SAN FRANCISCO - Why is Mitt Romney rising? Americans who watched the GOP nominee debate President Barack Obama never met the cold, greedy, sexist, racist, carcinogenic tax cheat Team Obama promised would appear. The calm, steady, and reasonable gentleman who opposed Obama was no Gordon Gekko.
Americans might like Romney even more if they understood his random acts of kindness and significant feats of bravery.
-- After Joey O'Donnell, 12, died of cystic fibrosis in 1986, Romney built a playground in his honor. "There he was, with a hammer in his belt, the Mitt nobody sees," the boy's father and Romney's neighbor, Joseph O'Donnell, told Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, authors of "The Real Romney," a biography of the candidate. A year later, Joey's Park needed maintenance. "My wife calls me up and says, 'You're not going to believe this, but Mitt Romney is down with a bunch of Boy Scouts and they're working on the park.' ... He did it for like the next five years, without ever calling to say, 'We're doing this,' without a reporter in tow, not looking for any credit." -- In 1995, Romney heard about the Nixons, a family who moved to Boston. A car wreck soon left their sons paraplegic. Romney called and asked if they were available on Christmas Eve. Romney, his wife, and sons arrived with a stereo and other gifts for the crippled boys. Romney offered to put them through college and supported them through numerous fundraisers. As their father told Kranish and Helman, "It wasn't a one-time thing." Beyond generosity, Romney has demonstrated organizational leadership and personal courage while aiding others.
-- Melissa Gay, Bain Capital partner Robert Gay's daughter, vanished while visiting New York City in July 1996. Then-CEO Romney closed Bain's Boston headquarters and jetted to Gotham to find the 14-year-old. Romney flew in his 50 employees and transformed a Marriott Hotel into a command post. He consulted the New York police department and recruited private investigators. He dispatched staffers to enlist Bain's colleagues. Bain's printer, R.R. Donnelly, produced 300,000 missing-person fliers.
Bain's CPAs at Price Waterhouse placed the handbills all over town. Duane Reade, a Bain portfolio company, stuck leaflets in shopping bags at 52 local outlets.
Five days after Melissa disappeared, someone rang Bain's tip line to ask about a reward. The New York Police Department traced the call to a New Jersey home, where a 17-year-old had hidden the disoriented and drugged child, unbeknown to his parents.
Romney's focus and management saved Melissa. She now is a happily married mother who teaches fourth grade.
-- A home once burst into flames near Romney's residence. Kranish and Helman report that Romney "organized the gathered neighbors, and they began dashing into the house to rescue what they could: a desk, couches, books" until firefighters arrived.
-- The Romneys were vacationing in New Hampshire in 2003 when screams shook the Independence Day air. Some 900 feet from them, New Jersey's Morrisey family and their leaky boat were sinking into Lake Winnipesaukee.
Romney's sons Craig and Josh sped into the lake on a Jet Ski. "We tore out of there, and my dad hopped on the other Jet Ski and came out right after us," Josh told the Boston Herald.
They found three men and three women bobbing in the water in barely buckled life vests. Massachusetts' then-governor pulled the two younger women onto his three-seat Jet Ski, while his sons assisted their mother. They then whisked these women safely to shore, along with McKenzie, their Scottish Terrier. Meanwhile, the three men treaded water under the sons' watchful eyes until Mitt made two more trips to rush them to dry land.
Previously, while spearheading the 2002 Olympics, Romney and his sons used a boat to rescue several kayakers when high winds slammed them onto rocks.
Why is the real Romney totally unlike the terrifying caricature that has haunted this campaign? Team Obama's distortions and lies have conspired with Mitt Romney's modesty to mask his good deeds. Instead, Romney fans should make these secrets famous.
Deroy Murdock is a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service.