We’ve all been there: Our dressage tutor has been accused of masking the bum foot of a horse we sold for six figures, with the unhappy result that we then had to spend hours in a deposition, answering questions of
the sort one never has to field on Fox News.
OK, maybe we haven’t.
But the most telling thing about the Ann Romney who comes through in a 2010 deposition in a lawsuit involving her horse “Super Hit,” which was settled out of court last fall, has nothing to do with the pricey Austrian Warmbloods she loves. Or with her passion for dressage, also known as “horse ballet,” in which the animals perform pirouettes and hop sideways and forward at the same time, at the direction of riders in tails and top hats.
Asked whether she was ever unhappy with her coach, the German-born Jan Ebeling, she answered, “I think that is not a fair question because we all get upset at certain times with anybody that is – you know, especially a German.”
Sure, we do! (Has Mrs. Romney met my family, perhaps?) Because not only are we domineering, hard-driving models of efficiency, but scowling and cold, too, except on the occasional, well-earned night off for beer and Bavarian polka. And is the Epcot Center of Romney World also peopled by haughty Frenchmen and emotional Italians, I wonder?
You’d think that as a member of a group as casually caricatured as Mormons have been, she’d try harder to avoid stereotypes. Or maybe this was an off-season dig at Barack Obama – also of German descent, on his mother’s side. Anyway, there goes Yorkville, not to mention Henry Kissinger.
If the Romneys come across as out of touch – and they do, sometimes — it isn’t because they have lots of money, like the Kennedys, Bushes, Kerrys and McCains, and in recent years, the Clintons and the Obamas. Our political system virtually requires candidates to be well-off, well-connected, or both, so it’s hardly fair to then hold these holdings against them.
Though that 2004 video of John Kerry windsurfing off Nantucket wasn’t what you’d call helpful, the Romneys aren’t pegged as elitist because this year’s Republican nominee knows an unusual amount about Missouri Foxtrotters, either. Romney recently told Sean Hannity they are “like a quarter horse, but just a much better gait.” Got it?
And to those who chide the press for writing about Mrs. Romney’s upscale avocation, I’d point out that if she’d said gardening or macramé “gave me a joy and a purpose,” then we’d have done our best to learn something about what those pursuits said about the candidate’s spouse, too.
If the Romneys come off as out of touch, it’s because they say the darnedest things, frequently in a way that suggests a certain remove.
Again and again, Mitt Romney returns unbidden to the topic of his tax bracket, with “I like to fire people,” or that reference to his wife’s ownership of “a couple of Cadillacs.” But she, too, has gotten into trouble when comparing her lot to that of the average voter.
In an interview with the Boston Globe when her husband was running against Ted Kennedy back in 1994, she said they’d spent years as “struggling students,” living on pasta and tuna fish in a $62-a-month garden apartment they couldn’t even afford to carpet properly. “We were happy, studying hard. Neither one of us had a job, because Mitt had enough of an investment from stock [from his father] that we could sell off a little at a time. … [W]e had no income except the stock we were chipping away at. We were living on the edge, not entertaining.”
In March, she said, “I don’t even consider myself wealthy.” Just last month, she told the crowd at the Connecticut Republican Party’s Prescott Bush Awards Dinner in Stamford that “I know what it’s like to finish the laundry and to look in the basket five minutes later and it’s full again. I know what’s like to pull all the groceries in and see the teenagers run through and all of a sudden all the groceries you just bought are gone.’’
Potential first families are not required to have lived on the edge, but they do need to know what that means. And fancy pastimes are fine, but cartoon ideas about people of different backgrounds are not; in this case, it’s not Mrs. Romney’s sophistication, but her lack of it that’s a surprise.
Melinda Henneberger is a Post political writer and anchors “She the People.” Follow her on Twitter at @MelindaDC.