Political Animal


August 25, 2012 6:46 AM The World’s Shortest Book, or, The “Humor” of Mitt Romney

By Kathleen Geier

Mitt Romney is now claiming that yesterday’s racist, nativist, birtherist remarks were not meant as a “swipe” against President Obama. His comments, you see, were all about the “humor”: “This was fun about us, and coming home. And humor, you know — we’ve got to have a little humor in a campaign.”

That Mitt Romney — what a card! Personally, I’ve heard better material from Carrot Top. But hey, no less a luminary than Peggy “Dolphin Lady” Noonan heroically argues, in her current Wall Street Journal column, that humor is “natural” to Romney. Noonan provides this example from the ol’ Mormon mirthster:

On a conference call recently, he asked a question of his staff. No one answered. Mr. Romney waited. “Bueller? Bueller?” he said, in a perfect imitation of Ben Stein.

Well hey, I’m sure none of us have ever heard that one any less than a hundred times or so before, ammirite? And can I just say how much I hate, hate it, when some dude in a suit/person in authority/priest/powerful-person-that-a-group-of-people-feels-vaguely-intimidated-by cracks some lame, corny joke, and everyone around them starts laughing like a pack of hyenas, in the most cringingly servile way, like it’s the freshest, most hysterical thing they’ve ever heard?

All right, moving on. There are a couple of salient points to be made about the Mittster’s “joke” about our Kenyan Muslim Socialist-in-Chief. First is that, as the invaluable Think Progress notes, the Republican National Convention is featuring no less than seven birthers among its roster of speakers. That in itself speaks volumes about the cuckoo-for-cocoa-puffs essence of the contemporary GOP.

Second is the broader point that nasty, bullying, puerile “humor” — if you even want to call it humor — is par for the course among contemporary conservatives. Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter have made highly lucrative careers out of it, to name just two of the right’s most prominent icons — its number one Bully Boy and Mean Girl, respectively. Saying something extremely nasty, vicious, and hurtful, and then getting all whiney and passive-aggressive and responsibility-denying by claiming “hey, it’s just a joke” is a very old trick, known to schoolyard bullies and abusive spouses and partners the world over.

Finally, this bullying “joking” business is very much of a piece with what we know of Mitt’s personal history. The Romney campaign has portrayed its candidate as having been a fun-loving practical jokester in his youth. But as the Washington Post has reported, the reality was much darker. In prep school, Romney was the ring-leader in some very ugly bullying incidents, including verbally harassing and forcibly cutting the hair of a gay student, and arranging for a visually impaired teacher to unknowingly walk into a closed door. Those “jokes” sound like real gutbusters! But hey, I’m sure you had to be there.

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee


  • AngryOldVet on August 25, 2012 9:07 AM:

    Did you hear the Mittster's latest joke? It goes "Did you hear the one about the nigger pretending to be president?"

  • AngryOldVet on August 25, 2012 9:12 AM:

    Did you hear the other new joke from the Mittster? It goes "After I take the oath of office next January 20th, my family plans to move into the White House on the 1st of February. It will take that long to fumigate the building and repaint it white."

    How long is it going to be before that famous defender of the FRC, Dana Milbank, to write a column defending Mitt's great sense of humor?

  • c u n d gulag on August 25, 2012 9:20 AM:

    Ah yes, the comedy stylings of Mitt Romney.

    I can hardly wait until he's about done with his acceptance stand-up routine, and finishes with this:

    "And I want to thank you very much again for this nomination, legitimate ladies and forcible gentlemen. It cost me a fortune. It's up to you to make this a great investment!

    While you're here, don't forget to try the 'Châteaubriand with Sauce ala Escoffier.'

    Oh, and don't forget to stiff the bartenders and the wait staff!

    Alway's stiff the working stiffs!

    Good night!"

  • Daryl McCullough on August 25, 2012 9:22 AM:

    I've said before that there is a strange contrast between liberal political humor and conservative political humor. When joking, the liberal (for example, Stephen Colbert) takes a conservative view and exaggerates it to the point of ridiculousness. In contrast, the conservative (for example, Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter or just about any conservative politician when he's joking around) takes a conservative view and exaggerates it to the point of ridiculousness. Why is this? Why would conservatives joking around want to sound just like liberals making fun of conservatives?

