Brian McGrory

Mitt Romney, lost in translation

To the good, hard-working people of London, please allow me to apologize on behalf of my former governor, Mitt Romney.

When he basically told an interviewer that you Brits were a bunch of layabouts and that your Olympics would almost certainly be a total disaster, he didn’t mean for you to take it personally. Actually, he didn’t really even mean to say it. That’s just what he does, and it takes getting used to.

Allow me to tell a story. Years ago, Romney was on vacation at his New Hampshire lakehouse when he jumped aboard his jet ski to rescue a family of stranded boaters and the family dog that got loose in the water. Yours truly wrote a little column about it, about our governor who could do no wrong. One minute he’s sipping root beer floats, alphabetizing his toolbox, and watching The Wonderful World of Disney with the grandkids, the next minute he’s zipping across the darkening lake, Baywatch style, to save people in peril.


A week or so later, a note arrived in the mail on thick, luxurious stationery. It was from Governor Mitt Romney, and in refined penmanship, he said that he and Ann got a good laugh over my descriptions.

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Then he said, and this is a paraphrase, but a very close one: I never knew you had a sense of humor.

That’s right. Me. He never knew I had a sense of humor.

I had been throwing my A-game at the guy for years. During his gubernatorial campaign, I suggested that maybe his monosyllabically named sons, Tagg and Josh, could change their names to Billy and Kevin. I advised him to hold a press conference at an Elks Lodge.

OK, so maybe you had to be there, or maybe I’m not that funny, but the point is he writes a note to compliment me and he ends up insulting me. It’s perfect Mitt.


How do you think that bakery owner felt in Pennsylvania in April when he said, “I’m not sure about these cookies,” and compared them to something from a 7-Eleven. What he meant to say was, “These look delicious.”

How do you think this entire nation felt when he asked an opponent at a debate if he wanted to make a $10,000 wager? What he meant to say was, “I’ll bet you a buck.”

At his inaugural address in Massachusetts, Romney basically said that the state government and local business community should act more like Al Qaeda. Everyone left scratching their heads. He didn’t actually mean it. What he meant to say is that government and business have to be nimble to survive.

And what he meant to say in London was that Brits are a wonderful, industrious people who will undoubtedly run a flawless Olympics. It just doesn’t always come out right.

I’m not defending him, I’m just saying he has the common touch of a freshly-groomed poodle — the kind with carved fur balls down along his perfectly manicured feet.


You should be used to this. Romney pretty much makes Prince Charles look like a beer-and-a-shot guy by comparison, the type of pal you might find yourself tailgating with at a weekend soccer game. Romney, he’s friends with a lot of NASCAR owners, as he once pointed out. What he meant to say is he’s a longtime admirer of such a demanding sport.

Romney asked me to lunch in the last weeks of his governorship, and when I showed up at the restaurant, I found he brought an aide. So she proceeds to order chicken under a brick, and Romney about jumped down her throat, barking, “That takes too long to make.”

He didn’t mean anything personal. I was well aware of that by then. What he meant to say was, “We have all the time in the world.”

Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at