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Romney's greatest gaffes - 'tar baby' update

He may be the GOP’s new golden boy, but the country doesn’t know Mitt like we do
By ADAM REILLY  |  August 2, 2006

Even by Mitt Romney’s gaffe-tastic standards, this was a bad one. Speaking at a Republican luncheon in Ames, Iowa over the weekend, the Massachusetts governor and would-be Republican presidential nominee referred to the Big Dig as a “tar baby” — a phrase which, though sometimes used to describe sticky situations, is also a pejorative term for African-Americans.

There's a certain just-desserts quality to this latest Romney stumble, since the governor has been unseemingly eager to fold his newfound control of the Big Dig into the whole “Turnaround” narrative. Consider the offensive quote in question: “The best thing for me to do politically is stay away from the Big Dig — just get as far away from that tar baby as I possibly can.” Mitt, that’s a load of crap. You know — and everybody watching you knows — that this is a golden opportunity: you can brag about taking control of the project, but you’ll be back in Utah (or Michigan) in a few short months, leaving the next governor to muddle through.

In addition to pointing up the governor’s fondness for shameless self-promotion, what else does this gaffe tell us? For starters, he doesn’t follow the news too closely. (Earlier this year, White House spokesman Tony Snow’s use of the “tar baby” term sparked a very public controversy.) What’s more, Romney probably doesn’t know a whole lot of black people, since, according to his spokesman, he wasn't aware the term was offensive. No big surprise there —neither Belmont, Massachusetts nor the LDS Church are teeming with African-Americans — but still worth mentioning.

Romney’s sure to embarrass himself again sometime in the next few months. In the meantime, here’s a recap of the stumbles that preceded the “tar baby” incident:

10) Cardinal error
As Romney heads to Rome for Boston archbishop Sean O’Malley’s elevation to cardinal in March, a Romney spokesperson says the two men are friends, and that the archbishop asked the governor to make the trip. But this doesn’t square with O’Malley’s account. “I’ve met him a couple times — don’t know him well,” the archbishop tells the Boston Globe. Worse, O’Malley says he didn’t invite the governor. (O’Malley’s spokesperson later says Romney did receive an invitation that “was similar to that extended to the general public.”)

9) The price is wrong
After the London subway bombings in July 2005, Romney briefly rides Boston’s T to reassure the citizenry. At a press conference beforehand, the governor incorrectly identifies the price of a subway token as $1. (It’s $1.25.)

8) What’s in a name?
During a radio appearance for the 2002 campaign, Romney forgets the name of his running mate, Kerry Healey. Explaining that Healey will help broaden the GOP ticket’s appeal, Romney says, “That is what has drawn me to Sherry.” Also, while discussing his efforts to woo conservative Democrats, Romney calls former Massachusetts governor and Reagan supporter Ed King “Frank King.”

7) He likes gay people
In 1994, while running against Ted Kennedy for the US Senate, Romney assures the Massachusetts Log Cabin Republicans that “as we seek to establish full equality for America’s gay and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent.” (Remember, that opponent is Ted Kennedy. Romney gets the endorsement.) During his 2002 gubernatorial campaign, Romney operatives distribute bright-pink fliers at Boston’s gay-pride festival that read: “Mitt and Kerry wish you a great Pride weekend! All citizens deserve equal rights, regardless of their sexual preference.” Two years later, during his speech at the Republican National Convention, Romney likens the threat from same-sex marriage to the menace of Islamist terrorism.

6) Not that there’s anything wrong with that
During Boston’s 2005 St. Patrick’s Day breakfast, Romney — who is Mormon, and whose great-grandfather Miles was a polygamist — jokes, “I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman . . . and a woman . . . and a woman.” The governor recycles this line during Don Imus’s 2006 St. Patrick’s Day broadcast, thereby undercutting his own campaign to convince evangelical Christians that Mormons aren’t really that weird.

