Reading the original mid-2007 Boston Globe story, it seems clear that one of the sources was Romney's eldest son, Tagg. The anecdote presumably was proffered as an amusing childhood reminiscence (Tagg was 13 in 1983) to portray Romney's approach to raising five rambunctious sons. There was probably a secondary motivation as well—to illustrate Romney's love for his wife, Ann. While Seamus and the Romney sons were allowed to go to the bathroom only when the Chevrolet station wagon (nicknamed the "white whale") needed gas, Ann Romney could halt the journey at will. As Tagg put it, "As soon as my mom says, 'I think I need to go to the bathroom,' he pulls over instantly, and doesn't complain. 'Anything for you, Ann.'"Oh, wait, here's the "both sides do it" false equivalency bullshit (Fuck you in every hole w/ a splintered broomstick, Walter Shapiro.):
What gives the Seamus story legs (four) is the inadvertent glimpse it offers of Romney's rigidity. For all the natural parental annoyance with the constant are-we-there-yet demands and the bodily needs of five boys on the trek to Canada, it is a rare father who would so zealously limit bathroom and food stops. Remember: The Romneys were not exactly desperate refugees racing to get across the Canadian border before they were stopped by the authorities. They were an affluent American family on vacation, but with all the spontaneous joy of an automotive assembly line. Seamus was collateral damage. What matters is the suck-it-up discipline that Mitt Romney tried to impose on his family.
People are not cyborgs—they have human needs, including a propensity for rest stops and, in politics, healthy egos. But an awareness of these personal factors does not seem to be part of the Romney repertoire. "The Real Romney" by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, pointedly notes, "He is not fed by and does not crave, casual social interaction, often displaying little desire to know who people are and what makes them tick."
Although Romney's aloof style has different roots than Barack Obama's cerebral detachment, the similarity suggests that we may be headed for a presidential year when both candidates view voters primarily as abstractions. After covering the 2008 campaign, I regretted that I missed an important clue about Obama's loner personality that was hiding in plain sight on the opening page of his autobiography, "Dreams from My Father." Describing his time as an undergraduate at Columbia University, Obama writes, "I was impatient in those days, busy with work and unrealized plans, and prone to see other people as unnecessary distractions." Unlike virtually every other man who has run for the White House in modern history, Mitt Romney undoubtedly would understand what the youthful Obama meant.Because a Columbia undergraduate will remain exactly the same person forever. ("Obama writes, 'I was impatient in those days ...'") Mittens, meanwhile, has kept that stick firmly lodged up there since forever.