Carol Felsenthal
On politics

Susan Crown on Why She’s Sticking with Romney Despite ‘Crazy Talk’ from Some GOP Candidates

The head of her famous family’s philanthropy arm says that abortion and lifestyle choices are not “priority issues” for Romney, and she discusses Mitt, the person—not the candidate…

When I interviewed Susan Crown in March, Mitt Romney was about to win the Illinois primary and she was set to introduce Ann Romney at their victory celebration in Schaumburg. Crown then sounded confident about a Romney victory in November. When I talked to her last Friday, she described Tuesday’s contest as a “nail-biter,” adding that she’ll be voting here Tuesday morning before flying to Boston for what she expects to be a “long night” that, she hopes, will be capped by a victory party.

During our conversation, Crown, the head of her billionaire family’s philanthropy arm (and involved in such issues as educational reform, healthcare, the Middle East, programs for women and girls in developing countries, and a social investment organization tasked with connecting “talent and innovation with market forces to drive social change”) reconfirmed that she is pro-choice and pro-gay marriage, and that she is a staunch independent, not a Republican. 

I was eager to ask Crown, a Yale grad and trustee for 12 years, how she could support a man whose party is offering up such U.S. Senate candidates as Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana—men who have said, respectively, that the female body has a system to block conception during rape, and, in any case, should conception occur during rape, that it is something that God intended to happen. Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation:

CF: How can you support a man whose party includes such men as Akin and Mourdock whose views on abortion exceptions are so bizarre and scary?
I think that’s crazy talk and I dislike extremism in any form…. And I think that [Romney/Ryan] plan is to really “80/20” the issues that will receive the most attention, and obviously the federal deficit and the economy are top of the list—and jobs. I’m making a bet that the law of the land, Roe v. Wade, will not be changed. I don’t believe government belongs in peoples’ personal choices on lifestyle or reproductive choices. I just don’t see them as priority issues [for Romney/Ryan].

CF: Until he joined the Romney ticket Paul Ryan’s views on abortion did not allow for exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother. Granted Ryan has now adopted Romney’s more liberal view in those three areas, but, still, as a pro-choice person, are you comfortable with Ryan as next in line to the presidency?
I don’t know him as well as I know Romney. But what I am most comfortable with is his intellect and understanding of the budget.

CF: What about Israel; anything happen since last March that gives you more or less confidence in President Obama? [Crown had return two days earlier from a trip to several countries in the region.]
It’s absolutely precarious, and after being in the Middle East and hearing people speak, [I’ve come to understand that] the number one object for a lot of Middle Eastern countries is to eliminate the state of Israel, period. I still don’t believe the U.S. has been a stand-up partner to our ally.

CF: Were you at any of the debates?
We were at the first debate in Denver. We were in the third row. We saw loads of friends from Chicago, although they were sitting on the other side, the Obama side.  [She explains that the hockey arena in which the debate was held was divided in two, and, as if it were a wedding and bride’s guests were on one side of the aisle and the groom’s on the other, Obama’s supporters were on one side and Romney’s on the other.] The candidates flipped coins for whether they wanted to be on the right or left and so we were sitting in front of Obama’s podium…. It was so clear that Mitt brought his game, and Barack, it was sort of hard to tell whether he was completely unprepared and low-energy or whether he thought this is kind of insulting that he had to explain himself. It was obvious from his posture he knew he was losing as he started sort of hunching over and his eyes were cast downward.

CF: Whether Obama wins or loses, the pace will pick up on efforts to bring his presidential library to the University of Chicago. There will likely be opposition to the museum part of the package, which historically tries to put the best gloss on an administration, being housed in a university. Would you support the Obama Library at the University of Chicago?
I think the most appropriate place for that library would be in Hawaii, which is the President’s birthplace, where they don’t have those kinds of resources.

CF: It would be a difficult place for people to reach.
It would be an attractive place for people to reach.

CF: In an effort to humanize Mitt Romney, there have been a bunch of campaign-generated anecdotes about Mitt, the person. The last time we spoke you told me about Mitt caring for his mother while multi-tasking after the floor collapsed in a Michigan vacation cottage. Any others to share?
Over the summer, in August, he was shooting a commercial in a friend’s yard in Boston, and it was really, really hot out while they were setting up. They said, “Governor, we don’t want you to overheat. Why don’t we put you in the garage where at least there’s shade?” So he went into the garage and when they came back to get him 20 minutes later, he had totally cleaned the whole place up.

CF: So who’s going to win?
We had our last national council call yesterday, and heard from Neil Newhouse who’s the Romney pollster, who’s cautiously optimistic. It’s very close in a lot of key places.

CF: If Romney loses will he run again?
Absolutely not. They have stated in no uncertain terms that this is their last campaign.

