Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

December 21, 2007

I Too "Marched" With Mitt Romney's Father and Martin Luther King

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 8:39 am

I’ll never forget the day. As a young civil rights supporter I was dying to join some of my friends and go down to DC for the March on Washington. But my parents forbid me! They told me I was too young! We had a big fight over it. It is one of the great regrets of my life that I wasn’t there for the “i Have a Dream” speech.

But now I realize I was there! Well in the same “figurative” way Mitt said his father George Romney was. I wonder if Mitt saw me there too. I think I remember seeing him (figuratively).

Well I don’t want to be too harsh on Mitt. it’s great that he speaks up for the civil rights movement, one of the great achievements of the oft unfairly smeared Sixties. Along with the women’s and gay rights movements which both had their origins (somewhat later) in the Sixties. (I haven’t yet heard Mitt say he was there at the Miss America Pageant protest or the Stonewall riot but I bet he was there too, don’t you think?)

And it’s great he wept when his church got the revelation from God that it didn’t have to be racist any more only 15 years after Mitt “saw” his father “march” with Dr. King.

But I have to say these Republican candidates are acting like they’re in a disingenuousness derby! First Huckabee denying the “floating cross” was an intentional effect (see post below), now Mitt affirming something he made up out of thin air and trying to backfill by telling us he was only speaking “figuratively’. Sure, he could say “I saw my father support civil rights” (though where’s the evidence and why doesn’t it include a denunciation of his church’s racist doctrine when it might have mattered?). But to say you saw your father “march”…That ain’t figurative. That’s prevarication followed by disingenuous rationalization. I think it’s enough of a lie to end his campaign if there were any standards in the GOP primary race.

Who does he think he’s fooling? Pretty soon he’s going to be telling us he landed on the moon with Neil Armstrong. At this point it’d be just “one small step” for Mitt.

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13 Comments »

  1. It seems likely that Mitt remembers he was at Woodstock, too, sitting on the stage, just out of the camera’s frame. I suppose the “thrill” of marching with Dr. King would have depended on the year of the march. Surprisingly, from this vantage point 45 years later, JFK never marched with Dr. King and stayed far away from him when he was in jail. To quote your favorite theologian, “the wheel’s [was] still in spin.” The Man for that Season was Nick Katzenbach. In today’s Internet world, any fib will be revealed. Amen.

    Comment by Mark Van Wagoner — December 21, 2007 @ 1:29 pm | Reply

  2. This article is pathetic, lame, and broken. Everyone tries to go after Mitt for what he says, trying to construe something out of nothing.

    Romney’s record speaks for itself…it’s outstanding! Romney is solid.

    Yes, Mitt’s record “speaks for itself”. Here from the New York Times, a compilation of his other prevarications, that some would call, “figuratively”, even literally, “lies”. Doesn’t seem too “solid” to me.:

    Romney Learns That ‘Facts Are Stubborn Things’

    By MICHAEL LUO
    Published: December 22, 2007
    FORT DODGE, Iowa — There was the period last spring when Mitt Romney claimed while campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire that he had been a hunter “pretty much all my life,” only to have to admit later he had seriously hunted on only two occasions.

    Then there was the endorsement Mr. Romney claimed on NBC’s “Meet the Press” last Sunday that he received from the National Rifle Association while running for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, when it turned out the group had never endorsed him.

    Mr. Romney’s latest concession is that he only “figuratively” saw his late father, George, march with Martin Luther King Jr., something he claimed in his highly publicized speech about his Mormon faith earlier this month. Some publications have raised doubts that the event ever happened at all.

    Mr. Romney once said about misstatements by his Republican rival, Rudolph W. Giuliani, “facts are stubborn things.” But does he have his own problem with blurring the truth?

    Some of the instances when Mr. Romney has tripped up on his facts show that he is prone to exaggeration, taking what is essentially a kernel of truth and stretching it to bolster his case.

    On Thursday, for instance, at a campaign stop in Indianola, he ran into trouble when talking about his record on illegal drugs while governor of Massachusetts. Mr. Romney had been airing ads in Iowa attacking his rival, Mike Huckabee, for his record on clemencies while governor of Arkansas and for reducing penalties for methamphetamine-related crimes.

    “I’m very proud of the fact that we, my state, when I was governor, we made it tougher for people with meth labs,” he said, echoing his commercial in which he claimed that he “got tough on drugs like meth” in the governor’s office.

    “We cracked down on crime and on meth in particular,” Mr. Romney added. “It’s a very important topic. I want to make sure we do everything we can to keep our kids off of this terrible, pernicious, captivating drug.”

    But both the ad and Mr. Romney’s claims on his record were misleading. Mr. Romney’s office proposed legislation that would have toughened penalties on those in possession of the drug and chemicals to manufacture it, but the bill stalled in the state legislature.

    After The New York Times pointed out Mr. Romney’s misstatement in a posting on its politics blog, he made sure to correct himself before taking questions from reporters at his next campaign stop here.

