Oh, sure, Mitt Romney gets himself in trouble when he talks about money and dogs, but the real gaffe trap for the presidential candidate is cars. His wife's multiple Cadillacs, his car elevator, even his inexplicable praise of the height of Michigan's trees was prompted by a story about a car. Romney made another questionable car comment Monday, when he said he'll "take a lot of credit" for the survival of the American auto industry, because what he proposed for it and what actually happened both contain the words "managed bankruptcy." But the key difference is that what Romney predicted would happen to Detroit in 2008 is the opposite of what came true.
The taxpayer bailout of Chrysler and General Motors is widely considered to have been crucial to their survival; Romney argued that the bailout would doom them to failure. Romney literally opened his 2008 op-ed in The New York Times like this:
"If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won't go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed."
Maybe Romney's campaign is betting that because both Romney's proposal and what actually happened involved bankruptcy, voters won't notice. But it's a pretty easy one for Democrats to factually dispute.
Why does Romney make so many car-related gaffes? Maybe it has something to do with his well-reported father issues. Romney's dad was CEO of American Motors, and Romney works to honor his dad's legacy on the campaign trial. His bus displays a banner from his dad's presidential campaign, he tells voters about his dad growing up in poverty and some of the mistakes his dad made while running for president. He said he's "not going to apologize for my dad's success." He talked about his dad's career while campaigning in Michigan during the primary. Even way back in the 1970s, Romney couldn't stand it when anyone didn't like his dad. His mom told the Boston Herald: "He wanted to punch anyone who didn't like his dad... I told him if he did that he was through. I told him to go over and punch a tree if he was that mad -- and he did." All that emotion has led to a lot of gaffes, the little inconsequential comments that are nevertheless revealing. Here are Romney's best car gaffes:
Here's Romney talking about his love of trees, lakes and cars in February. Note the odd, too-fast delivery in detailing his childhood car love: "I grew up totally in love with cars. Used to be in the 50s and 60s, if you showed me one square foot of almost any part of a car, I could tell you what brand it was, the model and so forth. Now with all the Japanese cars I'm not so good at it, but I still know the American cars pretty well. And, ah, drive a Mustang. I love cars. I love American cars. And long may they rule the world. "
Here's Romney talking about how his wife "drives a couple of Cadillacs" -- while talking about how good it feels to be back in Michigan:
The original Boston Globe story reporting the time Romney tied his dog's kennel to the roof of his stationwagon for a roadtrip even emphasized Romney's protection of the car's exterior:
As the rest of the boys joined in the howls of disgust, Romney coolly pulled off the highway and into a service station. There, he borrowed a hose, washed down Seamus and the car, then hopped back onto the highway. It was a tiny preview of a trait he would grow famous for in business: emotion-free crisis management.
Would you like to see specs Romney's beach house car elevator? We know Obama's campaign would:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.