As stumps around the country, wannabe president and occasional governor Mitt Romney likes to crack wise about the nutty Massachusetts media. The goal is obvious: by lampooning the local press as a bunch of zany liberals, Romney discredits future stories that might prove embarrassing.
And his method may be working. On December 1, the Globe reported that Mitt — a noisy foe of illegal immigration — has long relied on a work crew dominated by illegal immigrants to tend the yard of his Belmont home. Now, Mitt didn’t hire these laborers directly; the company they work for, Community Lawn Service with a Heart, is owned by one Ricardo Saenz, a legal Colombian immigrant who reportedly met Romney through the LDS Church. But while Romney’s concern about illegal immigration has prompted him to back putting up a 700-mile wall between the US and Mexico on the O’Reilly Factor, to oppose in-state public-university tuition for the children of illegal immigrants, and to broker a deal with the federal government that turns Massachusetts State Troopers into immigration-law enforcers, it never prompted him to ask Saenz or Saenz’s employees about their status.
There’s a great big whiff of hypocrisy here — but so far, the conservative faithful seem loath to admit it. Kathryn Jean Lopez did term the story “an early headache” at National Review Online, but her colleague John Podhoretz quickly laughed it off (“I expect calls for a firing squad. Maybe the Minutemen could raid Romney’s house”). The Weekly Standard had nothing to say on the subject. And then there’s blogger Hugh Hewitt, author of the forthcoming A Mormon in the White House? 10 things every conservative should know about Mitt Romney (Regnery), who accused the Globe of a “Reverse Kerry.”
“The Boston Globe went out of its way to protect John Kerry on issue after issue, from the magic hat to the non-release of his Navy records,” Hewitt wrote. “But Mitt Romney will be getting the opposite treatment from the hard-left Globe.. . . Quick: find the Globe story on John and Teresa Kerry’s five homes and the landscaping contractors for them.”
If you live in Boston, you know the Globe was actually pretty tough on Kerry in ’04; what’s more, Hewitt’s argument doesn’t actually make any sense, since Kerry never made illegal immigration a pet cause like Romney has. But whatever.
The Boston press (including the Phoenix) has relished the prospect of providing a reality check to the carefully cultivated Romney myth over the next few years. Judging from the way this particular story is playing out, it’s not going to be easy. Mitt may have the last laugh on the Massachusetts media after all.