    “If I said this morning that we ‘got tough’ on methamphetamines, I proposed we get tough on methamphetamine and I’ve corrected that right here for all of you,” he said. “You don’t need to make any error of reporting that somehow Governor Romney actually got it done.”

    His claim of being a lifelong hunter was similar. When asked at town hall forums about his stance on guns, Mr. Romney portrayed himself as a sportsman, a “hunter pretty much all my life,” who strongly supported the right to bear arms.

    He even trotted out some stories, recalling how he went hunting with his cousins as a teenager but struggled to kill rabbits with a single-shot .22-caliber rifle. When they loaned him a semi-automatic, it became easier, he said, drawing laughs from an appreciative crowd in Keene, N.H. The last time he went hunting, he said, was last year, when he shot quail in Georgia and “knocked down quite a few birds.”

    “So I’ve been pretty much hunting all my life,” he said again.

    After the notion was challenged by The Associated Press, Mr. Romney’s campaign initially conceded that those were the only two instances he had really been hunting in his life, but later rushed to add that he had also gone pistol shooting for “varmints” at his vacation home in Utah, although he did not have a hunting license or own a gun.

    On the National Rifle Association endorsement, Mr. Romney argued the group phone banked for him, but he conceded it did not formally endorse him…

    Comment by Larry — December 21, 2007 @ 7:11 pm | Reply

  3. Hey guys look here. Seems like George Romney did march with King literally. A little lady in Florida and one other says so.

    see this site for article.

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1207/7524.html

    tom

    Here is the article below in case you don’t want to click on it above.

    Witnesses recall Romney-MLK march

    By: Mike Allen
    Dec 21, 2007 05:45 PM EST

    Shirley Basore, 72, says she was sitting in the hairdresser’s chair in wealthy Grosse Pointe, Mich., back in 1963 when a rumpus started and she discovered that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and her governor, George Romney, were marching for civil rights — right past the window.

    With the cape still around her neck, Basore went outside and joined the parade.

    “They were hand in hand,” recalled Basore, a former high-school English teacher. “They led the march. We all swung our hands, and they held their hands up above everybody else’s.”

    She remembered the late governor as “extremely handsome.”

    Until this week, that was just a vivid memory for a sweet retiree who now lives in Pompano Beach, Fla.

    But Basore’s memory became important this week when news accounts questioned the recollections of the late Michigan governor’s son, Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor.

    News stories suggested that Romney was exaggerating. It turns out that he may not have attended the Grosse Pointe march, but it certainly happened.

    The campaign posted citations quoting one author as writing that “George Romney made a surprise appearance in his shirt sleeves and joined the parade leaders.”

    Stephen Hess and David S. Broder also wrote about the march in their 1967 book, “The Republican Establishment: The Present and Future of the G.O.P.”

    Basore said she was very angry about how the issue has been covered on cable television.

    “This very arrogant guy on TV questioned Mitt Romney, and I marched with them,” Basore said. “I hope that the campaign demands an apology. I want him to publicly apologize to me. That was a personal insult, and an insult to Mitt Romney.”

    Basore said she called the campaign, and the campaign supplied her contact information.

    Another witness, Ashby Richardson, 64, of Massachusetts gave the campaign a similar account.

    “I’m just appalled that the news picks this stuff up and say it didn’t happen,” Richardson, now a data-collection consultant, said by phone. “The press is being disingenuous in terms of reporting what actually happened. I remember it vividly. I was only 15 or 20 feet from where both of them were.”

    See my comments above. Mitt himselfadmits he said something that was not, literally true: that he “saw” his father march. He gave everyone who watched that speech a false impression. It turns out to be part of a pattern of distorting or simply falsifying. Btw, some commenters think that it’s my job to be at my computer 24/7 waiting to post their pearls of wisdom. I have a life. I aso have a name, as does this commenter, only he seems afraid to stand behind his comments with it. But in case he’s new to the site, I’ll break my many times re- iterated general rule about being disinclined to post anonymous comments so that further commenters who are afraid to use their name will understand why they don’t have some automatic right to cower behind a rock and throw stones and expect automatic posting.

    That means you, among others, “supernovia”, brave anonymous person who makes hysterical slurs because he (she?) can’t bear to see his big strong candidate take the kind of criticism all candidates get, and yet is apparently scared to reveal his own name.

