On Tuesday, Mitt Romney met with several preselected middle-class couples. They sat around a picnic table in Bethel Park, PA and discussed taxes. “over a table of lemonade, pretzels, chips and cookies from Bethel Bakery.” The Bakery is beloved by the community and is considered a local “landmark.”
The meeting got off to a rocky start, however, when the governor sat down at a picnic table set with food and made an apparent attempt at humor.
“I’m not sure about these cookies,” Mr. Romney said. “They don’t look like you made them,” he said turning to one of the women at the table. “Did you make those cookies? You didn’t, did you? No. No. They came from the local 7-Eleven bakery or wherever.”
The cookies, in fact, were donated from the popular Bethel Bakery around the corner from the community center, and once Mr. Romney’s comment was broadcast on local airwaves offended residents took to Facebook and Twitter to complain.
Next, the locals attempted to explain to the oblivious and smirking Mr. Romney the need for community services like teachers and good schools.
One woman at the gathering said she was scared about the fate of her public schools, given deep cuts to the state budget (incidentally, the man who pushed those cuts, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, endorsed Romney today). “I don’t like to see cuts made in anything in education,” she said, citing her daughter’s experience. Another man chimed in, noting that “the fat” had already been trimmed and now important education programs were being hit.
A man then told Romney,
“None of us like to pay more taxes, but sometimes that’s necessary.” Another woman added, “It’s a necessary evil.” “Right, right,” a third person said as everyone in the group nodded.
Julie Lytle, the bakery’s sales and marketing assistant, said the popular local fixture since 1955 “turned a negative into a positive” by printing a sign offering customers a “CookieGate Special!” — a free half dozen cookies with the purchase of a dozen cookies today and Thursday.
“I was a little shocked,” Ms. Lytle said. “I didn’t think too much of it at the time, and I didn’t think it would blow up like it has. We decided to have fun with it and not to get offended.”