RICH ROMNEY

Romney's Embarrassment of Riches

Try as he might, the candidate can't finesse the fact that he's loaded

Sometimes I wish Mitt Romney would just say, “I’m rich, folks—deal with it.”Seems like every time he talks about money, he manages to strike the wrong chord. And that can greatly complicate life for a presidential candidate who happens to be rolling in dough.Romney’s by-the-way revelation that he pays close to 15 percent of his income in taxes was rather typical. It may be legal and logical that a guy who is living high on investment income, and paying a lower capital gains rate, winds up owing half or even one-third the rate of many Americans. But failing to directly address that yawning disparity gave the impression that Romney sees nothing wrong with it. Beyond that, he said with a smile, “I get speaker’s fees from time to time, but not very much.”Yeah—only $374,000, it turns out. Nothing to write home about.Now we all understand the game here. Romney, like all candidates, is campaigning as a guy who can help the middle class. He doesn’t want to appear out of touch. He wants to, uh, feel your pain. And he keeps tripping over his tongue in the process.Having substantial wealth obviously doesn’t disqualify a political candidate. FDR was filthy rich. So were Jack Kennedy and Nelson Rockefeller. Romney may have been the son of a governor and former auto executive, but he went out and made his millions as a vulture, I mean venture, capitalist. (Of course, no one forced him and his Bain partners to pose for a photo with greenbacks spilling out of their clothing, but that was when greed was good.)It’s when Romney tries to depict himself as an ordinary bloke that he sounds like George H.W. Bush talking about pork rinds and marveling at a supermarket scanner.Unemployment is a big problem? Well, Romney says he used to worry about getting “pink slips” too. His campaign couldn’t say exactly when this was. Something about when he was starting out with a joint law and business degree from Harvard. Must have been nerve-wracking.In fact, Romney joked to one crowd that he was unemployed himself at the moment. And while he may have been referring to health insurance firms when he told a corporate group he likes to fire people, it was hardly the best phraseology for a man whose business experience was based on taking over companies and often squeezing thousands of jobs out of them, sometimes pushing them into bankruptcy.The man seemingly can’t help himself from challenging other candidates to $10,000 bets as if he were playing with Monopoly money.I was with Romney at a New Hampshire event when a woman in the crowd said disapprovingly that he had four houses. Not true, he responded. That’s right, he has three, including an estate in San Diego whose size he is doubling.And can you remember a presidential candidate ever giving someone 50 bucks? No doubt Romney was sincere in wanting to help the homeless woman, but it sounded a discordant note.So maybe Romney should give up the charade and just be himself. Say it loud and say it proud: I’m one wealthy son of a gun! And on that point, no one could challenge his authenticity.