Friday, December 21, 2007

Today's edition of the lying liars and the lies they tell: Mitt Romney

Why is everything said in the public arena so nuanced? It used to be, if you said that someone did something, you meant they did something. If I said I went for a walk, it meant I ... went for a walk.

Now comes Mitt Romney's description of his father's actions. In an effort to soften the image held by some in the public of the Morman church as racist, Romney recently said this: "My dad marched with Martin Luther King."

Not to be the grammar police, but that is a very simple sentence that states a clear fact. Romney's father marched with Martin Luther King. How could it mean anything else?

Well, after reporters began looking into the timing and location of when this "march" might have happened, things got a little ugly. From the Detroit Free Press:
Romney's campaign cited various historical articles, as well as a 1967 book written by Stephen Hess and Washington Post political columnist David Broder, as confirmation that George Romney marched with King in Grosse Pointe in 1963.

"He has marched with Martin Luther King through the exclusive Grosse Pointe suburb," Hess and Broder wrote in "The Republican Establishment: The Present and Future of the GOP."

Free Press archives, however, showed no record of King marching in Grosse Pointe in 1963 or of then-Gov. Romney taking part in King's historic march down Woodward Avenue in June of that year.

George Romney told the Free Press at the time that he didn't take part because it was on a Sunday and he avoided public appearances on the Sabbath because of his religion.

Romney did participate in a civil rights march protesting housing bias in Grosse Pointe just six days after the King march. According to the Free Press account, however, King was not there.

So now that the facts are out, Romney has a new explanation:
On Wednesday, Romney's campaign said his recollections of watching his father, an ardent civil rights supporter, march with King were meant to be figurative.

"He was speaking figuratively, not literally," Eric Fehrnstrom, spokesman for the Romney campaign, said of the candidate.
Just to be clear, the Oxford English Dictionary definition of figurative:
adjective: not using words literally; metaphorical.
So Romney's description, "My dad marched with Martin Luther King," really means "My dad was like others who marched with Martin Luther King." And I'm sorry, but sounds an awful like "This washer comes with a lifetime guarantee," which in "figurative" speak means "We'll repair this thing once, but not forever." In other words, misleading if not downright dishonest.

I know it's asking a lot for politicians to be honest, but could they just not abuse the English language when they lie? When something is figurative, it means it represents something else. When you say someone took an action, it means they took that actions, not that they took an action similar to the one you stated. Otherwise, if I said I went for a walk, I could mean I though about going for a walk .... which is not at all the same thing.

I need some fresh air. I'm going for a walk. really.

UPDATE: I think when you have to parse your sentences on the campaign trail, it's time to jump the shark. From MSNBC:

"The reference of seeing my father lead in civil rights," he said, "and seeing my father march with Martin Luther King is in the sense of this figurative awareness of and recognition of his leadership."

"I've tried to be as accurate as I can be," he continued, smiling firmly. "If you look at the literature or look at the dictionary, the term 'saw' includes being aware of -- in the sense I've described."

The questioning did not relent. "I'm an English literature major," he insisted at one point. "When we say I saw the Patriots win the World Series, it doesn't necessarily mean you were there." (He meant the Super Bowl, of course.)


myclob said...

By: Mike Allen
Shirley Basore, 72, says she was sitting in the hairdresser's chair in wealthy Grosse Pointe, Mich., back in 1963 when a rumpus started and she discovered that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and her governor, George Romney, were marching for civil rights — right past the window.

With the cape still around her neck, Basore went outside and joined the parade.

"They were hand in hand," recalled Basore, a former high-school English teacher. "They led the march. We all swung our hands, and they held their hands up above everybody else's."

She remembered the late governor as "extremely handsome."

Until this week, that was just a vivid memory for a sweet retiree who now lives in Pompano Beach, Fla.

But Basore's memory became important this week when news accounts questioned the recollections of the late Michigan governor's son, Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor.

News stories suggested that Romney was exaggerating. It turns out that he may not have attended the Grosse Pointe march, but it certainly happened.

The campaign posted citations quoting one author as writing that "George Romney made a surprise appearance in his shirt sleeves and joined the parade leaders."
Stephen Hess and David S. Broder also wrote about the march in their 1967 book, "The Republican Establishment: The Present and Future of the G.O.P."

Basore said she was very angry about how the issue has been covered on cable television.

"This very arrogant guy on TV questioned Mitt Romney, and I marched with them," Basore said. "I hope that the campaign demands an apology. I want him to publicly apologize to me. That was a personal insult, and an insult to Mitt Romney."

Basore said she called the campaign, and the campaign supplied her contact information.

Another witness, Ashby Richardson, 64, of Massachusetts gave the campaign a similar account.
"I'm just appalled that the news picks this stuff up and say it didn't happen," Richardson, now a data-collection consultant, said by phone. "The press is being disingenuous in terms of reporting what actually happened. I remember it vividly. I was only 15 or 20 feet from where both of them were."

I'm looking for people not too blinded by hate to appologize...

Are up that person?

Sue J said...

It never ceases to amaze me how the Christian right throws around the word "hate" for anyone who disgrees with them. Because I reported on Mitt Romney's false statements to the press, I am "blinded by hate"?

Let's cut the crap, shall we, Myclob?

I trust Mike Allen's reporting over at Politico about as far as I can throw it. Not far. He's has a history of taking an unsubstantiated lead from an unreliable (but convenient) source, and running with it. In this case, 2 elderly women contacted the Romney campaign with their memories, and the campaign contacted Politico. Do they employ fact checkers at Politico, Mike!

Here's more info from the Boston based paper The Phoenix:

The two witnesses interviewed by Politico, women now living in Florida and Massachusetts, describe seeing then-Governor Romney with King in Grosse Pointe. Both contacted the Romney campaign when they learned of the controversy, and the campaign gave their contact information to the reporter, the story says.

Contemporaneous news accounts confirm that George Romney, then governor of Michigan, unexpectedly joined that Grosse Pointe march, which took place on June 29, 1963, six days after King led a large Freedom March in Detroit, which Romney did not attend.

None of those accounts of the June 29 event in Grosse Pointe mention King's presence.

An Associated Press report of the event, which ran in several newspapers the following day, reported that "this Saturday's orderly parade attracted an estimated 250 people." The report mentions that Romney had rejected the invitation to participate in the earlier Detroit march, because it was held on Sunday.

The Detroit Free Press has reported that its coverage of the event, which estimated the crowd at 500, describes George Romney attending, but not King. A New York Times account of the event likewise mentions Romney but not King.

Earlier today, the Boston Globe quoted Susan Englander, assistant editor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University, saying that: "I researched this question, and indeed it is untrue that George Romney marched with Martin Luther King."

Grosse Pointe historians have told the Phoenix that King was not at that June 29, 1963 march in that town.