If you are as old as I, then you remember The Rumble in the Jungle. This was a boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, the heavyweight champion at that time. This is documented in the excellent film, When We Were Kings. It is an amazing story. Ali was an aging boxer who was neither as big nor as strong as Foreman. It looked like Foreman would tear Ali apart. But it didn’t turn out that way. Ali—apparently spontaneously during the fight—invented what he later called “rope-a-dope”: a technique where he allowed Foreman to exhaust himself throwing mostly impotent punches. Ali knocked out Foreman in the eighth round.
What I find remarkable about this is not that Ali was a great fighter and still is a brilliant man. It is George Foreman. The gregarious man we know today seems totally different than the shy boxer in 1974. Defeat can do that to a man—make him better. Or it can not.
A few years ago, I saw a book about Muhammad Ali that contained an introduction by George Foreman. In it, Foreman talked about their fight in what was then Zaire. He talked about how Ali had outboxed him. But then he said something that shocked me: he said knowing what he now knows, if they could go back and have that fight, Ali would still figure out some way to beat him.
I don’t think that is necessarily true, but the statement shows two things. First, it shows that Foreman is a graceful man. Second, it shows that Foreman is a man who accepted his defeat. Not only did he admit that Ali beat him because he was better at that moment; he admitted that Ali was in a fundamental sense his better.
Contrast this with Romney’s recent conference call. Don’t even think about all that garbage about giving presents to poor people. Nowhere in that talk does he admit error. He did admit that Obama ran a great campaign, but he was quick to add that his campaing was good too. (All evidence to the contrary, not that it would have necessarily mattered.) The main thing is that Romney can’t admit the most fundamental reason for his loss: the people did not like the message. And the truth is, if all the people had voted, the popular vote would have been a blow out just like the electoral college actually was: 55% to 45%.
I understand that it’s only been a week. George Foreman was probably pretty bitter a week after the fight. But somehow, I don’t see Mitt Romney ever making it to the high road. I suspect that he will hold a grudge toward Obama (and the Democratic Party) for the rest of his life. We’ll see in the coming years, because I have a bad feeling that after perhaps a year of not seeing him, he’ll become a Fox News regular.