  • Russell Sadler on August 25, 2012 9:23 AM:

    Bully Boyz like Mitt are usually humorless. I went to prep school with people like this. Their "humor" is always at someone's expense. I finished high school in a public school. Better people, frankly.

    Good to see you back Kathleen. I'll look forward to reading you between soccer games ;-)

  • Leopold Von Ranke on August 25, 2012 9:30 AM:

    Two words: "Pencey Prep."

  • Anonymous on August 25, 2012 9:34 AM:

    Mitt Romney is still running for President of Republicans.

  • fignaz on August 25, 2012 9:35 AM:

    Romney has as much of a "sense of humor" as GWB, who was the same entitled, needling demeaner of those around him. Of course, unlike the Mittbot, GWB could cloak it all as just the towel-snapping bonhomie of the locker room, alpha male taunting from the guy you'd be comfortable having a beer with. Romney, however, can't pull that off. Even when he's trying to be spontaneous, he sounds calculated & programmed... and unctuous.

  • c u n d gulag on August 25, 2012 9:53 AM:

    I beg to differ as to what the world's shortest book would be.

    I think it's "Republicans With a Heart," and it's a postage stamp with Abraham Lincoln on it.
    Just put a cover and a back, and, VOILA! - it's a book!

  • Kolubian on August 25, 2012 10:02 AM:

    Hey here's a good joke, again:
    Rearrange "Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan" (or Mitt R-money and R-Ayn!) to get "my ultimate Ayn Rand porn!"

    Heh, he never had to show anyone his tax returns either ...

  • Just guessing on August 25, 2012 10:03 AM:

    Mitt - just trying to be liked because nobody likes him.

  • beep52 on August 25, 2012 10:05 AM:

    To show just how unfunny the remark was, someone only need ask Romney, "And why do you think that is?"

  • LAC on August 25, 2012 10:08 AM:

    Mitt: "a negro, a cripple, and long haired gay guy walk into a bar..."
    Oh yes, Romney 's famous humor.Har Har

    Icing on the cake? Mark halperin's clutch the pearls false equivalency comments and Peggy noonan's locust valley lockjaw natterings. Our fourth estate still in foreclosure , I see.

  • PMP on August 25, 2012 10:25 AM:

    Don't forget Mitt pushing his sons and grandsons faces into food.(Google Romney+sons+pushes face into food)

    He is one sick puppy.

  • MCN on August 25, 2012 10:31 AM:

    So Mitt wouldn't object if Obama told a crowd "I only have ONE wife (Ha Ha)"

  • jpeckjr on August 25, 2012 10:38 AM:

    Don't know if the comment was a joke or not.

    Do know it was unnecessary for making the point that he and Ann were born in Michigan.

    Say, maybe someone should ask for a copy of Mr. Romney's birth certificate?

  • Diane Rodriguez on August 25, 2012 10:42 AM:

    Ms.Noonan, the surgeon and your new liver will be here soon. I’m sure you’ll be suite comfortable in the Larry Hagman suite.

  • zandru on August 25, 2012 10:46 AM:

    The Latest Republican Attempt at "Humor"

    Well, it's clearly not the "latest"; the email dates from early June, but now on TPM the New Mexico Republican Party is being skewered by an email sent by its head, Patrick Rogers, which said:

    "[Gov Martinez] dishonored Col Custer [by attending a tribal-state summit meeting] ... Quislings, French surrender monkeys ... The state is going to hell ... Col. Weh [former NM GOP party leader, and former candidate for governor] would not have dishonored Col. Custer in this manner..."

    Rogers says he was trying to be humorous, and seriously, if you imagine those words coming out of Stephen Colbert's or Jon Stewarts' mouths, it's pretty funny.

    However, in the last several months, Republicans throughout the country have been making such reactionary, hateful, bigoted statements - to the general applause of other Republicans! - that it's easy to assume that this is just more of the same. Context is EVERYTHING. That, and knowing your audience. Apparently, Rogers never imagined that his comic missives would end up in the hands of ProgressNow New Mexico - who was not amused.

  • Kathryn on August 25, 2012 11:07 AM:

    Patrick Rodger of the New Mexico Party decided his comment was a "joke" when it got him critizied and not a minute before IMO.

