I couldn’t believe it when I heard that Ann Romney’s convention speech doubled down on a gaffe from her past: the claim that she and Mitt had very little money when they were going to college:
We were very young. Both still in college. There were many reasons to delay marriage, and you know? We just didn’t care. We got married and moved into a basement apartment. We walked to class together, shared the housekeeping, and ate a lot of pasta and tuna fish. Our desk was a door propped up on sawhorses. Our dining room table was a fold down ironing board in the kitchen. Those were very special days.
As Mitt might say, she’s got to be gosh-darned kidding me. As I blogged a few months ago, the way she and Mitt paid for their pasta and tuna fish, and the desk that was a door, was by SELLING STOCK, given to them by his family, that on a conservative calculation was worth in current money almost FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS [Update: or at least two hundred thousand; see below]. The only difference between the disastrous interview that helped lose Mitt his first election and the convention speech was that the story contained in the latter conveniently left out the huge nest egg. But the nest egg matters more than a little. Its presence guaranteed that this family’s early life would be the antonym of struggling.
Reminding viewers of the facts ought to be the press’ job. But it’s not doing it. The reports I’ve seen—including the New York Times—have made no mention of Ann and Mitt’s vast gifted wealth (and the much vaster wealth that they could of course have drawn on if in trouble). A speech eagerly reported as humanizing and successful actually had a fabricated reality at its center. Self-styled journalists who are letting Ann get away with this ought to be deeply ashamed of their alleged selves.
Worse: I doubt that Ann realizes that her tale of struggle is a fabrication. She probably really believes that living relatively frugally on a huge stock portfolio counts as economic struggle and anxiety about one’s prospects. No wonder she and her husband are so insouciant about slashing programs to benefit the poor. If I thought that’s what poverty was, I’d slash aid to me too.
[Update, 8/30/12, 11:15 a.m. EDT: given the debate from the comments below, I'm willing to amend the conservative estimate of Ann and Mitt's stock wealth in college from $400,000 to $200,000 in today's dollars--though it could have been much more. That was still enough to see them comfortably through several years of modest living, and to place them at something like the top one percent of students or young families. And it was of course backed up by so much wealth on both sides of the family in case of true need that, unlike everyone else in their alleged situation, they had absolutely no need to worry about economic reverses or health problems.]