A decidedly off-message statement from Ann Romney on Sunday’s Meet the Press was overlooked by the media, since everyone focused on Mitt Romney’s false claim that he would make sure people with prior conditions can purchase health insurance.
Ann Romney made a noteworthy admission in the same interview, and the Progressive Change Committee is launching a targeted online ad campaign in Ohio to make sure voters there see it. Ann said, “Mitt and I do recognize that we have not had a financial struggle in our lives.” This is a classic “Kinsley gaffe,” defined as a when a politician accidentally tells the truth. Of course, the Romneys—who grew up wealthy and became far wealthier—have not had a financial struggle.
But just two weeks ago when Ann addressed the Republican National Convention, she pretended otherwise. Recalling their newlywed days, as part of her speech’s effort to humanize her husband, Ann said: “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.”
Ann has been hawking a variation of the idea that they got by on very little money when they were young for years. Here’s what she said on the subject during Mitt’s unsuccessful senatorial campaign in 1994:
They were not easy years. You have to understand, I was raised in a lovely neighborhood, as was Mitt, and at BYU, we moved into a $62-a-month basement apartment with a cement floor and lived there two years as students with no income.
It was tiny. And I didn’t have money to carpet the floor. But you can get remnants, samples, so I glued them together, all different colors. It looked awful, but it was carpeting.
We were happy, studying hard. Neither one of us had a job, because Mitt had enough of an investment from stock that we could sell off a little at a time.
The stock came from Mitt’s father. When he took over American Motors, the stock was worth nothing. But he invested Mitt’s birthday money year to year—it wasn’t much, a few thousand, but he put it into American Motors because he believed in himself. Five years later, stock that had been $6 a share was $96 and Mitt cashed it so we could live and pay for education.
This reflects a remarkably out-of-touch class privilege. In the 1950s and 1960s, someone who could pass onto his son “a few thousand dollars” worth of stock was wealthy and his son was quite fortunate. Ann describes it as “not much.” How much was this “not much” we’re talking about? As Andrew Sabl, a professor of political science and public policy and UCLA observes, “By Ann’s own account, the stock amounted to ‘a few thousand’ dollars when bought, but it had gone up by a factor of sixteen. So let’s conservatively say that they got through five years as students—neither one of them working—only by ‘chipping away at’ assets of $60,000 in 1969 dollars (about $377,000 today).” Ann’s spoiled attitude is echoed by Mitt’s dismissal of $374,326.62 in speaking fees in 2010 as “not very much.”
The Romneys tried very hard in the Republican National Convention to create a false image of themselves as regular Americans who understand the tribulations of struggling families. Since Mitt’s proposes to raise taxes on the middle class to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy, this is a very important con game for him and his wife to play. But as soon as they go off script, the truth comes out.