Mitt Romney and George Bush at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. I couldn't find any pics of Mitt sitting in front of Kobe Bryant.
Mitt Romney has been running for president for quite a while now, and he’s been making gaffes for as long as he’s been on this extended campaign trail. On March 12, 2010, Romney took the time on his own birthday to stop by the California Republican Convention in Santa Clara to give his endorsement to then gubernatorial candidate and future Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman. At the time, I was working on my some-day-to-be-published conventions book, so I was lucky enough to catch these classic RomneyShambles before they were cool (how wonkishly hipster of me).
Like so many Romney gaffe fests, this one starts off with some opening remarks about the Olympics. This time instead of enraging the United Kingdom, Mitt talks about going to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 after John McCain had eliminated him in that year's presidential race. I have to say that this first bit of Romney goodness isn't a gaffe per se because he's trying to be funny, but even when Mitt isn't making a gaffe, he's talking about making a gaffe…
“We went to Beijing to go to the Olympic Games there, and still licking our wounds, getting the chance to see our athletes. It was very exciting. Went to one of my favorite events, women’s beach volleyball, and... (Audience laughs.) And, yeah (Mitt says acknowledging laughs). We came in just a little bit late so we came in and sat down in one of the front rows where our seats were. And as we came in, I noticed that the people in the audience recognized us. There were a lot of Americans there. They took out their cameras, were pointing at us; taking pictures. Then I noticed the Chinese started pointing at us and taking our picture. And I said, ‘Ann, boy our campaign has really had the impact all over the world.’ And I said, ‘You better sit up straight; they’re taking our picture.’ And Ann goes (gestures), and I turn around and there’s Kobe Bryant sitting behind us.”
But the beloved gaffes do start to fly when Mitt finally gets around to describing Whitman…
“I don't know how to describe her exactly except that she's kind of soft on the inside and hard as nails on the, excuse me, soft on the outside and hard as nails on the inside."
What the hell was Mitt trying to say here? I’m sure that being “hard as nails” on the inside is better than being that on the outside, but I still don’t think being likened to a pile of pointy metal is really such a ringing endorsement.
Mitt went on to say that Whitman is “somebody who understands how the economy works in a very unusual way.”
I wonder what way that is Mitt? Back in 2010, at Mitt’s urging, Meg burned through $160 million dollars losing the California governor’s race to Jerry Brown by nearly 20 percentage points. That kind of perspective on economics is pretty unusual, all right.
As Romney continues, he shows the same sensitivity towards gender issues that marks his current candidacy.
“Our party unfortunately suffers from a gender gap in general election and so far as I can tell, she (Whitman) does just fine with women,” Romney explains.
However, at one point while extolling Whitman’s virtues, Romney almost gives his soliloquy.
“Well, she is a CEO,” Romney muses. “That’s usually not a good thing if you’re running for office in the United States. I know. It’s not a good thing to be a CEO.”
Romney hired Whitman at Bain right out of Havard Business school and taught her everything she knows about slashing jobs so she's still carrying his water. She co-chaired a lavish Bay Area fundraiser for him in May, and she threw a fundraiser for Chris Christie in Sept. 2011 where the New Jersey Governor decided once-and-for-all that he wasn’t going to run against Romney in the 2012 GOP primary. While being compared to something you’d find in a big aluminum tub at a hardware store hans't tarnished Meg’s esteem for her former boss , her gubernatorial campaign did edit out Mitt’s gaffes in this video they posted of this event (and you really don't have to watch this):
Bob Calhoun is the author of the punk wrestling memoir "Beer, Blood & Cornmeal: Seven Years of Incredibly Strange Wrestling" (2008, ECW Press). He is currently working on a book on conventions and tradeshows. You can follow him on twitter at @bob_calhoun.