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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