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Mitt Romney's Way With Words

Mitt Romney's evolution on various issues has made it hard for many voters to get a read on him, but this much is clear: the man sure can deliver a tongue-lashing. Judging from his recent statements on the trail, one gets the sense that, as happy as the Romney boys all now seem while stumping for their father, the Romney household was probably not a place one wanted to be when young Tagg or Matt failed to mow the lawn or write a thank you note. The former Massachusetts governor may spare the rod, but he sure doesn't spare the adjectives:

First, there was his upbraiding of Larry Craig the morning after news broke of the Idaho senator's arrest in a Minneapolis airport bathroom. While some other Republicans adopted a wait and see pose, Romney wasted no time in separating himself from the co-chair of his Idaho campaign advisory committee: "Once again, we've found people in Washington have not lived up to the level of respect and dignity that we would expect for somebody that gets elected to a position of high influence. Very disappointing. He's no longer associated with my campaign, as you can imagine... I'm sorry to see that he has fallen short," Romney said on CNBC. He added, "The truth of the matter is, the most important thing we expect from an elected official is a level of dignity and character that we can point to for our kids and our grandkids, and say, `Hey, someday I hope you grow up and you're someone like that person.' And we've seen disappointment in the White House, we've seen it in the Senate, we've seen it in Congress. And frankly, it's disgusting."

The 'd' word surfaced again a few weeks later when Romney sought to outdo his GOP rivals in condemning's ad attacking Gen. David Petraeus.
The ad is "entirely unacceptable...for to attack him as they did is simply unacceptable and reprehensible," Romney said on MSNBC. The truth is, he added, that "Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama and John Edwards are afraid to repudiate an ad and an organization which has taken a disgusting course against a great American."

This week came the latest adjectival eruption, in response to reports that New York City was considering allowing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit Ground Zero. Said Romney on Bill Bennett's "Morning in America" show: "What an audacious and shocking and outrageous request."

And at an event at a Florida retirement community yesterday, Romney again discussed the Iranian leader's visit. "Can you imagine the audacity, the shocking nerve, the chutzpah to suggest that he would visit ground zero, the handiwork of terrorists of the very kind that he supports?" Romney asked.

So, in just three incidents, with months yet to go, the campaign has deployed "disappointing," "disgusting," "unacceptable," "reprehensible," "audacious," "shocking," and "outrageous." Who knows what occasions will merit the synonyms that are surely waiting in reserve: despicable, base, heinous -- and, for the Latin buffs out there, that most debilitating put-down of all: infra dignitatem.

--Alec MacGillis

By Washington Post editors  |  September 20, 2007; 3:00 PM ET
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I like Romney, but I agree with bsimon on this. It could be a positive sign that Ahmadinejad has asked to visit a memorial dedicated to victims of terrorism. Why alienate him? We can be civil, even gracious, to foreign leaders we disagree with and still stand our ground. We can afford to be soft on people but hard on policy. Romney's remarks were probably not productive.

Posted by: trich1 | September 21, 2007 10:30 PM | Report abuse

deseret, check your facts. Israel is not part of the US. The problem with Ahmadinejad is that he's partially a product of our own foreign policy. Recall that, before our President lumped Iran into the 'axis of evil' we were actually working with Iran, who assisted our invasion of Afghanistan. Perhaps their motivations were suspect, as we conveniently eliminated a rival government to theirs, which we then did again in Iraq. This leaves Iran as the major player in the region - maybe you've forgotten, but one of the benefits of having Saddam around is he kept Iran in check. Now that dynamic balance is gone, so Iran is focusing on 'bigger' issues.

Now, looking at the situation we have today, our diplomats are working feverishly with their diplomats, and others from around the world, in an effort to curtail or at least limit their nuclear development programs. I don't know if you've read the news lately, but there are allegations that Israel's strike on a facility in Syria may have destroyed a nuclear research facility and/or equipment and materials from North Korea. Keep in mind that Syria and Iran work together. So, in other words, tensions are certainly high in the region.

So, knowing all that, if we're trying to avoid more war in the region, do you think its helpful or unhelpful for a Presidential candidate to insult one of the key players - if not the key player - in the middle of these talks designed to keep them from developing a weapon? Nobody's asking you to like the guy. He just asked to see a memeorial to victims of terrorism. What do you think he's going to do? What's the harm? Are we that scared of this little pipsqueak that we can't let him have his little photo-op where he'll likely say something offensive and prove that he's the deranged lunatic that most of the world already thinks he is?

My point, that you've apparently missed, is not that we should treat Mr Ahmadinejad as some kind of respected 'elder statesman'. My point is that former Gov Romney, like the current occupant of the White House, seems more fond of tough talk, regardless of whether it helps or hurts our diplomatic efforts. What's more important to you - a smart-alek that can pitch off one-liners that rouse the base, or someone who can accomplish our foreign policy goals effectively? Romney appears to be the former.

Posted by: bsimon | September 21, 2007 10:15 AM | Report abuse

"And, regarding his comments on Ahmadinejad, is this an appropriate way to talk about a head of state"

bsimon: I agree. we should roll out the red carpet for this Elder Statesmen! Anybody that strives to develop nuclear weapons with the primary objective to detonate it in any major US metropolitan area should be invited to speak at the memorial for holocaust survivors of the second world war.
I wouldn't want to offend this classy individual. Furthermore, when he continues to support terror and fund those same jackasses that are killing our service men and women in Iraq, we should turn a blind eye. Heaven forbid we make him feel uncomfortable.
How about this idea; if he wants to see ground zero, why don't we hand deliver it to him?


Posted by: deseret | September 21, 2007 1:31 AM | Report abuse

The discourse on Romney's vocabulary is mildly amusing. I'd be more interested in some analysis regarding whether this kind of talk is new for Romney; is he always so quick to criticize, or is this a new habit he's developed to pander to the base?

And, regarding his comments on Ahmadinejad, is this an appropriate way to talk about a head of state? Ok, the man is a loon, but his country did help us go after the Taliban in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Are Romney's words indicative of his potential style of diplomacy, should he become President? God help us.

Posted by: bsimon | September 20, 2007 5:00 PM | Report abuse

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