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December 21, 2007

late night: the secret life of willard mitty

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The Times, it appears, is planning to be a little more skeptical about the well-funded son-of frontrunner this time

There was the period last spring when Mitt Romney claimed while campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire that he had been a hunter “pretty much all my life,” only to have to admit later he had seriously hunted on only two occasions.

Then there was the endorsement Mr. Romney claimed on NBC’s “Meet the Press” last Sunday that he received from the National Rifle Association while running for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, when it turned out the group had never endorsed him.

Mr. Romney’s latest concession is that he only “figuratively” saw his late father, George, march with Martin Luther King Jr., something he claimed in his highly publicized speech about his Mormon faith earlier this month. Some publications have raised doubts that the event ever happened at all.

Mr. Romney once said about misstatements by his Republican rival, Rudolph W. Giuliani, “facts are stubborn things.” But does he have his own problem with blurring the truth?

On Thursday, for instance, at a campaign stop in Indianola, he ran into trouble when talking about his record on illegal drugs while governor of Massachusetts…

“I’m very proud of the fact that we, my state, when I was governor, we made it tougher for people with meth labs,” he said, echoing his commercial in which he claimed that he “got tough on drugs like meth” in the governor’s office…

But both the ad and Mr. Romney’s claims on his record were misleading. Mr. Romney’s office proposed legislation that would have toughened penalties on those in possession of the drug and chemicals to manufacture it, but the bill stalled in the state legislature.

“If I said this morning that we ‘got tough’ on methamphetamines, I proposed we get tough on methamphetamine and I’ve corrected that right here for all of you,” he said. “You don’t need to make any error of reporting that somehow Governor Romney actually got it done.”

"Quiet, man!" said Mitty, in a low, cool voice. He sprang to the machine, which was now going pocketa-pocketa-queep-pocketa-queep . He began fingering delicately a row of glistening dials. "Give me a fountain pen!" he snapped. Someone handed him a fountain pen. He pulled a faulty piston out of the machine and inserted the pen in its place. "That will hold for ten minutes," he said. "Get on with the operation. A nurse hurried over and whispered to Renshaw, and Mitty saw the man turn pale. "Coreopsis has set in," said Renshaw nervously. "If you would take over, Mitty?" Mitty looked at him and at the craven figure of Benbow, who drank, and at the grave, uncertain faces of the two great specialists. "If you wish," he said. They slipped a white gown on him, he adjusted a mask and drew on thin gloves; nurses handed him shining . . .

"Back it up, Mac!! Look out for that Buick!" Walter Mitty jammed on the brakes. "Wrong lane, Mac," said the parking-lot attendant, looking at Mitty closely. "Gee. Yeh," muttered Mitty. He began cautiously to back out of the lane marked "Exit Only." "Leave her sit there," said the attendant. "I’ll put her away." Mitty got out of the car. "Hey, better leave the key." "Oh," said Mitty, handing the man the ignition key. The attendant vaulted into the car, backed it up with insolent skill, and put it where it belonged.

They’re so damn cocky, thought Walter Mitty, walking along Main Street; they think they know everything.

Bastards.

Mitt Romney acknowledged yesterday that he never saw his father march with Martin Luther King Jr. as he asserted in a nationally televised speech this month, and historical evidence shows that Michigan’s Governor George Romney and the civil rights leader never did march together.

Romney said his father had told him he had marched with King and that he had been using the word "saw" in a "figurative sense."

"If you look at the literature, if you look at the dictionary, the term ‘saw’ includes being aware of in the sense I’ve described," Romney told reporters in Iowa. "It’s a figure of speech and very familiar, and it’s very common. And I saw my dad march with Martin Luther King. I did not see it with my own eyes, but I saw him in the sense of being aware of his participation in that great effort."

But historical evidence, including news accounts at the time, shows that George Romney never marched with King, though he supported King’s agenda.

Mitt Romney went a step further in a 1978 interview with the Boston Herald. Talking about the Mormon Church and racial discrimination, he said: "My father and I marched with Martin Luther King Jr. through the streets of Detroit."

Yesterday, Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom acknowledged that was not true. "Mitt Romney did not march with Martin Luther King," he said in an e-mail statement to the Globe.

Walter Mitty took the gun and examined it expertly. "This is my Webley-Vickers 50.80," ho said calmly. An excited buzz ran around the courtroom. The Judge rapped for order. "You are a crack shot with any sort of firearms, I believe?" said the District Attorney, insinuatingly. "Objection!" shouted Mitty’s attorney. "We have shown that the defendant could not have fired the shot. We have shown that he wore his right arm in a sling on the night of the fourteenth of July." Walter Mitty raised his hand briefly and the bickering attorneys were stilled. "With any known make of gun," he said evenly, "I could have killed Gregory Fitzhurst at three hundred feet with my left hand." Pandemonium broke loose in the courtroom. A woman’s scream rose above the bedlam and suddenly a lovely, dark-haired girl was in Walter Mitty’s arms. The District Attorney struck at her savagely. Without rising from his chair, Mitty let the man have it on the point of the chin. "You miserable cur!" . . .

"Puppy biscuit," said Walter Mitty. He stopped walking and the buildings of Waterbury rose up out of the misty courtroom and surrounded him again. A woman who was passing laughed. "He said ‘Puppy biscuit,’" she said to her companion. "That man said ‘Puppy biscuit’ to himself."

Mr. Hess, the gentleman from the Brookings Institution who wrote the book with Mr. Broder that’s being used as evidence of the march that didn’t happen, and Mr. Broder himself, thus:

Romney campaign officials cited histories of the era, including a book by Washington Post columnist David Broder and Brookings Institution scholar Stephen Hess, which they said make "a pretty convincing case" the two men were together at a civil rights march in 1963.

Hess said Thursday he cannot recall the source of a reference in his book "The Republican Establishment: The Present and Future of the GOP," to Romney’s having marched with King. It may have been newspaper clippings or Romney himself, Hess said.

Broder also said Thursday — according to an article on the Washington Post Web site — he does not recall the original source of the information about King and Romney.

Brookings Institution scholar Stephen Hess and Johnson both said they don’t think the question has any real salience to either George Romney’s legacy or Mitt Romney’s candidacy.

"Begging your pardon, sir." Captain Mitty stood up and strapped on his huge Webley-Vickers automatic. "It’s forty kilometers through hell, sir," said the sergeant. Mitty finished one last brandy. "After all," he said softly, "what isn’t?" The pounding of the cannon increased; there was the rat-tat-tatting of machine guns, and from somewhere came the menacing pocketa-pocketa-pocketa of the new flame-throwers. Walter Mitty walked to the door of the dugout humming "Aupres de Ma Blonde." He turned and waved to the sergeant. "Cheerio!" he said. . . .

Something struck his shoulder. "I’ve been looking all over this hotel for you," said Mrs. Mitty. "Why do you have to hide in this old chair? How did you expect me to find you?" "Things close in," said Walter Mitty vaguely. "What?" Mrs. Mitty said. "Did you get the what’s-its-name? The puppy biscuit? What’s in that box?" "Overshoes," said Mitty. "Couldn’t you have put them on in the store?" ‘I was thinking," said Walter Mitty. "Does it ever occur to you that I am sometimes thinking?" She looked at him. "I’m going to take your temperature when I get you home," she said.


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