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The Authentic Mrs. Romney

July 19, 2012

For months, fawning press accounts with titles like "Romney Using Wife's Story to Connect with Voters", "Ann Romney Adds Personal Touch to Mitt's Campaign", "The Ann Romney Advantage" and "Ann Romney Emerging as Husband's Political Weapon" have glowingly portrayed the would-be First Lady as a woman who applies a layer of humanity and compassion to her husband's wooden and aloof persona. In "Ann Romney is the Romney Democrats Fear Most," Politico gushed about the "unexpected rock star" that effortlessly outshines the GOP White House hopeful:

"Ann Romney, in contrast, exudes empathy and authenticity and offers a window into her husband's character."

But with her insistence Thursday that "We've given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and how we live our life," the authentic Ann Romney instead showed herself a mirror to her husband. As it turns out, the spouse Mitt Romney says "reports to me" about what women care about shares his shocking aloofness and utter detachment from the American people he claims to want to serve. And as a willing accomplice in his gymnastic reversal on abortion rights, Ann has helped make flip-flopping a Romney family affair, cementing the unbreakable image of her husband as an out-of-touch opportunist who will say anything to get elected
Ann Romney's brief moment of candor Thursday isn't the first time she demanded that what happens in the Cayman Islands should stay in the Cayman Islands. Months before channeling Ross Perot, Mrs. Romney was not amused that her husband was forced to release his tax returns showing they paid smaller share to Uncle Sam than most middle class families. In January, Ann Romney deployed the same language about "how I measure riches is by the friends I have and the loved ones I have and the people I care about in my life" she used to explain life with MS:

"I understand Mitt's going to release his tax forms this week. I want to remind you where our riches are: our riches are with our families," Ann Romney said. "Our riches, you can value them, in the children we have and in the grandchildren we have. So that's where our values are and that's where our heart is -- and that's where we measure our wealth."

As ThinkProgress noted at the time, Mrs. Romney was none too happy about Mitt having to follow in the footsteps of every modern presidential candidate and release his tax returns:

At an event at Freedom Tower in Miami this afternoon, Ann Romney said "unfortunately" the world now knows how "successful in business" Romney has been.

As it turns out, Ann Romney's career as Lovey to Mitt's Thurston Howell III dates back to her husband's first run for office back in 1994. As the Boston Globe reported in an October 1994 interview, she explained how the young couple successfully struggled to make ends meet "because Mitt had enough of an investment from stock that we could sell off a little at a time." That allowed Ann Romney to avoid what Mitt calls "the dignity of work." In April, she sounded a note of jealousy towards those mothers who by necessity had to enter the workforce:

"I love the fact that there are women out there who don't have a choice and they must go to work and they still have to raise the kids. Thank goodness that we value those people too. And sometimes life isn't easy for any of us."

"We need," Ann proclaimed, "to respect the choices women make." Just not, as we'll see below, all the choices women make.
As the New York Times recalled her role in Mitt's failed 1994 attempt to unseat Ted Kennedy:

Her husband was running unsuccessfully for a United States Senate seat in Massachusetts in 1994, and Mrs. Romney was derided as superficial, pampered and too deferential to him. In a Boston Globe interview, she talked about slimming down to her high school weight (117 pounds), the investments she and Mr. Romney lived off as students, and the number of times the couple had ever argued: once.

But by the time Mitt's first run for President began in 2007, the Times reported, ""She seems much better at retail politics than her husband." But even in that glowing assessment ("The Stay-at-Home Woman Travels Well"), Mrs. Romney revealed the same penchant for cementing her husband's reputation as a man of privilege disconnected for the lives of the American people. As the New York Times explained her favorite activity in 2007:

Dressage is a sport of seven-figure horses and four-figure saddles. The monthly boarding costs are more than most people's rent. Asked how many dressage horses she owns, Mrs. Romney laughed. "Mitt doesn't even know the answer to that," she said. "I'm not going to tell you!"

Of course, Mitt has a better idea now, as do all Americans. After all, their horse Rafalca, one who may yet provide the Romneys with a substantial tax deduction, is on the U.S. Olympic team for the upcoming London games. (Apparently, Rafalca passed the drug tests the Romney's previous mount Super Hit would have failed.)

Unlike his tax returns, Ann Romney was always more than willing to discuss where Mitt stood on the issue of abortion. Of course, that answer always depended on whether Mitt Romney (the man his own strategist Michael Murphy admitted in 2005 had been" a pro-life Mormon faking it as a pro-choice friendly") was running for office inside or outside of liberal Massachusetts.
During his 2002 race for governor, Ann assured Massachusetts voters they need not worry about moderate Mitt protecting the right to choose:

ANN ROMNEY: I think women also recognize that they want someone who is going to manage the state well. I think they may be more nervous about him on social issues. They shouldn't be, because he's going to be just fine. But the perception is that he won't be. That's an incorrect perception.
MITT ROMNEY: So when asked will I preserve and protect a woman's right to choose, I make an unequivocal answer: yes.

(Just five years later, Ann Romney announced that Mitt "has always personally been pro-life." She added that "he did change his mind. It took courage" and claimed, "hasn't changed his position on anything except choice.")
During the '94 Senate campaign when her husband declared the death of a "dear, close family relative" from an illegal abortion inspired his formerly "unwavering" pro-choice position, Ann Romney put her money where her Mitt's mouth was. That fall of 1994, Ann and Mitt attended a Planned Parenthood event. During a time when he was trying to establish his pro-choice bona fides with liberal Massachusetts voters, Ann wrote a check for $150 to the organization. When presidential candidate Romney said in 2007 that he had "no recollection" of the fundraiser, then president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. Nichols Gamble seemed surprised:

"I can understand that he might not remember the check -- it's surprising to me that he would not remember the event. His main motivation for being there was a political motivation."

For her part, Ann Romney gave away the game during a January 2008 interview in Florida (around the 3:10 mark). A clearly irked Mrs. Romney brushed off a question about the contribution to Planned Parenthood, before walking away:

"That was 14 years ago and $100. Do you really think I'd remember?"

One would think so, especially since husband Mitt now touts his plan to defund Planned Parenthood.
Regardless, Romney explained in May 2007, what his wife did - the same woman who with her entire family converted to her husband's Mormon faith - did not reflect on him. As the New York Times reported:

"Her positions are not terribly relevant for my campaign."

Irrelevant, that is, until he's getting clobbered among women voters.
As Mitt now explains, Ann "reports to me regularly" on what women care about. (According to Nikki Haley, their list of concerns does not include contraception.) On Super Tuesday, Mrs. Romney revealed she had heard from women "all across this country":

"Do you know what women care about -- and this is what I love -- women care about jobs. Women care about the economy, they care about their children, and they care about the debt. And they're angry, they're furious about the entitlement debt that we're leaving our children."

As Mitt described Ann's to-do list during the Wisconsin primary:

"She's going across the country and talking with women. We have work to do, to make sure we take our message to the women of America."

Of course, Ann's message will be whatever it needs to be for her husband to triumph on Election Day in November. And having taken it to the women at the fundraiser and birthday bash Donald Trump threw for her, Ann Romney will soon be bringing it with her to multimillion dollar events in London and Jerusalem. As for whether that overseas trip will constitute a vacation along the lines of the ones Michelle Obama takes, the authentic Mrs. Romney would doubtless say no.
After, Ann informs us, she and Mitt "own places for that."


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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