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Jewish World Review
Jan 5, 2012/ 10 Teves, 5772
Romney goes to heck
MANCHESTER, N.H. — For Mitt Romney, it was the event from hell. Or from heck, since Mitt Romney does not use words like hell.
Or any of the other bad words that any other candidate might have used after this event on the day following his narrow victory in the Iowa caucuses.
Let’s start with the mic check, that part of an event when a staffer comes out, pings his finger against the microphone and says, “Testing. Testing. One, two, three.”
Except the Romney mic check is a little … elaborate. Far more elaborate than any mic check I have ever heard.
A voice booms out over the loudspeakers in the gym at Manchester Central High. “Checking the press riser. Please let us know if you are getting any hums or buzzes. Clean? Is it crispy good?”
If the audience is puzzled by this — crispy good? Is this KFC? — they must have been downright baffled when a Romney staffer takes the stage and says, “White balance. Get your white balance.”
White balance is something video cameras need, but some in the crowd look around to see if someone is doing a racial headcount. Which would have been easy. Out of an audience of a few hundred, I count four black people, three of whom — magically! — are in the camera shot. (New Hampshire is only 1.1 percent black.)
These detailed checks tell me something: They tell me Mitt Romney likes his campaign to run well. Very well. Extremely well. As in flawlessly well.
And on the flight from Des Moines, everything had gone well. Reporters had their names on pieces of paper on each seat (reporters hate confusion), Romney came to the back of the plane wearing one of his windowpane shirts (he has several) and a pair of faded jeans (he switches between Tommy Bahama and The Gap, though some reporters feel The Gap is more flattering to him) and “banters,” saying things like, “You guys got nothing better to do?”
So everything is fine. Everything is dandy. The candidate looks confident and happy. And then he has to ruin things by actually campaigning.
At the high school gym, the campaign plays a medley of oldies — “Eye of the Tiger,” “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet,” “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher” — and then the sound cuts out entirely as Ann Romney and political dignitaries enter not to uplifting music but to dead silence.
So, OK, stuff happens. There are some introductory remarks for which the sound is “crispy good,” and then Romney and John McCain walk out. McCain had endorsed Romney the night before, the value of which is problematical, but what the heck, he was the last Republican nominee (to lose).
Then Romney announces this is going to be a two-person town hall and that McCain is going to stay on the stage and take questions, too.
This is odd enough — the crowd has probably come to see and hear Romney — but doubly odd since McCain hates public speaking and is no good at it, which he immediately proceeds to demonstrate.
McCain tells an anecdote involving Grantland Rice, Joe Louis and Billy Conn, who everyone as old as McCain (75) no doubt still remembers, bashes President Obama and then wraps up with patented “heh-heh” McCain sarcasm.
Turning to Romney and then the audience, McCain says, “We forgot to congratulate him on his landslide victory last night!” Heh-heh.
Then Romney starts taking questions. The big gym swallows up sound, and so Romney staffers rush around to bring handheld microphones to the questioners. But each question is oddly hostile.
Oddly hostile as in Romney’s opponents — Republicans? Democrats? — have packed the hall early and Romney keeps taking questions from people in the front rows, which is a mistake. (Note to Romney staff: Put actual Romney supporters in the front rows next time.)
Romney is asked about corporations being people and where the next war will be, and he calls on an Asian woman directly in front of him who says, “I’m Chinese-American, I pay my taxes and I vote and don’t put Asians down!”
A staffer takes the mic away from her but she keeps talking and Romney says, “I love legal immigration and if I am president, we will have more of it!”
Then he looks around for someone who might be safe and he calls on a boy of about nine or 10 who has just stood up from — where else? — the front row.
The kid reads from a piece of paper saying, “Now that the troops are out of Iraq, do you intend to form alliances there?”
Not your average grade-schooler question. I am sitting a few rows back on one of the other sides of the room, and the woman next to me, who has been studying a piece of paper with a dozen printed questions on it, stands up and asks Romney — what else? — a hostile question.
Romney answers, calls on another person, but there aren’t enough handheld mics for a crowd of this size and his staffers are slow in getting to the questioner and Romney says in icy tones: “We decided to save money on microphones here.”
Did you hear those thuds? Those were the sounds of heads rolling at Romney headquarters.
Things like this happen to low-rent, seat-of-the-pants, run-of-the-mill campaigns, not the Romney “crispy good” campaign.
After a few more questions, Romney says, “I am told we are out of time for questions.” But I wonder how he was told this. No staffer has come up to him or handed him a note.
But Romney has decided it is time to end the event from heck and walks off the stage into the crowd, where he shakes hands and answers questions that are not miked or broadcast.
And as I leave the gym, there is a whole bunch of eager young volunteers with eager young faces, who are politely handing out campaign literature to one and all.
For Ron Paul.
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