NPR's idea of Republican convention coverage is to expose Mitt Romney as a flip-flopping fraud flirting with the "extremist camp within the Republican Party." On the very liberal show Fresh Air on Tuesday, host Terry Gross brought on two Boston Globe reporters who've penned an expose called The Real Romney. They talked for 43 and a half minutes.
Veteran Globe editor Michael Kranish found “disaster” in the GOP platform “which takes a very hard line on abortion, and he's picked Paul Ryan, who in the past has voiced a very hard line on abortion....And it's a disaster on the left and certainly in the center because Mitt Romney wants to talk about the economy.” Gross also wanted the Boston authors to trash Romney for his birth-certificate joke, and expose Romney's polygamous Mexico-based ancestors:
TERRY GROSS: So doesn't Romney run the risk of having people, having journalists use that statement as an opportunity to go back to the George Romney question about whether he legitimately ran for president because he spent his first five years in Mexico where he was born, and in a community that was founded as a polygamist community so that they could freedom of polygamy outside of the government of the United States?
MICHAEL KRANISH: Well, it's interesting. If you look back, Mitt Romney for many years didn't focus very much on the fact that his father was born in Mexico in this campaign. He's mentioned it a number of times, particularly before Hispanic audiences, mentioning that his father was born in Mexico, although his father obviously was not an Hispanic. But he's pointed that out, that there is some heritage in the family.
He certainly has not focused on the fact that his great-grandfather, Miles Park Romney, established that colony to evade the laws against polygamy in this country. Mitt's father and Mitt's grandfather were not polygamists, but the colony was initially founded on that. And to this day there are Romneys, I've been to that colony in Mexico, there are quite a number of Romneys who still live in this colony, in a very beautiful part of Mexico about four hours from the U.S. border.
SCOTT HELMAN: And I think there's a bigger risk, Terry, here, and that is that every time Mitt Romney does something like this, it just puts him more into this, you know, extremist camp within the Republican Party. I mean, this - Mitt Romney now should be focusing on the middle of the country, on independents. This is a group that he's done well with in the past. And yet we see him pushing himself further and further, I think, to the right.
And it's going to be really interesting to see how he tries to swing this back at the convention because to the extent that he's associated with the birther movement, and, you know, now he's picked in Paul Ryan someone who is very, very conservative not just on fiscal issues but also on women's issues, on abortion rights, somebody who has favored bills that allow no exceptions for rape or things like that, you know, this puts Mitt Romney exactly where President Obama and his team want him, which is in this far right of the Republican Party, out of the mainstream, somebody who cannot win a general election in the fall.
Gross then sought to double down on the alleged extremism of the GOP on abortion:
GROSS: The abortion question is actually kind of confusing now about where everybody stands. The party platform, the Republican Party platform, says that there should be no exceptions made for incest or rape. And Paul Ryan, who supports that and has sponsored legislation like that, defers to Romney. You know, Romney supports an exception in cases of rape or incest, but Paul Ryan, who doesn't, says, you know, Romney's the person who'd be president, it's about him, it's not about me. But the Republican Party is Ryan's position. So can you figure out what the position of a Romney administration would actually be?
HELMAN: Romney would, you know, be the one to - there is no tie-breaking. You're the president or the vice president. So Romney's position certainly would prevail. His position has been, and they've restated it this week despite the platform, that he has exceptions for rape, incest, life of the mother and so forth. So, you know, taking him at his word, that would be the policy of the Romney administration. Obviously that's a - you know, that is a limited position, certainly. So that seems to be where they would be headed with that.
KRANISH: But politically it's a disaster for them because Todd Akin's comments about what is rape and legitimate rape versus illegitimate rape, now you have a party platform, which takes a very hard line on abortion, and he's picked Paul Ryan, who in the past has voiced a very hard line on abortion.
This is exactly what Mitt Romney does not want to be talking about because it's a risk on the right because it reminds people of how firmly in support of abortion rights he once was in his - not very long ago. And it's a disaster on the left and certainly in the center because Mitt Romney wants to talk about the economy and how President Obama has failed and how it's time to fire him and get this country working again, all those slogans, and yet here we are trying to parse, you know, the party's views and his views on abortion. And every moment that he has to spend talking about that is a losing moment for Mitt Romney.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is the third NPR interview for the authors of The Real Romney. They were interviewed by Weekend All Things Considered anchor Guy Raz on February 4, and had a long interview on Fresh Air on January 19.
In January, Gross asked leading anti-Romney questions like this: “Venture capitalism is all about risk, taking big risks to hopefully make a lot of money. But you describe when he accepted the offer to be the head of Bain Capital, the venture capital company, that he had this incredible safety net so that he wasn't taking a risk by joining. In other words, if the company just folded, he had this great safety net. What did he negotiate for himself?”
And: “You make the point that, yes, many jobs were created through Staples, but at the same time many people lost their jobs because Staples kind of, you know, took over so much of the office supply and stationery market that a lot of small stationery and office supply stores and suppliers went under, and those jobs were lost.”
Back then, Gross begged the Globe duo to tell the story of Peggie Hayes, and how Romney scared her out of the Mormon church. Helman replied:
Mitt Romney came to her apartment in the city of Somerville, which is a mostly working-class city just north of Boston, and he delivers this, you know, message to her, which is, by her interpretation, fairly harsh, which is: Look, the church does not want you to keep this baby; the church thinks it would be better if your soon-to-be-born son would grow up in a family with two parents, so we think you should give the child up for adoption. And Peggie Hayes's first reaction is she must have misheard something because she sort of can't believe what he's asking her to do.
But he continues, according to her, and in fact goes so far as to threaten her with excommunication, to say that she could be thrown out of the church, essentially, if she didn't follow the church's orders. So this was, of course, a very distressing visit from her perspective. Now, Romney, I should say, later denied that he had actually threatened her with excommunication. But this was a profound moment for Peggie and part of the reason why she ended up leaving the church, because she just couldn't abide this idea that the church was asking, you know, her to give up her son.
In 2004, Kranish and two other Globe reporters also wrote a book called John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography By The Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best. It was not titled The Real Kerry. In an April 26, 2004 interview on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, then-Globe reporter Nina Easton was hardly finding “disaster” in Kerry’s background: “ He went off to Vietnam and became very much a combat hero who would defy Navy practice by beaching his boat and chasing down enemy guerrillas. There's that side of John Kerry.”
Flip-flops? Easton said “his supporters would say that that's very much a product of this strong and very restless mind that really chews over issues and thinks through them and, in fact, will kind of expose his internal thought process in the course of, you know, trying to come to a position. Now his detractors would say, 'Look, this is a calculating guy that's always had his eye on the prize and he just can't come down squarely or be honest because he'll take whatever position it takes to get elected president.' I think there are both those sides. I mean, he's clearly consistent on abortion rights, for example. He's extremely consistent on gay rights. He's extremely consistent on the environment.”
Wealthy? Easton said no, he merely sat around money, but didn’t have it: “It's quite an affluent family. She doesn't come from the part of it that apparently has a lot of money. So he grew up in sort of a privileged atmosphere, at fine schools and boarding schools in Europe, but his family never really had money, even though he was surrounded by it. I think--was it you or Michael said that it was sort of out of a Jane Austen novel, you know, the landless aristocracy.”
Don't expect Terry Gross to balance this out with anti-Obama authors like Dinesh D'Souza or Edward Klein. Neither has been mentioned on NPR in 2012. Gross hasn't even interviewed liberal Washington Post editor David Maraniss on his Obama biography. (Maraniss was granted five minutes on Sunday morning's Weekend Edition on June 17.)