Hey, you can attack Mitt Romney on a number of fronts. Yes, he’s made his share of gaffs. Yes, he apparently has trouble connecting with some people (he certainly didn’t have that problem with me*). Bain. Negative ads. Pick your poison. But the SLC Olympics? Don’t bother.
To my knowledge, he’s never claimed that he, and he alone, saved the SLC Olympics. In most everything I’ve ever read on the subject, he’s been generous in his praise of all the work others did to put on the Games. And in almost everything I’ve ever read, people in the know give him great credit for his leadership in saving the games. So when I read the following petty political comments in an article in today’s Deseret News, I just shook my head:
A trio of former local government elected officials, all Democrats, held a press conference on the steps of the Salt Lake City-County Building earlier Saturday to criticize Romney’s tenure at SLOC.
Romney is guilty of “arrogance and of acting as if we couldn’t possibly do it ourselves. He had to come in to save us and ride in on his white horse,” former Salt Lake City Councilwoman Sydney Fonnesbeck said.
Former Salt Lake City Councilwoman Joanne Milner and former Salt Lake County Councilman Joe Hatch offered similar accounts based on their experiences with Romney.
“He was not the savior of the 2002 Olympics,” Milner said. “It was the people of Utah.”
Did Romney say he was the savior of the Olympics? No. You have to put the word ‘helped’ in front of the word ‘save’ to capture the credit he has taken. The following, from the same story, is typical of what he might say in a town hall meeting:
“There’s power in unity,” Romney said. “We came together as a group of people not caring about who got credit, but caring about putting on the best Games in the history of sport and you did that.”
Later, at a special “Stars on Ice” show at Energy Solutions Arena, Romney said the community’s hard work showcased “the character and the passion of the people of Utah.”
He told the arena audience that he loved them, too, and “the experience that we shared together,” noting that when he took over the Games in 1999, he feared no one would sign up to volunteer.
Instead, nearly twice as many people as needed came forward. Some gave millions to bolster the Games’ budget, he said, while others worked for 17 days straight without pay or even tickets to events.
His comments in debates are not so extended, but even there, he’s never said anything less than he “helped save the Games,” and in some cases he quickly acknowledged the help of others. In any case, the SLC three appear to be all the DNC could scrape from the bottom of the barrel of people in Utah it asked to criticize Romney’s involvement in the Games:
A video released Friday by the Democratic National Committee also accused Romney of accepting the same kind of federal bailout for the Olympics that he now criticizes on the campaign trail.
But state Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis said Utah’s minority party has “no gripe with Mitt Romney’s handling of the Olympics. He did a commendable job. I don’t think it’s useful for the Utah Democratic Party to say anything other than the truth.”
The DNC reportedly lobbied hard for state party support of their national effort to discredit Romney’s claim of turning around the Salt Lake Games, a key component of his campaign, even reportedly using a top adviser of President Barack Obama.
Good for them.
*In order to write the article I referred to in an earlier post, I had to interview Romney at the SLC Olympic headquarters in Salt Lake. Romney sat at a half-moon shaped table, surrounded by something like 10 different news organizations, including someone from ESPN and a couple of guys with KFI out of, you guessed it, LA. And then there was me, representing the Marriott Alumni magazine. Each took turns asking his or her questions, until it was my turn. I began by making a crack, something about LA, snow, and cocaine–I’m sure you had to be there–catching Romney completely off guard. He laughed out loud, and won my heart as a result. What can I say? I’m easy.