  • hells littlest angel on August 25, 2012 11:12 AM:

    Romney would be the perfect opening act for Dennis Miller (provided he could refrain from stealing Miller's jokes). After November 6th, he'll have plenty of time to pursue this career -- because he's unemployed hahaha.

  • Rick B on August 25, 2012 11:20 AM:

    Conservative "humor" is very hard for educated liberals to understand because it is based in fear and anger. It is not true "humor." It is a parody of what people who are comfortable in their own skins laugh at.

    One reason why conservatives join with other conservatives is that they are too insecure to deal with problems they personally face with true laughter. Instead they laugh at the discomfort of others - and never, never, never at themselves.

    Want proof? Watch what Romney laughs at. It's always where he imagines he is 'winning' and never to defuse a threatening situation.

    There is no humor in Captcha! 3 4 tries so far.

  • James M on August 25, 2012 11:22 AM:

    I will say one thing for Mr. Romney. Just when you think he has gone as low as possible he somehow manages to lower the bar!I dislike psychobabble, but the meme of Mitt Romney as a bully seems truer by the day.

    I don't know what Mr. Romney's internal polling looks like, but I am beginning to sense desperation from the Romney camp. Look at the progression of stories recently: welfare, Medicare and now Birtherism. None of which have much to do with jobs and the economy, do they?

    I will say one thing for Senator McCain. Even though he apparently dislikes President Obama and knew he was losing badly, he didn't attempt a scorched earth approach to poison the political climate after the election. I really get the feeling that Mr. Romney is willing to unleash all the furies and doesn't give a damn about what happens to the body politic after he loses.

  • patrick II on August 25, 2012 11:25 AM:

    I know a joke about three n***** and a watermelon that gets laughs too when I tell it to the right crowd. So, that's ok.

  • Dorothy Lee on August 25, 2012 11:27 AM:

    When alpha males obtain their alpha status because of who their family is or for any reason other than their own charisma/leadership/skills/persona, the only way they know to reinforce it is by demeaning others. Romney's status in private school in his youth wasn't earned; dad was the governor. His selection to head up Bain wasn't due to his brilliance; family connections got him the job. His power in the Mormon Church isn't due to his character; his money ensures his rank.
    Romney is desperate and insecure, but cruel and manipulative. He is the most frightening candidate ever.

  • g on August 25, 2012 11:28 AM:

    It's an axiom of truth that the richest man in the room is always the funniest.

    People have been assuring Mitt he's funny for most of his life.

  • gretchen on August 25, 2012 11:40 AM:

    @Russell Sadler: This. When asked for evidence of Romney's "humor", his family always comes back to his pranks. Pranks always have a victim. Pranks aren't funny to the victim, who got his face pushed into food or blindly walked into a wall. They're only funny to observers who are relieved they're not the victim this time.

  • daniel quinn on August 25, 2012 11:43 AM:

    Re:Column title.I thought that honor went to "The Wit & Wisdom of Spiro T. Agnew".

  • Decatur Dem on August 25, 2012 11:46 AM:

    Mitt's father, George, a serious candidate for president in the 1960s, was never asked for his birth certificate; everyone knew he was born in Mexico. I don't remember it ever being an issue. Puzzling, huh?

    Oh yeah-- he was white.

  • Old Uncle Dave on August 25, 2012 12:18 PM:

    "... Those are no ladies, those are my wives!"

  • DRF on August 25, 2012 12:35 PM:

    Well, I'll give him credit--the "Bueller" comment is humorous.

    But calling Romney's birther comment a joke doesn't let him off the hook. The "humor" in the comment derives from belief that Obama is an alien, unamerican, other, and not a legitimate President. There's nothing funny about playing to those extremist--and at least in part racist--views.

    The fact that Romney would make a comment like this, even in the form of a "joke", says a lot about him, none of it good.

  • iyoumeweus on August 25, 2012 12:58 PM:

    So why is it we can not use humor and a little joshing, after all Mittens Rumoney is an anchor baby. His father was born in Mexico and a citizen of Mexico. His grandparents were a polygynous, a fugitive from justice and having fled to Mexico a citizen of that country. We could ask to see his father's birth certificate or better yeyt his green card and immigration papers. Just how does a son of a fugitive and citizen of another country born on foreign soil get to run fro president. It is because we truly are a great and forgiving country. The entire tax return thing or lack thereof can also be a laughing matter poking fun at his wealth and out of touchness.

