Smile a Little, Mitt

1202498865These are not fun times for Willard ‘Mitt’ Romney. The former governor’s presidential campaign has just gone down in a spectacular ball of flames, carnage and second-guessing, and all it cost him was $120,000 of his own money. Per delegate.

Romney’s at home in Belmont now, looking out at a sky that’s as cold, gray, and unfeeling as the California electorate. In our imagination, he’s also weeping uncontrollably. Maybe he needs a good laugh.

Hey, that Sal DiMasi’s a funny guy.

In fact, there was once a time, way back in the spring of 2006, when Romney and DiMasi shared a great, full laugh together. What fun they had. In times like these, it’s best to go to one’s happy place, and for Romney, there can be no happier memory than the day he put on a massive show and signed the state’s landmark health care reform law.

Mitt was on top of the world back then. Even for a governor who ruled mostly by keeping his good angles towards the cameras, the health care bill signing – and vetoing – was a coup and a half. He was taking credit for a major issue that would, hopefully, catapult him to the fore of the GOP presidential field and position him as the campaign’s most capable – and hirsute! – technocrat.

1202498980Even better, he, a vile Republican, was surrounded by Massachusetts’s Democratic elite, and the way they looked at him… fawning even seems a little weak. The photo that resulted from this day was surely designed to outlast Romney’s term as governor.

The funny part is, even for an empty suit like Romney, this good-times photo-op was staggeringly fraudulent.

I got the real story on the famous health care photo from Sal DiMasi when I interviewed him for a feature in this month’s issue. Turns out, it was DiMasi, not Romney, driving the scene in that picture, just as it was the Speaker, not the Governor, who should’ve been claiming credit for health care reform.

An excerpt from my interview with DiMasi:

“The picture where we’re laughing – during the ceremony, there was a big platform that you had to stand on, and I said to myself, Holy shit, this is really orchestrated, what the hell’s going on here? This guy’s all pomp and circumstance. No substance, but that’s besides the point.

“I started my speech by saying – well, because he was always talking about the employer assessment as a tax, I said, think of it as a fee or an assessment. Just like you had your fees and assessments, you didn’t raise taxes, right?

“I got up there and I said, ‘Well, thank you very much, it’s always difficult going last because a lot of the time has been used up. So if I go over my time [speaking], governor, I’ll be glad to pay the $295 fee, assessment, tax, whatever you want to call it, governor.’

At the end, when he goes to sign the bill, he goes, ‘OK, where’s your $295? You went over.’ I went like this to pay him. [Mimes reaching into his pocket.] I said, ‘Well, I’ll pay if you tell me what it is. Is it a tax or a fee? Can I deduct this as a tax?’

That’s what we’re laughing at. Fee, assessment, tax, I said, whatever you want to call it.”