It seemed like a good idea at the time. Go to a Pittsburgh suburb. Hang out with a few “regular Americans” and sit and chat about taxes over chips, lemonade and cookies.
And so it was that Mitt Romney, dressed in brown loafers, grey slacks and blue tie with shirt sleeves rolled up, found himself strolling toward a picnic table in Bethel Park on Tax Day for a simple, utterly staged, roundtable with four couples handpicked to have an audience with a man who could be president.
But for Romney, who is not known for his gift of the regular-guy gab, a table, eight regular people, microphones, cameras, cookies, lemonade, reporters, chips, and dead air that needs to be filled with things that people say, can often be a recipe for awkwardness.
“I’m not sure about these cookies,” Romney said, looking at the women and around the table. “They don’t look like you made them. Did you make those cookies? You didn’t, did you? No. No. They came from the local 7-Eleven bakery or wherever.”
Democrats and marketers pounced and “Cookie Gate” was born.
“When I heard it, I thought, ‘Oh my goodness’ This guy has no idea how beloved this institution is that provided these cookies,” said John Walsh, whose Bethel Bakery shop, provided the cookies. “We wanted him to be welcomed with the best in the ‘burg, and he had no idea.”
Bethel Bakery, a Pittsburgh institution, capitalized on the cookie kerfuffle, offering a special deal on pastry platters — buy one dozen and get a half dozen free. One of President Obama’s local Pennsylvania offices took them up on the offer, ordering up five dozen cookies to express solidarity with the insulted cookies.
And 7-Eleven, known more for slushies than pastries, used the flap to highlight that yes, in fact, they do sell cookies, and yes, in fact, those cookies are yummy.
To make their point, Democrats trotted out Cookie Monster, as a kind of furry surrogate for the assortment of cookies that remained untouched by Romney, but were later gobbled up by the press.
(They were, in fact, delicious).
Cookie Monster had this to say: “This cookie thing, very emotionally draining.”