Past Republican presidential candidates have taken care to show their kinder, gentler, more compassionate side. Not Mitt Romney. He has to prove he can be mean. When Fox News chief Roger Ailes had a pasta dinner with Romney a while back, his advice was "to be looser." Even Romney's longtime loyal barber laments that he won't change his hairstyle because, "He wants a look that is very controlled…. He is a very controlled man. The hair goes with the man." So what says loose and out of control like a mean outburst? Romney has been noticeably more prone to outbursts on the campaign trail this year. The New Republic's Alec MacGillis investigated this mean streak in Romney and found that it actually runs back through his biography. He recounts several moments in Romney's life when he did not use his good manners.
- He was arrested in his swimsuit in 1981 after a police officer told him his boat didn't have its registration number properly displayed. Romney decided to launch the boat anyway.
- He allegedly dropped the f-bomb multiple times over a traffic jam during the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, which he managed. He got out and directed traffic, which displeased police. An 18-year-old volunteering told reporters Romney asked "'who the fuck' he was and 'what the fuck'" MacGillis explains.
- In 2007, Romney got mad when a Chicago radio host said he'd been inconsistent on gay marriage. He asked her if she was a lawyer, and when she said no, he responded, "I am a graduate of Harvard Law School."
- Sky Blu of the band LMFAO was sitting in front of Romney on a flight in 2010. During takeoff, Sky Blu put his seat back, "and I just hear this guy: ‘Sir, sir put your seat up!’ It was pretty hostile. … I looked back, and he says again, ‘Sir, put your seat up!’ … even louder, a little more anger to it. I’m like, … what did I do? Ask nicely and I’ll put it up, but with that? … I’m looking at him, and all of a sudden I see him reach over and he grabs my shoulder. ‘Sir, put your seat up!’ and I just react — boom! — get off of me." He took a swing at the former governor.
The Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman says MacGillis's story is "humanizing," but Romney doesn't really come off as a regular guy in all these episodes. The constant seems to be that when he's mad, Romney gets condescending. MacGillis notes you can't help but compare the Sky Blu incident to the fight between Romney and Rick Perry in the October 18 Republican debate, pictured above.
One rival campaign told MacGillis they call these moments "Mitt-fits." The candidate told CNN in June that his sons call these moments "Mitt-frontations." (It's unusual for kids to call their parent by his first name at the exact moment when he's supposed to be scariest, isn't it?) The New Republic has several theories for Romney's anger, including that he wasn't the smartest kid in high school or that he hates it when people aren't polite. But given the tone of his outbursts, the most convincing theory that MacGillis's sources float is this: "Romney, they say, simply does not like having his authority challenged by people he considers less than his equal." Tom Birmingham, the Democratic leader of the Massachusetts Senate prior to Romney's election as governor, says, “Leaders give orders and they’re expected to be followed. He’s very accustomed to having his way obeyed.”