All of a sudden, Massachusetts is America’s poster child for health-care reform — and nobody’s happier about that than Governor Mitt Romney, who, as a result, has become a popular dark-horse pick for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. Some of the accolades directed at Romney in recent days have been warranted, some less so — but one comment in particular demands correction. In a hubba-hubba Newsweek column, Jonathan Alter suggested that, thanks to the cautionary example of Romney’s father, George, Mitt is “not likely to be gaffe-prone” as he seeks the presidency. (George Romney’s 1968 presidential campaign fizzled after he claimed US officials had subjected him to “brainwashing” regarding the Vietnam War.)
Au contraire, Mr. Alter. Mitt Romney has many strengths, but gracefully dodging mistakes isn’t one of them. In fact, as we here in Massachusetts know firsthand, the governor is something of a political klutz. Consider these classic Romney blunders:
10) Cardinal error
As Romney heads to Rome for Boston archbishop Sean O’Malley’s elevation to cardinal in March, a Romney spokesperson says the two men are friends, and that the archbishop asked the governor to make the trip. But this doesn’t square with O’Malley’s account. “I’ve met him a couple times — don’t know him well,” the archbishop tells the Boston Globe. Worse, O’Malley says he didn’t invite the governor. (O’Malley’s spokesperson later says Romney did receive an invitation that “was similar to that extended to the general public.”)
9) The price is wrong
After the London subway bombings in July 2005, Romney briefly rides Boston’s T to reassure the citizenry. At a press conference beforehand, the governor incorrectly identifies the price of a subway token as $1. (It’s $1.25.)
8) What’s in a name?
During a radio appearance for the 2002 campaign, Romney forgets the name of his running mate, Kerry Healey. Explaining that Healey will help broaden the GOP ticket’s appeal, Romney says, “That is what has drawn me to Sherry.” Also, while discussing his efforts to woo conservative Democrats, Romney calls former Massachusetts governor and Reagan supporter Ed King “Frank King.”
7) He likes gay people
In 1994, while running against Ted Kennedy for the US Senate, Romney assures the Massachusetts Log Cabin Republicans that “as we seek to establish full equality for America’s gay and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent.” (Remember, that opponent is Ted Kennedy. Romney gets the endorsement.) During his 2002 gubernatorial campaign, Romney operatives distribute bright-pink fliers at Boston’s gay-pride festival that read: “Mitt and Kerry wish you a great Pride weekend! All citizens deserve equal rights, regardless of their sexual preference.” Two years later, during his speech at the Republican National Convention, Romney likens the threat from same-sex marriage to the menace of Islamist terrorism.