Romney Sons Join Campaign, Not Army
Mitt Romney has given what may be the dumbest answer ever by a presidential candidate.
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on Wednesday defended his five sons’ decision not to enlist in the military, saying they’re showing their support for the country by “helping me get elected.”
Romney, who did not serve in Vietnam due to his Mormon missionary work and a high draft lottery number, was asked the question by an anti-war activist after a speech in which he called for “a surge of support” for U.S. forces in Iraq.
“The good news is that we have a volunteer Army and that’s the way we’re going to keep it,” Romney told some 200 people gathered in an abbey near the Mississippi River that had been converted into a hotel. “My sons are all adults and they’ve made decisions about their careers and they’ve chosen not to serve in the military and active duty and I respect their decision in that regard.” He added: “One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I’d be a great president.”
Romney noted that his middle son, 36-year-old Josh, was completing a recreational vehicle tour of all 99 Iowa counties on Wednesday and said, “I respect that and respect all those and the way they serve this great country.”
The woman who asked the question, Rachel Griffiths, 41, of Milan, Ill., identified herself as a member of Quad City Progressive Action for the Common Good, as well as the sister of an Army major who had served in Iraq. “Of course not,” Griffiths said when asked if she was satisfied with Romney’s answer. “He told me the way his son shows support for our military and our nation is to buy a Winnebago and ride across Iowa and help him get elected.”
Now, I fully agree with Romney that we have an all-volunteer force and that his sons have every right to decide Army life isn’t for them. But, sheesh, let’s not pretend campaigning for dad’s political ambitions is somehow equivalent to going to war.
This gratuitous slap by the AP is a bit unkind, however:
Rival John McCain’s son, Jimmy, a 19-year-old Marine, had orders to go to Iraq this summer. The Arizona senator is a decorated Vietnam War veteran and former POW.
UPDATE: Romney argues the quotes are taken out of context.
The campaign sent the following message:
Governor Romney respects his sons’ career decisions, but he is certainly not equating their assistance on the campaign with service in our Armed Forces. I think listening to the full audio makes this clear:
Question: “Hi, my name’s Rachel Griffiths, thank you so much for being here and asking for our comments. And I appreciate your recognizing the Iraq War veteran. My question is how many of your five sons are currently serving in the U.S. military and if none of them are, how do they plan to support this War on Terrorism by enlisting in our U.S. military?”
Governor Romney: “Well, the good news is that we have a volunteer army and that’s the way we’re going to keep it. My sons are all adults and they’ve made their decisions about their careers and they’ve chosen not to serve in the military and active duty. I respect their decision in that regard. I also respect and value very highly those who make a decision to serve in the military. I think we ought to show an outpouring of support just as I suggested. A surge of support for those families and those individuals who are serving. My niece, for instance, just to tell you what a neighborhood can do and how touching it can be. My niece, Misha, living out West, her husband I think he got a call on a Tuesday. He’s in the National Guard. He got a call on a Tuesday that he was going to be called up and shipped overseas on a Thursday. And they just bought a home — they hadn’t landscaped it — but the rules in the neighborhood were that unless you got your home landscaped within a year of the time that you bought your home, they began fining you, because they didn’t want people having mud holes in front of their homes. And she was very worried and just before the year expired, she woke up one morning and looked out the window and all the neighbors were out there, rolling down sod, putting up trees, getting it all done. It’s remarkable how we can show our support for our nation and one of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping to get me elected, because they think I’d be a great president. My son, Josh, bought the family Winnebago and has visited 99 counties, most of them with his three kids and his wife. And I respect that and respect all of those in the way they serve this great country.” (Governor Mitt Romney, Remarks At An Ask Mitt Anything, Bettendorf, IA, 8/8/07)
Frankly, I think the longer version is more harmful to Romney than the AP story. The story about lawn care is just bizarre in the context of people risking their lives in Iraq.
Steve Benen thinks the context was right but that the question itself was inappropriate. He’s right, I think.