On Monday, I noted how oddly endearing it is that Mitt Romney is visibly uncomfortable going on the attack against Newt Gingrich. Ever since his epic loss in South Carolina, the former Massachusetts governor has had no choice but to take off the gloves against the ethically challenged former speaker of the House. Yet, equally and oddly endearing is Romney’s even more apparent discomfort with discussing his wealth.
Yeah, yeah, he gave his inheritance away, made his own money and is unbelievably cheap (if you don’t count all those big houses he owns). But Romney has the refreshing, humble air of a man from another time — a time when the son of a multimillionaire businessman, former governor and former presidential candidate learned that open discussions of one’s personal wealth was akin to public stripping. Remember, this is the guy who said on national television that income inequality should be discussed in “quiet rooms.”
Romney isn’t the first wealthy man to run for public office, to run for the presidency or to be president. But he seems incapable of relating to those not accustomed to breathing his rarefied air (read, the rest of us). Worse still, Romney doesn’t seem to realize it, as evidenced by a growing list of “D’oh!”-worthy tin-ear comments.
Standing in front of a foreclosed home yesterday in Ft. Myers, Fla., Romney said, “Now, the banks aren’t bad people.” Millions of Americans would beg to differ. Just as folks did when Romney proclaimed, “Corporations are people.” Only the tin ear of a man worth around $250 million could produce such comments. Or think that $350,000 in speaking fees is “not very much” money, as he said last week. Or say out loud, “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me,” as he did earlier this month. Or creepily joke, “I’m also unemployed,” as he did last spring. Rest assured, there will be more comments like these as Romney fights his way back to inevitability.
Likening Romney to an alien put on Earth to blend in and report back what he finds, Jonah Goldberg writes in the New York Post today, “Occasionally he finds the right words, but he rarely connects them to the right tone.” When it comes to discussing his wealth, this oddly enduring trait is growing increasingly odd and less endearing for a man who wants to be president.