Mitt Romney: The aristocrat

In a series of gaffes the Republican candidate has managed to distance himself from his fellow Americans.

Olympic Games 2012 Equestrian Dressage
Mitt Romney is a part owner of Rafalca, a horse that competed in dressage at this year's Olympic Games [EPA]

You may know the infamous comedian’s insider joke – or perhaps even saw the film about it – called The Aristocrats.

For comedians, it is a yarn that each time spun is supposed to become more obscene than during its previous telling. In other words, it’s kind of like watching real-life aristocrat Mitt Romney campaign.

Seriously, I didn’t think I’d be writing about the GOP presidential nominee this much. But it’s really difficult not to look again and again at the car-wreck of self-inflicted damage by someone whose behaviour lends credence to alien-possession sci-fi. Even more painful, or comical, depending upon your perspective, is how he thrashes around trying to deal with this fact.

As renowned leadership expert Kathleen Schaefer put it to me, “The problem with Romney is that he keeps trying to pretend he’s something he’s not and it keeps tripping him up.” Of course, this begs the question: does he have any other choice?

Take Rafalca – the dancing horse – who’s part-owned by the Romneys, and has been a competitor in these Olympic Games. When Romney was asked about his gambolling steed, he said it was [his wife] “Ann’s thing”, and he didn’t even know when the horse was performing.


So this man who has been happily married for around 40 years expects anyone to believe he really wasn’t aware of the show time for his wife’s dressage horse? Of course he knew, but this fits the Romney pattern of dealing with these things.

It comes to our attention – and his – that in some way he’s different than what we might call most humans. In this case, it was his owning an Oldenburg warmblood that provided him with a $77,000 write-off during the only year of tax returns that Romney’s deigned to share with us. Maybe he should have thought, back when he was deciding he would grace the campaign trail with his cybernetic flair, that Rafalca deserved some time off from the Olympics in 2012 – you know, to prance around the fields surrounding one of Mitt’s estates, chow down on some serious oats and play with Tagg and the boys.

For some unknown reason, however, it didn’t ever cross Mitt’s mind that owning an Olympic-bound mare would set him apart from his fellow Americans. So, he found himself in the situation of having to explain it this past week, and answered with what can only be called transparent dishonesty.

This is far from the only awkward situation created by Mitt’s wealth, and lack of understanding of how to handle his different strokes. The whole tax fiasco has been yet another case study.

Again, if you knew you were running for president, wouldn’t you perhaps spend at least five years before running making your taxes look as clean as a whistle? I’m saying no Grand Caymans, no Switzerland, no stashing bullion in the cargo bay of Curiosity to reach the low-tax surface of Mars (ok, one of these might be an exaggeration).

Not Romney, though. He apparently had to use every manoeuvre known to man and man’s most deceitful accountant to ensure he paid low-to-no taxes. So how has he handled the fallout? Stonewalling, uncomfortable denials, and lashing out at those who attack him for his hidden returns, such as Senator Harry Reid – thereby keeping the whole story in the news that much longer (genius!).

He’s even got porn star Jenna Jameson saying she is going to vote for him because “when you’re rich, you want a Republican in office.” (Of course, other porn actors interviewed by The Daily Beast are pro-Obama, showing that even in the world of X-rated entertainment, Mitt can find a way to divide the top 1 per cent from everyone else).

In Schaefer’s view, the way Romney should handle his background would be not only to accept it, but talk about his success in terms of how it could help regular American voters. If he had self-awareness and self-confidence, I think this would definitely be the way to go.

But the-guy-who-saved-the-Salt-Lake-Olympics-in-a-single-bound seems to lack the understanding that telling audiences you like to fire people and jet-ski photo ops are not recommended for a presidential candidate running during a recession (or ever, for that matter). And he just makes it worse by clinging to the kinds of falsehoods that would make David Barton blush, such as his time at Bain Capital having had anything to do with creating jobs.

So we should probably expect more of The Aristocrat, and just enjoy it for the sheer spectacle. Anything less, as Mitt Romney would surely tell us, would be “poppycock“.

Cliff Schecter is an author, pundit and public relations strategist whose firm Libertas, LLC handles media relations for political, corporate and non-profit clients.

Follow him on Twitter: @cliffschecter