MSNBC Won't Let Mitt Romney Be

TV hosts ding him for avoiding the inauguration.

President Barack Obama was safely sworn in for a second term Monday, but the opinionated hosts at MSNBC aren't quite done poking fun at Gov. Mitt Romney, whose absence from the inauguration ceremonies in Washington D.C., they seemed to feel deeply.

A Romney aide told NBC News that Mitt and Ann would spend the inauguration quietly in La Jolla, California and that it was “doubtful” they would watch the proceedings on TV. Romney is the first loser in a presidential contest to avoid the ceremony since another Massachusetts governor, Michael Dukakis, gave it a pass in 1989. Discussing this news, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell expressed some dismay: “I think going to the extent of saying 'And I'm not going to watch,' we don't actually have to know that, I don't think anyone's asking what you're doing.” He added, “This is not the moment, as someone who participated in the greatest drama in our national politics, it isn't the moment where he should have announced that about himself.” Maddow responded, “… making himself the story, as it were.”

O'Donnell is misreading the reporting of his own colleagues when he says Romney volunteered information that nobody sought. NBC News reported that: “Asked if the governor was likely to watch the inaugural ceremonies today, the aide said, 'Doubtful.'” Romney didn't put it out there that he wouldn't be watching. A reporter asked his aide if he would be and the aide's answer was non-committal at best. 

As O'Donnell actually notes, it's not particularly shocking that Romney wouldn't attend. If you look at the nominees who lost an election in the years between Dukakis and Romney, each of them had cause to be in D.C. during the regime change. George H.W. Bush lost to Bill Clinton, and it's traditional for outgoing presidents to attend the ceremony of incoming ones. Bob Dole resigned his Senate seat during the presidential campaign, but he continued to live and work in D.C. Al Gore was the outgoing vice president when he lost to George W. Bush. John Kerry and John McCain both lost, too, without giving up the Senate seats that gave them cause to hang around the Capitol steps.

Mitt Romney holds no positions that would demand his presence. America loves its inaugurations because they put on display an enviable feature of our society: the peaceful, uncontested transition of power. In that regard, it seems important that the outgoing president appear approvingly at the inauguration of an incoming one. But there is no outgoing president this year, and Mitt Romney has no power of state he needs to cede. What's more, he already showed up for what was likely one of the more awkward luncheons ever at the White House to show America that he and Obama could get along.

When his spokesman answered a question from a reporter about whether he'd watch the ceremony on TV, Romney didn't make himself the story. In fact, appearing at the inauguration would probably make him a far more prominent part of the story than hiding away in La Jolla ever could. Romney seems to know, and MSNBC hosts could do to remember, that the governor's role in this story is pretty much over.

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  • MarkD

    Mitt Romney was a world class tax dodger that the republican party propped up and supported. Thereby turning tax dodging into a virtue. They need to be mocked for their actions. He would have been a disastrous president.

    • Anna S

      It's “opinionated.”

      • Eric Randall

        Fixed, thanks!

  • Keith

    Romney has proven himself to be a bad sport throughout this process; he should have been there like every other losing candidate to show that he conceded and that he supports the president. This is the role of the losing candidate and legitimizes the winner. By not doing this he denigrates the process and continues to encourage the divide between the parties, discouraging co-operation towards fixing our broken economy.

  • Beth

    Then the aide should have answered “I don't know” when asked if the Romneys would be watching on tv. By answering “doubtful”, the aide created the negativity, not MSNBC.
    And yes, the right thing to do would have been to show up at the event. Coaches and competitors shake hands. It is all part of being grown up.

    • Eric Randall

      There's no tradition that requires a losing candidate be at the ceremony, Keith, or that gives him anything to do when there. Those that attended in the recent past were there in other capacities as senators or vice presidents or what have you. Mondale, Dukakis, Romney all didn't go.

      Beth, I don't think it's worth the airtime they gave it to criticize Romney at such length for the offhanded one-word answer given by his aide.

      Also, he did shake hands, as you'll recall, when he showed up to the Oval Office to have lunch with Obama, which couldn't have been fun or easy. He put on a happy face for America on a day when we weren't even distracted by the pomp. Is there any reason he had to do so on January 21, in particular?

  • Jeff W

    In the light of the conservative carping about the Obama inauguration's celebrities and expenses, one can only speculate as to how much Romney's inauguration might have cost, and how much of a show Ted Nugent and Victoria Jackson would have put on.

  • Al in SoCal

    Romney, still in his bubble surrounded by flawed polls, flawed policies, and a flawed personality are holding their own inauguration which Fox News is reporting as the “real inauguration”. Karl Rove is the master of ceremonies .. the GOP fantasy continues.

  • agingcynic

    Eric, you would have been a welcome dose of objectivity during the campaign. Sorry we didn't see more of you. “How dare you not slobber all over the greatest example of homo sapiens ever born!” Sheesh, considering that Maddow is a Rhodes Scholar with a doctorate, it's comical to see her sharing the screen with a guy who, um, isn't. (Race baiting demagoguery has been very good to the O'Donnell family, as those of us who lived here during busing remember).