Mitt Romney’s homecoming at Detroit’s Ford Field was considerably less upbeat than that “Halftime in America” Chrysler commercial that got Clint Eastwood in trouble — to the extent such a thing is possible, I mean — because the ad’s ‘all is not lost’ message struck Karl Rove as
coded praise for our president.
Then again, Chrysler had the sense not to put the Detroit Economic Club in charge of its production. While at the Romney event, in the 65,000-seat stadium where the Lions play, the bleachers were not empty because of the sleet, but because the Chamber of Commerce-type group had decided the 30-yard line was the best spot for the 1,200 Michiganders who’d shelled out to hear Romney unveil his tax-cutting plan.
The most impressive non-fiscal aspect of what he had to say was that despite the skewering he’s taken for having the ardor of an arborist over the trees in his home state, he not only sang that song one more time, but added that he also likes what they do with pavement in Michigan:
“You know, the trees are the right height. The streets are just right. I like the fact that most of the cars I see are Detroit-made automobiles.’’ Like the Mustang and Chevy pickup truck he drives, he said, adding that his wife Ann “drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually. ” (No, not at the same time; one is parked at the beach house in San Diego.)
Goodbye, tax plan, hello SRX crossovers.
That Romney has multiple cars, even multiple Cadillacs, is neither surprising nor alarming. (In fact, I’m still mulling what point Sarah Palin was trying to make at CPAC when she said Washington is such a decadent cesspool that “heck, there’s even a Lamborghini dealership.” As my 16-year-old son, who was with me, wondered, “What’s wrong with having a Lamborghini? I thought she was all about capitalism.”)
Romney’s Republican competitors have suggested that the former Massachusetts governor’s repeated interjections about his wealth — “I’ll bet you $10,000.,” “I like to fire people,’’ “Corporations are people, my friend,” saying he isn’t “concerned about the very poor,’’ and calling the $360,000 he made in speaking fees last
year not very much — show how wholly out of touch he is.
These mentions of money are especially odd because people who grow up with it, as Romney did — his father George was the self-made CEO of American Motors when Mitt lived in Michigan — aren’t usually so squirrelly about it.
But Friday’s speech confirmed that Romney is in full-blown Dan Quayle territory now, blurting stuff about how rich he is because he’s trying to keep from blurting stuff about how rich he is. (I once did a long piece on Quayle and learned that, while perfectly intelligent, he’d been so traumatized by his early flubs that he couldn’t seem to stop making them.) Quayle kept presenting himself as dim, though, whereas Romney just reminds us he’s not hurting for cash.
Barack Obama never tried to come off as just your average dude — he couldn’t have, but the change sure was nice — and Romney needn’t, either. There’s nothing wrong with being rich, quirky, and well above average.
Just take a deep breath, though, Governor, and tell us how dramatically cutting taxes — by 20 percent for individuals and from 35 percent to 25 percent for corporations, without growing the deficit, won’t hurt people who are not rich. He didn’t make that last claim, though, did he? He couldn’t, with a straight face and a clean conscience. And for me, that’s the problem.
Melinda Henneberger is a Post political writer and anchors ‘She the People.’ Follow her on Twitter at @MelindaDC.