By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Romney, Nixon, untruths and lies

Willard M. Romney

I was driving east on Route 2 last night, somewhere in the Land of the Yellow Traffic Barriers, fiddling with the CNN app on my iPhone so I could listen to the latest Republican presidential debate.

Moderator Wolf Blitzer was joking about his first name, which prompted Mitt Romney to say this: “I’m Mitt Romney and yes, Wolf, that’s also my first name.”

I nearly drove off the road.

As many of us know, Mitt is not Romney’s first name. It’s Willard. I wouldn’t quite call what Romney said a lie, because to qualify there has to be some intent to deceive. And Romney’s full name is not exactly a secret.

For some reason, I thought immediately of Richard Nixon, who beat Romney’s father, George, for the Republican nomination in 1968. A generation earlier, in 1952, Nixon was on the ropes. Shortly after having been named Dwight Eisenhower’s running mate, the Trickster was caught in some minor money-grubbing scandal, and delivered a nationally televised speech (a true rarity in those days) in an attempt to save his career. It was dubbed the “Checkers speech,” after the Nixons’ dog, which Nixon shamelessly invoked in a bid for sympathy.

Anyway, at one point Nixon said this, bringing his poor wife into the fray:

And now, finally, I know that you wonder whether or not I am going to stay on the Republican ticket or resign. Let me say this: I don’t believe that I ought to quit, because I am not a quitter. And, incidentally, Pat is not a quitter. After all, her name is Patricia Ryan and she was born on St. Patrick’s Day, and you know the Irish never quit.

In fact, Pat Nixon’s name was not Patricia. She was born Thelma Catherine Ryan. Her birthday was March 16, which, the last time I checked, was the day before St. Patrick’s Day. As with Romney last night, I don’t think it’s quite fair to call what Nixon said a lie. She reportedly used Patricia on occasion, and March 16 qualifies as close enough.

Still, Romney’s statement showed that even after running for president full-time for seven years now, he is still weirdly clueless about what people will pick up on. There’s a lot of buzz about it this morning, and it’s detracting from Romney’s more important message: That he’s so desperate to become president he’s willing to put out a television ad that flat-out lies about what Barack Obama said regarding the economy during the 2008 campaign.

Now that’s leadership.


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  1. Mike Benedict

    How does Romney stand with no spine?

  2. Willard? I thought it was short for Mitt-thew.

  3. Jim Chiavelli

    Lies are people too, my friend.

  4. Marc Larocque

    I was thinking the same thing as I was watching on TV last night, Dan. He said and Mitt is my first name as well, and my instant reaction was, “No it’s not. Your name is Willard!!!”

  5. Marc Larocque

    I spit out my coffee even though I was not drinking any coffee

  6. His name is Willard. He should be called W “Mitt” Romney, if that is correct AP style and Mitt is a nickname.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Ethan, Mitt is his middle name, not a nickname. He should be called by whatever he prefers, IMHO, but it’s just weird for him to claim that Mitt is his first name when we all know better.

  7. Actually, remember the big deal between Eric and Vennochi over he birth certificate? Apparently, Mitt isn’t even right. Or is it?

  8. Aaron Read

    Quick! It’s time to make Ron Paul the co-frontrunner to distract everyone!!! 🙂

  9. LFNeilson

    Methinx he’s just trying to establish his Bozo credentials, apparently a draw in that crowd. I love the explanation of his campaign spokesperson, saying the quote was used knowingly, just to show that Obama . . . . . Ahem! No matter what, it was taken out of context and was unethical. And the ad didn’t discuss that aspect of the quote at all.

  10. Rick Peterson

    If that’s all it takes to get you to almost drive off the road, I may have to rethink visiting the in-laws in Danvers today……

  11. L.K. Collins

    “That he’s so desperate to become president he’s willing to put out a television ad that flat-out lies about what Barack Obama said regarding the economy during the 2008 campaign.” Dan Kennedy

    Gee, Dan, I didn’t see you get upset when Obama was touting those “shovel ready” jobs or Biden was crowing about “Recovery Summer”. How about when Obama said that if he hadn’t solved the economic problems in three years that he “didn’t deserve to be re-elected”

    Seems as though your partisan nature is clouding your journalistic judgment…


    How’s that “hopey changey” stuff doing for you?

  12. Larry Weil

    I don’t think it’s a good idea to post on a public blog that you were doing something illegal. Web-surfing while driving is illegal in MA.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Larry: I wasn’t. I was tuning in the CNN app, just as I would tune in a radio station.

  13. Mike Benedict

    Like everything else, Romney saw “Willard” as a long, inefficient name, an byproduct of 1940s and 1950s America-think that business school felt was outdated for 21st Century capitalism. So he brought in new management, outsourced the name Willard to China, and paid himself millions for the decision.

  14. peter sullivan

    Partisan nit picking in my opinion. The only people that picked up on that are the Obama water boys. he is universally known as Mitt and said it as a joke about first names…

  15. LFNeilson

    Tuning the CNN app so you could listen to a GOP debate on the iphone was nothing, compared to listening to it. You’re lucky to have survived.

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