One fine day in 2004, shortly before the great state of Massachusetts was about to become the first state in the Union to permit same-sex couples to marry, a group of folks, plaintiffs of the court case that ultimately brought marriage equality to the Commonwealth, had a meeting with then-Governor Romney. The meeting did not go well. They pleaded with him not to derail the whole marriage equality thing, which he tried in vain to do. He sat and listened, then after 20 minutes said to them, “Is there anything else?” Oh, and he also said at one point during the meeting, “I didn’t know you had families.” Folks left the meeting baffled, some in tears. He had utterly dissed them.
The Boston Spirit published this story, based on interviews made with those at the meeting, in their September/October edition, and it was subsequently picked up by the Boston Globe. And the story made the rounds on the usual queer blogs, but made only a mild splash in the mainstream media. The story’s bottom line: Governor Romney has no empathy. He is unable to connect with those different from himself or those who hold beliefs different from his own. Confronted with such people or with opposing viewpoints, and he condescends, he belittles, and then he shuts down.
Not only was this episode informative, but it formed the perfect back-story for what was to come. Less than a week after the Mitt-hates-gays story came out, Mother Jones magazine started putting out the video of Mitt Romney surreptitiously recorded at a private fundraiser, where he further demonstrated his inability to connect with those different from himself. Ensconced in space where he felt safe, he let loose with a tirade against those miserable wretches who failed to pay income tax and lived solely off the dole. Folks like the elderly who collected Medicare and Social Security, after having paid into those systems all of their working lives. Folks like the working poor whose income is too low to tax, but still pay a payroll tax, and of course sales tax. 47% of the population, he decried, won’t vote for him because they’re too wedded to these entitlements and to men like President Obama who vow to maintain them. By this logic, Romney’s own father would be an Obama supporter, because his father, once upon the time, received public aid.
Romney has demonstrated a need, a compulsion to prove himself superior to the riffraff, whoever the riffraff may be. He ran a Winter Olympics once, so in his mind that gave him license to mouth off to the British about how ill-prepared they were for their upcoming Summer Games. He was wrong — the games were a smashing success — and had to back peddle. When Ambassador Chris Stevens and his staff were brutally killed in Benghazi last week, rather then simply offer a statement of sympathy and a denouncement of the act, Romney felt the need to engage in a political tirade against President Obama which was not only highly inappropriate, but also factually flawed. His attempts to backtrack were similarly clumsy and inept.
Mitt Romney’s inability to step outside of himself, look at himself objectively, and at least try to imagine how others feel or what others believe, make him a singularly ill-suited person for the presidency. Even George W. Bush knew how to reign himself in, eventually. He gaffed and condescended (remember his “Oh, boohoo!” moment?), but eventually, he would come around and at least say the right thing. Doing he right thing was another matter. But Romney seems unable to even put up appearances. Whenever I look at him on TV, he also seems to carry a smirk in his face or upon his countenance. It reminds of when George H.W. Bush looked impatiently at his watch during the town hall debate between him and Bill Clinton. That moment pretty much sealed that election against Bush the Senior.
Similarly, Romney’s repeated instances of arrogance coupled with his total lack of empathy have all but sealed this election against him. Should he ultimately lose, how long will it be before he can take a good look at himself in the mirror and admit that he was in fact his own worst enemy?
© 2012, gar. All rights reserved.