Mitt Myths: He Says What He Means, He Just Can't Remember What He Said (Exactly)

By R.B. Scott

Boston, MA - Officially, Willard Mitt Romney has been auditioning for president of The United States since about 2002, perhaps even earlier. His every move and witticism seems well-rehearsed. He often delivers his lines awkward ways that may, in time, become endearing Romney trademarks. 

“Who let the dogs out, woof, woof,” he once barked, grinning goofily at some black teenage schoolgirls who had gathered to cheer him on. He intended no offense and, happily, miraculously, they took none. 

He seems as indefatigable as the Energizer Bunny – still running and running and running after all these years — yet opponents and pundits, friends and relatives, and the ordinary citizens have trouble connecting with him. They seem to respect him well enough. What’s not to respect? He looks like the Eagle Scout he should have been, but wasn’t. CCN newswoman Gloria Borger got it about right when she likened him to the steady, loyal, and nice, if disarmingly gawky young man mothers always want their fickle daughters to marry and settle down with. 

Team Romney has not exactly encouraged revealing, forthright profiles of their man. The guiding strategy seemed to be “the less people know about him, the better. And, mum’s the word on Mormonism until we get to the general election. And now we are here. The general election season is upon. It’s time to unveil some of the myths about Mitt.

MYTH: He single-handedly saved the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Practically everyone in Salt Lake City knows he didn’t. This is not true for the rest of the nation, however. In late 1998 headlines screamed that “bribery” was scandalizing the games. Romney bought into the hyperbole. Mixing metaphors, he quipped “if it looks like, walks like and quacks like a bribe…” Yet, the “bribes” were more like customary gratuities that had been requested. Federal charges against the two executives (Tom Welch and David Johnson) who allegedly authorized the bribes were summarily dispatched by U.S. District Judge David Sam who also issued a scathing rebuke The judge wrote that the case was “devoid of “criminal intent or evil purpose " and had “failed to meet the legal standard for bribery.” Despite acquittal, the lives of the two men were destroyed, although recently Johnson earned a modicum of public redemption. Late last year he was named bishop of his Mormon congregation in Holladay, Utah.

MYTH: Obamacare is not Romneycare. Mitt should be more careful of what he wishes for. After he engineered the nation’s first universal health care program, Romney crowed that the Massachusetts program should serve as a national model. That’s what he said. It’s on the record. President Obama agreed and soon the nation had Obamacare, a Federal program that conservatives hate and Romney now vows to rescind on his first day in office. He can’t do any such thing, of course, but it the pledge makes for energetic campaign ballyhoohaw. The fact is, the U.S. Supreme Court cut the legs out from under it shortly, which could put the entire matter back on the table for the general election season. This would give voters an opportunity to understand clearly what Romney finds wrong with “Obamacare.” Mitt’s chief beef ? He thinks health care should be tackled on a state by state basis. Should the court rule otherwise, expect Romney, if elected, to enforce the law. He worries that a Federal program will lead to a sprawling and unaccountable bureaucracy that will stifle competition and inflate costs. However, like Obama, Romney believes all Americans should have easy access to competent medical care. 

MYTH: Romney is so wealthy, he can not comprehend the nation’s needs. Practically no one worth only his next paycheck, dwindling savings, IRA, and the equity in his underwater home can relate to a man worth a couple of hundred million, who seems to effortlessly grow richer by the moment. Yet conservatives have argued convincingly that debt reduction, elimination of government “extravagances” are keys to restoring economic vitality. Mitt is really good at such stuff. His training as a Bain consultant–“first, stop the bleeding”—guides the process. After “swimming around in the numbers” over his first two weeks as Massachusetts governor, Romney surfaced with a “preliminary” plan to close the $650 million deficit by trimming $500 million from the budget. Some were cuts to allocations to cities and towns that were replaced by user fees, which detractors say are de’facto taxes and supporters claim restrain government intervention in local matters and eliminate wasteful entitlements. When he left office in 2006 he had balanced the budget for three consecutive years, generated revenue surpluses of $1.2 billion, and resolved the inherited $2-3 billion shortfall. He had developed and implemented the nation’s first universal healthcare plan and kept the unemployment rate at about 4.5 percent, one of the lowest in the nation. The big knock: job growth wasn’t huge. Of course, growing jobs when the unemployment rate is hovering around zero, growing jobs is a formidable, if not impossible challenge.

THE BIG MYTH: Mitt is a flip-flopper? Like most politicians, Romney tells voters what they want to hear. Sometimes make nice efforts are unnecessary. In 1994 when all but the votes were counted in his challenge to Senator Kennedy in 1994, Romney told the Wampanoag tribe in New Bedford that he thought building a gambling casino on their land was a good idea. Just as often, the alleged flip-flops spring from a desire to keep his options open knowing that the world and legislative process demands nuanced responses and compromises. Although he has always been personally opposed to abortion, from 1993 through about 2007 he supported “Choice” and the principles embodied in the landmark court decision Roe v. Wade. Now he says he favors the repeal of Roe v. Wade. Yet, it is unclear how he would lead a repeal effort as President or how far he would go. He has not yet clearly sorted out a consistent position on “morning after” treatments and disposal of embryos left over from the In Vitro Fertilization procedures used by three of his own children. While he has argued that “life” begins at “conception,” he has not defined when “conception” takes place. What is clear is that until Roe v. Wade is undone, Romney would faithfully abide by the law. Even though he personally opposed same gender marriage, when it became the law in Massachusetts he faithfully and actively enforced the law. Moreover, he remained committed to the principles of equal protection under law for same gender couples. His record in Massachusetts suggests that he will govern well come what may, que sera sera.

MYTH: Romney is anti-gay. Don’t tell that to that to Gordon Bowen, the very gay creative “genius” of McGarry Bowen, name Ad Age’s agency of the year for 2011. Bowen has been Romney’s main ad guy and close personal friend since about 1994 or even before. He was at Mitt’s side through the Olympics, the 2002 and 2008 elections, he has been a frequent guest at the Romney lakeside manse on Lake Winnipesaukee, and several Romney sons were tenants in Bowen sumptuous apartments in Manhattan. Although has been on the down low through this part of the election cycle, Bowen is likely lurking in the weeds until Romney no longer needs to kiss the self-righteous asses of the radical Christian right.

MYTH: A Mormon can not win the Republican nomination: And, Mitt really didn't say " ...I’m not familiar precisely with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was..."