“We can almost speak in shorthand. … We share common experiences and have a perspective and underpinning which is similar.”

Thus does Michael Barbaro quote Mitt Romney in a New York Times article titled A Friendship Dating to 1976 Resonates in 2012. Of whom does Romney speak? Another Mormon deacon? Bain & Company founder Bill Bain? Barbaro explains.

… in 1976, the lives of Mitt Romney and Benjamin Netanyahu intersected, briefly but indelibly, in the 16th-floor offices of the Boston Consulting Group [headed by Bill Bain before he founded Bain & Company], where both had been recruited as corporate advisers. … That shared experience decades ago led to a warm friendship, little known to outsiders, that is now rich with political intrigue.

Not to mention controversy (emphasis added).

Mr. Romney has suggested that he would not make any significant policy decisions about Israel without consulting Mr. Netanyahu. … In a telling exchange during a debate in December, Mr. Romney criticized Mr. Gingrich for making a disparaging remark about Palestinians, declaring: “Before I made a statement of that nature, I’d get on the phone to my friend Bibi Netanyahu and say: ‘Would it help if I say this? What would you like me to do?’”

That even gives pause to Martin Indyk (one-time U.S. ambassador to Israel), no shrinking violet on Israel, who said “Mr. Romney’s statement implied that he would ‘subcontract Middle East policy to Israel.’” Barbaro on the bromance’s blossoming:

Mr. Romney, never known for his lack of self-confidence, still recalls the sense of envy he felt watching Mr. Netanyahu effortlessly hold court during the firm’s Monday morning meetings, when consultants presented their work and fielded questions from their colleagues. The sessions were renowned for their sometimes grueling interrogations.

“He was a strong personality with a distinct point of view,” Mr. Romney said. “I aspired to the same kind of perspective.”

Once they both switched to politics:

The men reconnected shortly after 2003 when Mr. Romney became the governor of Massachusetts. Mr. Netanyahu paid him a visit, eager to swap tales of government life [and] regaled Mr. Romney with stories of how, in the tradition of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, he had challenged unionized workers over control of their pensions, reduced taxes and privatized formerly government-run industries, reducing the role of government in private enterprise.

That both men are products of the same rapacious business environment is telling. On the other hand, that two such odd ducks — Romney wrapped as tight as a drum; Netanyahu in the grips of his obsession with attacking Iran — were able to find each other and become fast friends would be called heartwarming were the source of the heat anywhere but hell.

Cross-posted from the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.

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