5) Mission accomplished
In December 2005, announcing his intention not to seek re-election the following year, the governor basically says that everything in Massachusetts is peachy. “Frankly, what’s happened is that we got a lot more done than I expected we would,” Romney explains. “I’ve got the job done I set out to do.” Three months later, a panel appointed by Romney to study the case of Haleigh Poutre — a 12-year-old adoptee who was savagely beaten in September 2005 and nearly allowed to die, only to recover miraculously — recommends major reform of the Massachusetts Department of Social Services.

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  Topics: Talking Politics , Mitt Romney , Sean O'Malley , U.S. Government ,  More more >
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Romney's greatest gaffes - 'tar baby' update
This is a bad rap. It's a shame that Americans don't understand the Uncle Remus stories. If Larry Jones, as a black man, doesn't realize the significance of the stories, then it's probably understandable that he's also a Republican. Part of the problem is that Joel Chandler Harris tried to defend slaver in the prologue to his first book. He thought he was just recording entertaining stories, but Brer Rabbit "tricked" him. The stories clearly undermine the white supremacy he was trying to defend. Hopefully in the future, black Americans will embrace this rich heritage of stories.
By Always Outraged! on 07/31/2006 at 11:26:50
Romney's greatest gaffes - 'tar baby' update
Oh, come on, Adam. We all know that as an employee of the Phoenix you're contractually obligated to smear anyone to the right of Che, but you're being lame even given that. Try checking out former Phoenixista Dan Kennedy's much more rational take on this: //
By QM on 07/31/2006 at 12:55:07
Romney's greatest gaffes - 'tar baby' update
I wonder if Romney believes the Angel Moroni gave the "Book" Tablets, whatever to Joesph Smith.
By Donfor on 08/02/2006 at 9:39:11
Romney's greatest gaffes - 'tar baby' update
It’s important to note the Mitt Romney’s dad, an early forerunner for his own presidential election was torpedoed when he was criticized for a gaffe. Obviously those who are scared about Mitt becoming president are pouring over every word he say’s to find ways to criticize him. These arguments are stupid and to call them ROMNEY’S GRE ATEST GAFFES, just goes to show how little there is to criticize about Romney. Now to address each of these criticisms individually: Tar baby-Most Americans don’t know that this is sometimes used as a racial term. The fact that he didn’t shows that he spends more time reading books than blogs. 10. “A Romney spokesperson says..”, who cares what one some unnamed “spokesperson” said about an event he might have only heard about third hand. Talk about grasping at straws. 9. Ouch, a quarter, really…that’s your argument, that he was off by 25 cents. 8. Wow, he said Sherry instead of Kerry. I’ve called my daughter by my wife’s name-I guess I should be in jail or something. 7. Wanting gays and lesbians to have equal rights doesn’t mean that you want there to be same-sex marriages. After all that law would apply to both hetero- and homosexuals. I’m sure he believes homosexuals should have the right to practice their sexuality and shouldn’t be discriminated against by employers and schools but asking for same-sex marriages is a different issue. 6. What point are you trying to make here? That he shouldn’t joke about his own heritage or that “Mormons” are weird? Either point is a gaffe for you. 5. Basically saying? YOU paraphrase and it’s his gaffe? I’ve heard the WHOLE quote and he never insinuates that he has accomplished everything or that there isn’t anything left to do; just that he was able to accomplish more on his agenda than anticipated. 4. They had a little money to live on during school and lived modestly to stay within their means. There isn’t even a criticism here. 3. Romney has always described himself as pro-life, meaning that he doesn’t view abortion as a good choice is most situations. That doesn’t mean he is prepared to take the right to have an abortion away. He’s never said that he would. As a pro-lifer he could focus his attention on educating teens so that they don’t use abortion as a form of birth control. 2. Where is the gaffe here? Did I miss something? Did he say that he guaranteed that Republicans would retake the house and senate in an overwhelmingly Democrat state? 1. Gawkers block and bumping his head. Unforgivable, not like that whole incident when Ted Kennedy got o Mary Jo Kopechne killed and didn’t report the accident.
By Brady Alder on 10/02/2006 at 2:11:34

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