Presidental Debate: We Are All Children of Mitt Romney

mitt romneyScreen shot via CNN

Unless you’ve had your head stuck in a binder, you know there was another debate last night between former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, and President Barack Obama. Here are three observations from the Mittsravaganza:

1. Rules! Rules! Rules! We’ve known here for a while that Romney is a stickler for the rules. His press appearances as governor were famously regimented and he’s always disliked it when anyone breaks protocol. Last year, during the Republican primary season, the New York Times‘ Ashley Parker wrote a wryly hilarious post on just what a schoolmarm our former governor can be. This comes out in debates, Parker reported, and other places too:

At a town hall in Lebanon, New Hampshire, in August, Mr. Romney turned a heated back-and-forth with a voter about the role of government into a disquisition on whose turn it was to speak.

“You had your turn, you had your turn, Madam!” Mr. Romney said, holding out his hand as if to stiff-arm the woman into silence. “Let me have mine, let me have mine. Listen, I’ll give you the microphone in a moment, but let me complete. I’m sorry, it’s my turn. You had yours, now it’s my turn.”

Afterward, another woman in the audience said that Mr. Romney had seemed bullying and condescending. He had become so carried away in his desire for order that he had come across as loud and loutish — when all he wanted, in fact, was not to be interrupted.

Those same troubles seemed to crop up last night. He complained to moderator Candy Crowley multiple times about speaking time and whose turn it was. Romney may have had a point—Obama did get a few more minutes to talk—but it made our former governor seem testy. There were no full-on Mitt Fits, but you sort of thought there might be one coming. Combine that with the President downright scolding Romney over Libya, and it added to the cumulative effect of Romney looking somewhat smaller than Obama.

The funny thing is, though, that Romney himself broke tons of rules last night (as did Obama and Crowley), most notably by posing multiple direct questions to the President. So maybe it’s not that he’s such a stickler for every rule—just the ones that are useful to him.

2. Bindermania 2K12. What, you thought this election was going to be all about Big Bird? Here’s the Romney cut everyone’s talking about this morning. Crowley asked him about the issue of equal pay for women.

Thank you. And — important topic and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the — the chance to pull together a Cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men. And I — and I went to my staff, and I said, how come all the people for these jobs are — are all men?

They said, well, these are the people that have the qualifications. And I said, well, gosh, can’t we — can’t we find some — some women that are also qualified?

And — and so we — we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women’s groups and said, can you help us find folks? And I brought us whole binders full of — of women. I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my cabinet and my senior staff that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.

Apparently people think this whole “binders full of women” thing is pretty funny. The problem for Romney, though, is that his story seems to be wrong. As The Phoenix‘s David S. Bernstein points out, Romney didn’t go looking for women; rather, a bipartisan group called MassGap put together the binder and put it in front of Romney. MassGap, seeking to promote women in leadership positions in government, had started work on the project before Romney was even elected. Bernstein (who, with apologies to Candy Crowley, easily wins the prize for best fact-check of the night) further notes that although Romney did appoint many women to senior posts, he selected only men for the most important ones. The Globe chips in that Bain Capital did not have a single female partner during Romney’s time running the company.

3. Massachusetts Mitt. There was a time when Mitt Romney couldn’t run away from Massachusetts fast enough. That time was the primaries. But now it’s the general election, so Romney has been embracing his inner Masshole. He talked again last night about our excellent schools and even got into the assault weapon ban he signed. Most interesting, though, was his general posture toward the state. He now frequently refers to it as “my state” and even got a little gushy on us toward the debate’s end:

And as governor of my state, I was able to get a hundred percent of my people insured—all my kids; about 98 percent of the adults. Was able also to get our schools ranked number one in the nation so a hundred percent of our kids would have a bright opportunity for a future.

It turns out that we are all now his people—children of Mitt. Considering that it was just a few years ago that he referred to himself as a “cattle rancher at a vegetarian convention” in our liberal state, this new bond is a bit unexpected. After all, he did spend two-thirds of his final year in office outside of the state, alienating most voters here. But hey, better late than never, right? Right?