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COMMENTARY: Mitt Romney tells hurricane victims to bootstrap it, call 211

Following his lackluster speech at the Republican National Convention in Florida last week, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney reportedly went off script Friday to make what appeared to be a well-scripted campaign stop in the Hurricane Isaac-flooded town of Jean Lafitte in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana.

Some news media outlets suggested the trip was an opportunity for Romney to appear presidential while comforting flood victims and praising emergency responders, but an unnamed campaign advisor contradicted that interpretation.

“The man is smile-challenged,” the Romney advisor said, “and we want to get in one more field training before the final sprint of the campaign. He showed a little improvement during his acceptance speech. We gave him a 5.5 of 10. You could tell he’s really been working on it. But he continues to struggle with the complex combinations of facial-muscle activation and gross-motor gestures required to connote higher-level human emotions — like hope for people outside of his socio-economic class, compassion for the downtrodden, sympathy for natural disaster victims. Those expressions can be really tough for a lot of politicians. So today, we’re focusing on the sympathetic-smile-double-handed-handshake-to-sideways-hug sequence. We’re hoping the folks in Jean Lafitte might spark Romney’s inner humanitarian.”

While campaign staffers lined up flood victims for a photo op with the stiff candidate, one Jean Lafitte resident, who declined to give her name, said she had floated by Romney’s SUV in her bateau and saw the candidate hunkered down in the back seat with a hand mirror.

“I tapped on the window with my good arm,” she said. “Got a hell of a cut on the other one during the hurricane. Anyway, Romney looks at me like my boy when I catch him on the throne with a girly mag. Don’t know what Romney was doing with that mirror. Then he puts on this poo-eating grin, rolls down the window, and says, ‘Hail, good citizen worker. I am Mitt Romney, and I hope I have your vote!’

“So I tell him I’ve been unemployed since the Bush administration, and my house is under water, and I ask him what he’s going to do for the good people of Jean Lafitte, citizens or not. And he says I should go home and call 211. Go home? What a nincompoop. Then he says a strong America needs strong, self-sufficient Americans, so what we really ought to do is to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps. He says if we reach down into the floodwaters, we’ll find our great independent American spirit and we can rescue ourselves from Hurricane Issac without the job-killing interference of big, liberal government. If I reach down into this muck with this laceration, all I’ll get is amoebiasis. Besides, waders don’t have bootstraps. And on top of that, his VP pick, that Paul Ryan guy, he wants to cut FEMA. Sure as hell that’s why Ryan didn’t show his face in Louisiana today.”

As the resident floated away, Romney’s handlers were bringing the visit to a close. They ushered the candidate to a final encounter with flood victims. Romney hesitated a moment, assumed an asymmetric grin and gave a beauty queen wave, while sideways hugging a muddy baby one of the town’s residents held up to him. When a staffer whispered into the candidate’s ear, he straightened his grin, furrowed his brow and tried to shake the baby’s hand.

“Jeez,” moaned the campaign advisor. “It’s that damn Cheshire Cat look again! And he’s confusing the sympathetic-smile-double-handed-handshake-to-sideways-hug sequence with the father-of-my-children-presidential-exit-wave combo. We rushed him through that one this morning, but he obviously isn’t ready to perform it. I don’t know. I’m beginning to think his humanity might be too atrophied to regain full function. Privilege’ll do that. … Oh well, now we have to tackle Paul Ryan’s lying about meaningless B.S.”



Kit-Bacon Gressitt's commentary and political fiction can be read on her blog Excuse Me, I'm Writing and is republished by SDGLN, The Ocean Beach Rag and The Progressive Post. She formerly worked for the North County Times. She is also host of Fallbrook's monthly Writers Read open mic and can be reached at kbgressitt@gmail.com.