Lots of people have forgotten about the gaffes Mitt Romney made during the Republican primary—a gaffe, by definition, is amusing yet inconsequential—but Mitt Romney hasn't. Though many reporters have suggested Romney is overly cautious when speaking in public because his father's presidential campaign was killed by one gaffe, it's Romney's own mistakes "that make me want to kick myself in the seat of my pants," the candidate tells The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan. "I've had a couple of those during the campaign, which have haunted me a little bit, but I'm sure before this is over will haunt me a lot." Despite the widespread suspicion that Romney is a robot, we're slowly learning more about his personality. Romney seems to be very sensitive to what people think about him, and he hates being embarrassed.
Romney singled out his "I like being able to fire people" comment to Noonan as an example of a gaffe. That Romney would be "haunted" by a dumb thing he said (something even Democrats admit is inoffensive in context) says a lot about his personality. He might look like confident prep school guy, but underneath, he's the insecure nerd. There's a scene of Six Feet Under when Claire goes to art school and finally meets other kids who are as weird and insecure as she is. "You're great," she tells another student. "Tell me that when it's two in the morning, and I'm lying in bed, and I'm eating my fourth bowl of cereal, and I'm just beating myself up for some stupid thing I said in eighth grade," he replies. That is so Mitt Romney.
Romney's social fear shows in his inability to make small talk with voters. Romney is smart, he's worldly, he reads the news -- in other words, there's enough stuff in his head to make conversation. But he's too socially awkward to get it out. You get the sense that when he's meeting voters, while he's smiling on the outside, on the inside, he probably feels like the photo from his high school yearbook, at left.
In a story about how the Senate campaign of his mother, Lenore Romney, shaped how he runs for office, Time's Barton Gellman noted this incident:
In July 1970, a man with a cream pie in his hand made a run at Mitt at the Imlay City Centennial. The man missed, but a photograph in that week's Lapeer County Press caught Mitt, with a large LENORE button on his shirt, in mid-dive across the lap of a local notable. "Mitt Romney does not want a pie in the face," the caption read.
How else could one possibly react to an attempted pie-facer? Well, there's the example of fearless Wendi Deng, who spiked a pie aimed at her husband, Rupert Murdoch, last year.
Need more evidence that Romney is terrified of the judgment of other people? He told Noonan that he keeps a campaign journal on his iPad. "Now this is going to make my iPad a subject of potential theft!" he said. That's right: Romney is afraid someone is going to steal his diary.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.