Ann Romney must have caused an awful lot of Americans to feel like embarrassed ingrates the other night when she related all the tribulations that she and the Mittster had to endure in the early days of their marriage. Reminds me of that old saying: “I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had badly ingrown toenails,” or words to that effect.
Storybook marriage, my patootie, the 63-year-old spouse of the Republican presidential nominee told a nationwide audience watching Night Two of the GOP National Convention. For cripe’s sake, Ann related, as young newlyweds, she and Mitt had to live in a basement apartment and they used a fold-down ironing board for a dining table. That is deprivation, mister!
All of a sudden, I felt kind of foolish for having told people all these years about growing up in Griswold Heights, a public housing project on the east side of Troy, and how my father was a firefighter making 38 hundred bucks a year when I was in the eighth grade and how he made another $1,000 annually by digging graves three days a week in St. Joseph’s Cemetery in South Troy, a job often done by cops and firemen in order to put food on the table, food that I quickly took off the table. Or having told people about us never owning a family automobile until I was a sophomore in high school when we got a 22-year-old Plymouth that my old man bought from a fellow firefighter for 100 bucks. All of that sounded so, I don’t know, self-absorbed when I heard what Mitt and Mrs. Mitt had to go through.
My eyes got misty as Ann explained that early in his career there was no guarantee that Mitt was going to make maybe $170 million to $250 million by building Bain Capital into one of the top equity firms in the nation. Hey, she said, there were times when Mitt and his partners feared they would fail and they thought about throwing in the towel, or whatever it is that you throw in when you’re doin’ one of those “reorganizations” under the bankruptcy law.
I don’t even want to look at this Romney woman on TV, I feel so dumb. I mean, while Mitt and Ann were eating off the ironing board, my family had the security of knowing that people are forever burning things down so obviously my father never would have to worry about the firehouse job and the nearly four grand that he made there. And, as for the grave-digging gig, well you know what they say about death and capital gains taxes!
As she spoke, I could hear the naysayers saying “Ann, but Mitt’s father was governor of Michigan and he was president and chairman of the board of an automobile company.”
Technically, all of that is true. But c’mon, the automobile company was American Motors, not one of the Big Three. And back then, American Motors, with its Gremlin, was a major source of glee and ridicule among punk teenagers hanging out on the street corner. I mean, I had trouble with my buddies (this was before “homeboys”) seeing me get out of the 22-year-old Plymouth; think about the peer abuse, had it been a Gremlin, even a brand-new Gremlin. Those had to be tough days for Mitt, poor guy.
Ann made no mention of Mitt’s dad and his “brainwashing” in connection with the Vietnam War but you know that had to be a difficult period as well.
Storybook marriage? Ann told us in the storybooks she reads “there were never long, long rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once … ” Plus, the five boys all have those preppy, one-syllable names like their dad so it’s difficult to know
whether someone is calling out their name or just clearing their throat. We had five kids too, in a non-air-conditioned apartment in the “projects,” and all my mother did was throw us out the front door, rain or no rain. Be back here for dinner, not a minute early or late. I wish Ann Romney had given Lil a call.
“This is the man America needs,” Ann concluded.
I will reserve judgment until next week when Barack and Michelle tell me how tough it was for them starting out.
John McLoughlin is a freelance columnist and a veteran Capital Region journalist now at NewsChannel 13. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily those of the newspaper. Reach him at JMcLoughlin@WNYT.com.