Mitt Romney Just Doesn’t Get It

Bob Garon and Mitt Romney

This morning on Twitter, I clicked on a link to a video posted by Mansur Gidfar. It’s a recording of a spontaneous conversation between Mitt Romney and a Vietnam veteran named Bob Garon that took place in a Manchester, New Hampshire restaurant on a December morning in 2011.

To me the episode depicted in the video is emblematic of who Mitt Romney is–a stodgy, selfish, self-centered man who sadly is unable to empathize with anyone who doesn’t share his own experiences as a privileged, wealthy, straight white male Mormon.

Romney sat down with Mr. Garon uninvited and began talking to him about Vietnam. He had no idea that Garon was a gay man who was having breakfast with his husband.

On January 1, 2010, New Hampshire legalized same sex marriage and ordered that all civil unions in the state would automatically become legal marriages. There was an effort to repeal the statute that legalized same sex marriage that Mitt Romney supported. That effort failed in March 2012. In New Hampshire’s Democratic governor John Lynch would have vetoed the repeal even if it had passed.

I discovered that this meeting between Romney and Garon was pretty well covered at the time, but somehow I missed it. The NYT Caucus blog covered the interaction on December 12, 2011. After the exchange, Garon summed up his reaction to Romney:

Afterward, Mr. Garon, who legally married another man in June, said Mr. Romney was not getting his vote.

“He told me that I’m not entitled to Constitutional rights,” he said. “I think a man and a woman and a man and a man should be treated equal.”

Adding that while he had been undecided until he chatted with Mr. Romney, Mr. Garon said, “I’m totally convinced today that he’s not going to be my president — at least in my book.”

“This man is ‘No way, Jose,’” he said. “Well, take that ‘No way, Jose’ back to Massachusetts.”

Though Mr. Garon conceded that Mr. Romney had handled his question fairly, giving him the yes or no answer he’d requested, he nonetheless offered an unfavorable prediction for the Republican primary outcome.

“He is not going to make it,” he said. “Because you can’t trust him. I just saw it in his eyes. I judge a man by his eyes.”

Times change. People change.

Romney doesn’t understand that times have changed since he was a prep school bully judging his classmate’s “manliness” back in the 1960s. He and his Gen-X running mate are still living in the past, when straight white males ruled the roost and the rest of us were also-rans. But no more. America is changing, and I don’t think reactionaries like Romney and Ryan are going to be able to stop it.

Just comparing the crowds of delegates at the two parties’ conventions shows how time has flowed onward despite the Republican Party’s reactionary efforts to stop it.

At the Republican Convention, we saw a sea of mostly older white faces, with a few token people of color on the stage and fewer in the audience. We heard mostly negative, messages that excluded those of us who don’t fit the Republican view of what a “real American” should be–including our President.  Even though there was a parade of people on stage talking about Romney’s kindness and generosity, we never heard of his helping people who weren’t like him–those he helped were mostly fellow Mormons as far as I could tell.  We never heard episodes in which he reached out to those outside his own circle.

At the Democratic Convention, we have been seeing a rainbow of faces–people wearing different kinds of clothing, belonging to many cultures, but united in wanting this to be a country in which people care about and for each other–because we’re all in this together. We’ve heard an inclusive, forward-looking message of hope for the future rather than a futile wishes to go back in time to a pristine America that never really existed.

I know which group I want to be part of, and I hope we send Romney and Ryan packing in November. Let them live in their fantasy world if they want to, but we must stop them from forcing their reactionary values on the rest of us.

This is an open thread. I’ll post a live blog later this evening for the third and last night of the Democratic National Convention.