Understatement of the Week: Mitt Romney

By ANTHONY HALL, United Press International

Where is George Orwell when you really need him?

Orwell, of course, is the late author of "Animal Farm," a political satire that featured the use of "Romnesia," which is what President Obama this week called Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's tendency -- well, modus operandi, really -- for forgetting an earlier policy statement and inventing a new one, more or less on the spur of the moment.


From distancing himself from his most striking achievement as governor of Massachusetts, which was an Obamacare-like healthcare plan, to backpedaling, mid-debate, on his support for the Blunt amendment, Romney's reversals are becoming the stuff of legend -- or, to update that expression a little bit, they have become the stuff of YouTube.

The list is impressive: global warming, abortion, healthcare, the denial of health insurance for moral reasons (the Bunt amendment would have allowed employers to refuse to provide insurance coverage to women for contraceptives if it violated their religious or moral beliefs) -- and a handful of other issues. Getting Romney's take on an issue is a little like taming a drop of mercury while riding down a country road on a skateboard with wooden wheels.


It is reminiscent of the shape-shifting slogans that made up the legal system at Animal Farm, where the barnyard inhabitants kicked out the farmer and his family and tried to run the place themselves.

The pigs, who were in charge, made up rules that had a habit of changing when nobody was looking, so that "No animal shall kill another animal," sprouted the additional words "without cause" when it was convenient and a rule against drinking alcohol suddenly became "No animal shall drink alcohol to excess," with the last two words appearing, after the fact -- in mid-hangover, actually.

All of this seems at least vaguely pertinent this week when Lee Iacocca, the former head of Chrysler, said he was endorsing Mitt Romney's bid for president, despite a few glaring oddities, such as Romney's harsh criticism of the Obama administration's $85 billion bailout of Chrysler and General Motors, both of which filed for bankruptcy in the summer of 2009.

Lee Iacocca is now 88, retired, still rich, despite 80 percent of his pension disappearing when Chrysler filed for bankruptcy.

He is famous, of course, for being a charming, commonsense, even witty executive, despite the hard times Chrysler faced when he was in charge.


He is also well known for lobbying very hard to get the Jimmy Carter administration to bail out Chrysler, which it did, albeit reluctantly at the time, rescuing the company with $1.2 billion of taxpayer funds.

True story.

But this week, Iacocca said he knew Mitt Romney as a boy. After all, his father, George Romney, was at one time head of American Motors and, not incidentally, the governor of Michigan.

In a statement, Iacocca said, "Mitt Romney has successfully led both public and private sector turnarounds. He is a bright and successful man; he is a good man, a man of integrity, family and faith."

There were a few other generic compliments and one statement that was likely intended to balance out the gushing a little bit.

"His biggest challenge is to have the courage of his convictions," Iacocca said.

Yes, even Romney's friends recognize that his lack of conviction is something of a character flaw -- something to work on if he finds himself in the Oval Office someday.

Summing this up: The former chief executive officer of Chrysler, famous for lobbying Washington for a huge federal bailout for Chrysler is endorsing the conviction-challenged candidate, Romney, who once wrote an editorial titled, very succinctly, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" as a straight-out scolding for auto company bailouts.


Further, it turns out Romnesia may even be catching, given Iacocca in an interview in 2010 said, "things have turned out pretty well," despite the White House ignoring his advice and bailing out Chrysler and General Motors in 2009.

In the interview, he said, "two years ago, it looked like Detroit and Michigan and the car business was in the toilet." He also said that he told White House economic adviser Larry Summers that, "you can't run a business out of Washington, D.C."

OK, so, perhaps Iacocca is a bit conviction-challenged or conviction-confused himself. Two years ago "things turned out pretty well." This year, he is endorsing the candidate who severely chastised the plan that apparently worked pretty well.

Certainly, there are two words that can be added here to turn this bitter irony into a rose of pure satire, such as, "You can't run a business out of Washington, D.C. -- except somebody just did."

Right. That needs work. George Orwell could have done that in two words.

Regardless, the Understatement of the Week this week goes to former Gov. Mitt Romney.

"I am not familiar with what I said, but I'll stand by what I said, whatever it was," Romney said back in May.


OK, it's a bit dated. But he meant it when he said it.

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