So the Republican presidential contender, eager to show off more than gubernatorial experience, travels overseas to bolster his foreign policy credentials. Then, in a TV interview, he blurts out a shockingly ill-considered, if undeniably true, observation that snowballs until the poor guy collapses into an international punch line.
It was a vertiginous fall for George Romney, who, while running for president in 1967, asserted that generals and diplomats had given him "the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get" when he toured Vietnam two years earlier.
It was painful for Mitt, who had to watch his father's epic gaffe from afar, while he was over in France struggling to drum up a few Mormon converts.
In their book "The Real Romney," Michael Kranish and Scott Helman quoted Mitt's sister Jane as saying the episode deeply affected Mitt: "He's not going to put himself out on a limb. He's more cautious, more scripted."
That's when Mitt began to build his own sterile biosphere, shaping his temperament and political career to make sure he never stumbled into such a costly moment of candor.
But somehow he ended up making the same unforced error his dad did.
Even as he angled to appear Anglo-Saxon and obsequiously vowed to restore the bust of Churchill to the Oval Office, Mitt condescended to the nation that invented condescension. The Brits swiftly boxed his ears for his insolence and foul calumny.
The alarming thing about Romney is that he has been running for president for years, but he still doesn't know how to read a room. He doesn't take anything in, he just puts it out. He doesn't hear himself the way the rest of us hear him.
In the Mitt-sphere, populated by his shiny white family, the Mormon church and a narrow, homogeneous inner circle, Romney's image of himself as wise, caring, smart and capable is relentlessly reinforced. That leaves him constantly surprised that other people don't love what he is saying.
He came across like a wazzock, as The Daily Telegraph called him, using a British insult for a daft know-it-all.
Romney programmed himself into a robot, so he wouldn't boil over with opinions and convictions, like his more genuine dad.
But if we're going to have someone who's removed, always struggling to connect and emote, why not stick with the president we already have?
Better the android you know than the android you don't know.
Maureen Dowd writes for The New York Times.