  • j on August 25, 2012 2:10 PM:

    iyoumeweus - love your comment!

    All in fun and I'm sure Mitt would see the humor.

    Another thought - if showing tax returns were forbidden by the mormon church, why did Mitt's father show 12 years - he sure must have been a terrible mormon.

  • Bothered by Mitt's racism on August 25, 2012 3:10 PM:

    Romney has resorted to race baiting multiple times during his sordid campaign. Recall in Israel he said some economic histories have theorized that culture makes all the difference.
    "It is a racist statement and this man doesn't realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation," said Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, adding "It seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people," "He also lacks knowledge about the Israelis themselves. I have not heard any Israeli official speak about cultural superiority."

    In the U.S., After releasing the ad falsely claiming Obama would permit welfare without work and "just send you your welfare check," Romney'a Republican National Committee hosted a conference call the next day with Newt Gingrich, who, sure enough, repeated his food stamp attack on the president.

    And it know it is due to Republicans like Paul Ryan stopping legislation that could well have ended the great recession.. the country's economic woes rest right on that party�s very inept, racist shoulders.

    Both Romney and Ryan have used race-baiting and we are certainly aware of their silence on voter suppression happening in states governed by Republicans.

    After speaking to the NAACP, Romney publicly stated if people want free stuff vote for the other guy.

    Currently acting in solidarity with racists, Romney is being supported with ads by Larry McCarthy, who notoriously created the racially charged Willie Horton ad in 1988. McCarthy once said "People, they take crime real seriously." He later told a reporter that when he first saw Horton's mug shot he said to himself, "God, this guy's ugly." He added, "This is every suburban mother's greatest fear." ("The guy looked like an animal," he said of Horton.)

    And Romney's policies sting of racism. Professor Feisal Mohamed of the University of Illinois wrote of the "stingy self-interest that gives the race-baiting strategy its traction: Romney-Ryan trickle-down economics are an enormous giveaway of middle-class tax resources, making the Wall-Street bailout the new normal...."
    "But some remarks form a pattern worth analyzing. And one pattern now clear is the racially charged political speech emerging from the Romney campaign. This goes beyond a single stray remark, like the comment on "chains" made by Joe Biden, that great font of stray remarks. Romney has made a few moves that seem designed to appeal to voters with an antipathy to minorities. It is hard to remember a candidate ever using a chorus of boos at the NAACP as a plank prominently displayed in his campaign platform. Many people might be at least personally embarrassed by such a reception. Not Romney, who afterwards declared that he knew he would be booed at the NAACP but went anyway.
    That is a remarkable statement. In the careful planning of a political campaign, these boos were anticipated and embraced precisely because they send a message that, in my opinion, the GOP wants the electorate to hear: Romney is the candidate that the NAACP does not want in the White House. As we near November, that message has become louder and more explicit. Romney has said that Obama needs to take his "campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago." And appearing on CBS, he described the Obama campaign as "designed to bring a sense of enmity and jealousy and anger."
    To call such remarks racially coded is to pay them the compliment of being subtle. These are explicitly racist remarks that have little to do with the Obama campaign or anything we have seen of the president's public persona. Toure is exactly right to c

  • Cha on August 25, 2012 4:23 PM:

    Mitt is still running for the president of the Liar's Club for assholes.

    That's funny, Kathleen, "The World's Shortest Book"! It's funny 'cause it's true. I think that's why liberal humor is so damn funny because it is true.

  • navamske on August 25, 2012 6:53 PM:

    Mitt Romney is about as funny as a fart in a spacesuit.

  • schtick on August 25, 2012 7:18 PM:

    It's my understanding the mormons don't call them wives anymore, they call them surrogates. So Obama's joke would fall flat. 'cough'cough'

  • Doug on August 25, 2012 9:49 PM:

    "Mitt Romney is still running for President of Republicans(sic)." Anonymous @ 9:43 AM

    While all the analysis WAS interesting, everyone could've stopped posting after this entry...