New York Times Co. owns a newspaper called the Boston Globe, which in June 2007 ran the best newspaper profile that exists about Mitt Romney. You should read it right away, because Romney will likely be the GOP candidate for president next year. Let us now turn together to the first installment of the Globe's multipart profile. Read silently while I read to you aloud:
"In his final years at [his Detroit prep school,] Cranbrook, Mitt emerged a more serious student and a good-looking teen. Adding to the package was his great head of hair. Mitt had grown up hearing people comment on his father's sweep of slicked-back black hair, white at the temples."
So Mitt's hair is all about his father, Michigan Gov. George Romney, a moderate Republican who briefly ran for president in 1968? Not exactly. Mitt learned from his father that hair was important. And Mitt certainly idolized his father. But this was the 1960s, for Pete's sake. It wasn't yet the part of the sixties (really the early 70s, actually) when letting your shining gleaming streaming flaxen waxen locks tumble to your shoulders was the easiest way for a young man to piss off his parents. Mitt wouldn't have wanted to piss off his parents. But still, it was the sixties. You didn't wear your hair like Dad did, even if Dad was your hero.
We return to the Globe piece:
"But since his early teens, Mitt had patterned his own hairstyle after a man named Edwin Jones, who served as his father's top aide in running the Detroit operations of the Mormon Church.
'' 'He sat up front, to the side at a desk, keeping records,' Mitt would recall years later. 'I remember that he had very dark hair, that it was quite shiny, and that you could see it in distinct comb lines from front to back. Have you looked at my hair? Yep, it's just like his was some 40 years ago.' ''
You didn't want to wear your hair like dad, but you didn't want to stray too far from dad, either. So what did you do? You wore your hair like dad's amanuensis.
As I've written in my TRB column, Mitt's hair is the one thing about this highly changeable candidate that hasn't changed in decades. Well, that and his Mormon faith. But the two are not unrelated. The hair is Mitt's North Star. And he owes it all to an enigma of history called Edwin Jones. Did the haircut say, "I want to be Dad's assistant?" Did it say, "My dad isn't fit to shine his assistant's shoes"? Did it say "The unexamined life is not worth living without visible comb marks"? I have no idea. But Edwin Jones is the key to Mitt's hair, if not to Mitt himself. You leave a detail like that out, you have something to answer for.