CF: If Romney is elected, do you see a place for yourself in his administration?
Oh, I’m not even thinking about that.

CF: Would you like to be an ambassador?
Haven’t even considered that. Really, I just want the right guy in charge.


2 years ago
Posted by pol&pers

Ms Crown is quite unaware of most people's economic state. I've never been to Hawaii; it is too expensive to travel there. She also is oblivious to the 1500 people who come with a new Administration, including all the Neocons who just love war because they got multiple deferments to avoid Vietnam. Women's rights will be curtailed, but she has the money to escape the problems. She'll be just fine whomever wins any year.

2 years ago
Posted by parkerpal

I thought that Romney has said outright that he hopes to take down Roe vs. Wade; if not, it clearly is in the cross hairs, especially with his appointments to the Supreme Court (which they have avoided mentioning but are undoubtedly salivating over).

How she can laud Ryan as someone who has his numbers right is surprising as there have been many analyses showing that the revenue stream will not support even the reduced budget? And that the ultimate cost from reducing social programs (increased law enforcement costs etc.) will also throw things out of whack.

Her belief that Romney would disavow the far right wing of his party is just fantasy. They have forced McConnell to support positions he obviously has no heart for, and even a sitting president cannot outwrestle his party in Congress. And he is indebted to the Kochs, Adelson and others who have financed the most expensive presidential campaign in history; this isn't sport for them, it's business. He hasn't shown any ideological backbone with his shifting positions for political gain.

I even thought her comments about the library were sounds as though she is really mad at Obama for some reason and, like a jilted girlfriend, is saying anything bad she can. We have this deficit because of Bush, and to believe that bringing the same people back in would eliminate it is just wrong. And on foreign policy, 17 of his 24 advisors consist of the neocons who comprised Bush's team, so it's pretty clear where he's headed on Israel and Iran. Israel has faced annihilation since its inception and has consistently been supported by the US though all administrations.

2 years ago
Posted by Dan Johnson

That's a reckless and delusional bet that Ms. Crown is making on reproductive rights.

This is from his website:

Mitt believes that life begins at conception and wishes that the laws of our nation reflected that view. But while the nation remains so divided, he believes that the right next step is for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade – a case of blatant judicial activism that took a decision that should be left to the people and placed it in the hands of unelected judges. With Roe overturned, states will be empowered through the democratic process to determine their own abortion laws and not have them dictated by judicial mandate.


It's the same kind of delusional bet on "moderate" congressional Republicans who empower the Tea Party and the right-wing evangelical nutjobs to take control of the House. In a divided country, you can't pick Republicans like you're at a cafeteria and only take the lower-taxes-for-high-incomes part. You have to take the pro-life movement as well. And that's what Ms. Crown has been paying for, whether she wants to admit it or not. Hopefully, moderate women voters won't fool themselves tomorrow the same way she has.

2 years ago
Posted by BigBob411

Ms. Crown supported Romney based upon her single issue concern -Israel. The rest of Romney's positions has so many negatives that are contrary to her core beliefs that it's abundantly clear that she's deceived herself into believing that he won't hurt her on those issues. I wonder why she never looked deeply enough at what Obama has said and done on behalf of Israel that she didn't see it coming that Haaretz has just endorsed Obama - "Obama is good for Israel - The outcome of the elections will be determined by the voters' decision as to which of the two candidates is good for America. But if any of them are vacillating in their vote over whether Obama has been a good president for Israel, the answer is yes." Oh, Ms. Crown, single issue politics is so misguided and dangerous.

2 years ago
Posted by BigBob411

BTW, go to (yes that Tea Party conservative pundit) for his piece on why Ms. Crown turned on President Obama:

"Crown spent nearly one hour answering questions from the audience to fully explain her conversion.

Her reasons and responses were wide-ranging, thoughtful, brutally honest and humorous.

Top on Crown’s list is the way President Obama has been treating Israel.


Oh, and did I mention that Mr. Lester Crown, Susan's father, had it right when he wrote an op-ed piece in the Jerusalem Post (9/6/12)
"With the stakes as high as ever, President Obama's record speaks for itself. When it comes to Israel, the president has proven where his heart lies and his absolutely firm commitment to a faithful ally -".

As they say, father knows best.

2 years ago
Posted by John Powers

I think it is pretty safe to say, that when Dan Johnson refers to a wide range of the American Public as "nutjobs", being on the other side of him is the correct position.

It makes me scratch my head when Democrats decide to attack large groups of people, such as Brad Schneider's absurd attacks on Bob Dold, the Tea-Party candidate. Given that around 25% of the 10th identifies as Tea Party.....

Wouldn't it have more appeal, if the Democrats found some reason to bring in more voters than drive more people away?


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