Maureen Dowd / Hiding in plain sight: Romney is starting to make Cheney look like an open book
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If I closed my eyes and added a creepy monotone, I could have been listening to Dick Cheney.
The Republican speaker at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, Nev., was slashing the president with jingoistic jingles: Barack Obama is ashamed of America, an apologist sapping the greatness of a country that is the greatest force for good the world has ever known, a weakling marring the American Century by gutting the military and the economy. And, on top of that, the Obama White House doesn't know how to keep stuff secret.
Prodded by conservatives to attack the president more aggressively, the ever malleable Mitt Romney obliged Tuesday at the VFW, spouting chest-thumping cliches about putting "resolve in our might." That resolve evidently doesn't include Mitt, who passed on Vietnam, or his five strapping sons, none of whom have volunteered for the volunteer military.
It was at the VFW convention in 2002 when Mr. Cheney, who got five deferments from Vietnam, set the gold standard for mindless belligerence, pushing pre-emptive action in Iraq. "Simply stated," he said, "there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction." The Arab street, he knew, would erupt in joy when we invaded.
In his speech, Mr. Romney demanded that any Obama administration leakers of classified information be found and punished because "the time for stonewalling is over," "Americans are entitled to know" and Americans deserve "a full and prompt accounting of the facts."
Yet Mr. Romney is so secretive that he's beginning to make the uber-clandestine Cheney look like The Bachelorette.
The Boston Globe reported Tuesday that although Mr. Romney promised "complete transparency" when he stepped in to save the Salt Lake City Olympics, he became a black hole: "Some who worked with Romney describe a close-to-the-vest chief executive unwilling to share so much as a budget with a state board responsible for spending oversight. Archivists now say most key records about the Games' internal workings were destroyed under the supervision of a staffer shortly after the flame was extinguished at Olympic Cauldron Park.
The public still can't see the records, stored at the University of Utah's J. Willard Marriott library, named for the same man as Willard Mitt Romney.
Andrea Saul, a Romney spokeswoman, said that Mitt resigned from the Olympics job in early 2002 to run for governor of Massachusetts and "was not involved in the decision-making regarding the final disposition of records." Who was responsible? A former colleague at Bain Capital who succeeded Mr. Romney in the Olympic post. Ah, the old Bain handoff.
Mr. Romney spent $100,000 in state funds to replace office computers at the end of his term as governor and on the cusp of his 2008 presidential race, "as part of an unprecedented effort to keep his records secret," reported Mark Hosenball of Reuters. Eleven Romney aides "bought the hard drives of their state-issued computers to keep for themselves," Mr. Hosenball wrote. "The governor's staff had emails and other electronic communications by Romney's administration wiped from the state servers, state officials say. Those actions erased much of the internal documentation of Romney's four-year tenure as governor."
It seems antithetical to Mormonism, since the Mormon Church loves to save documents, keeping 35 billion images of genealogical information and records on church history in a mountain vault near Salt Lake City. Doesn't Mitt have space in that split-level, four-car garage elevator in La Jolla for a little deep-storage?
As Maggie Haberman observed at Politico, Mr. Romney has made a calculated decision to hide three major elements of his background: his Mormonism, his record at Bain and his time as governor. This creates, she wrote, "a kind of self-imposed paralysis on biographical messaging that some observers, including Republicans, say may wound his campaign in an era in which voters want to achieve a kind of unprecedented intimacy with their candidates." Even former rival Newt Gingrich told Politico Tuesday that Mr. Romney needs to relax and let people see who he is.
So far, Mitt's casting a shadowy silhouette, hiding his fortune in foreign tax havens, hiding tax returns, destroying and hiding records as head of the Olympics and as governor, hiding a specific sense of where he would take the country.
Americans don't want to play hide-and-seek with their presidential candidates. Mitt Romney should listen to himself: The time for stonewalling is over.
First Published July 26, 2012 12:00 am