    Comment by Tom — December 21, 2007 @ 7:28 pm | Reply

  4. There are many eye witnesses here in Detroit who actually marched with MLK and George Romney, and the fact is noted in several books. Just because Mitt didn’t actually “see” it doesn’t minimalize the importance of the event, not only with respect to the Civil Rights movement, but also to its reflection of George Romney’s position regarding the equality of blacks — contrary to the position of his church and political party. It is yet another example of the Romney family’s long-standing example to love and accept ALL people. It’s the same reason Mitt said he would stand up for discrimination against gays. Most of us could only dream of being such sincere, loving people.

    in a nationally televised speech Mitt gave just about everyone watching the powerful (false) impression that as a youngster he was inspired when he “saw”–as in actually physically watched his father march with Dr. King. Such a first hand experience could be tranformative as he distinctly implied. It wasn’t an offhand comment it was a scripted, written national declaration that deceived everyone watching. He himself now says it didn’t happen that way.Much credit to his father if he marched with Dr. King and supported Civil Rights, but both father and son went to a church that until 1978 when Mitt was 31, looked at the color of a black person’s skin as a punishment from God that condemned black people to an inferior position in their church. This is racism, literal not “figurative”. You say they believed something “contrary to the position of their church”. If so why did neither speak out agasint that position? Why affirm it every Sunday when they worshipped at that church? Why stay in the church? Why no march against that? Why no protest, why the utter silence? A false report of “seeing” his father march doesn’t quite make up for it. And consider the further reporting on the claim by the Boston Phoenix:

    Friday, December 21, 2007

    Politico: Two Witnesses Saw Romney-King March

    Politico’s Mike Allen reports that two women claim to have seen Martin Luther King Jr. with George W. Romney, father of Mitt Romney, at the Grosse Pointe, Michigan march in 1963…

    Contemporaneous news accounts confirm that George Romney, then governor of Michigan, unexpectedly joined that Grosse Pointe march, which took place on June 29, 1963, six days after King led a large Freedom March in Detroit, which Romney did not attend…

    None of [the] accounts of the June 29 event in Grosse Pointe mention King’s presence.

    An Associated Press report of the event, which ran in several newspapers the following day, reported that “this Saturday’s orderly parade attracted an estimated 250 people.” The report mentions that Romney had rejected the invitation to participate in the earlier Detroit march, because it was held on Sunday.

    The Detroit Free Press has reported that its coverage of the event, which estimated the crowd at 500, describes George Romney attending, but not King. A New York Times account of the event likewise mentions Romney but not King.

    Another Associated Press story, which also appeared in newspapers of Sunday, June 30, 1963, says that Dr. King spoke to an AFL-CIO gathering in New Brunswick, New Jersey, that Saturday of the Grosse Pointe event.

    Earlier today, the Boston Globe quoted Susan Englander, assistant editor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University, saying that: “I researched this question, and indeed it is untrue that George Romney marched with Martin Luther King.”

    Grosse Pointe historians have told the Phoenix that King was not at that June 29, 1963 march in that town.

    A detailed timeline of all of Martin Luther King Jr.’s appearances in Michigan appeared earlier this year in the Michigan Citizen, compiled by Paul Lee; it includes the June 23 march in Detroit, but not the June 29 event in Grosse Pointe.

    “The answer is no, Governor Romney did not march with Dr. King — not in Detroit, not in Grosse Pointe,” Lee emailed the Phoenix…
    12/21/2007 8:37:09 PM by David S. Bernstein.

    Comment by Cindy — December 21, 2007 @ 7:54 pm | Reply

  5. Show some respect man, it did happen.

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1207/7524.html#commentsform

    The point is Mitt first said he “saw” it and then he said he didn’t really see it.

    Boston Globe:

    “Mitt Romney acknowledged yesterday that he never saw his father march with Martin Luther King Jr. as he asserted in a nationally televised speech this month…”

    Comment by Gary — December 21, 2007 @ 8:54 pm | Reply

  6. When my family demonstrated against apartheid in the 60’s I think I saw him marching with Nelson Mandela. Mr. Mandela must have had a temporary leave from Robben Island. Olle

    Comment by olle larsson — December 21, 2007 @ 10:03 pm | Reply

  7. Mormons are “racist”; Mitt is a “liar”. What happened to the Ron Rosenbaum who had some tolerance for ambiguity and shades of gray?

    The Mormon church is no longer offically racist, as I made clear in my post. I wish I could say there were shades of gray in the Church’s pre-1978 theological derogation of blacks as inferior beings. But sadly that’s what racism is. Not everything is ambiguous, there are some things that are, shall we say, black and white.

    And I didn’t call Mitt a “liar”, as in a habitual dedicated liar (although recent reprotage shows him a habitual dedicated stretcher of the truth–see the Times piece above). Rather I called that one specific statement “enough of a lie” to cause him to drop out. Because it wasn’t just about whether he was a life-lonng hunter, it was about one of the central issues in American politcal and moral history. I gave him enough of the benefit of the doubt as I think he deserves, but I don’t think he intended his carefully pre-scripted statement to a national audience that he “saw’ his father marching was intended to leave his listeners in a state of ambiguity, wondering how literally he meant it. I think he’s knew he was leaving them with an impression that was false. There’s a difference between the emotional impact of actually seeing one’s father in the flesh do something noble and merely knowing about it.

    Comment by R.W. Rasband — December 22, 2007 @ 2:15 pm | Reply

  8. Heh, as they say.

    http://althouse.blogspot.com/2007/12/i-saw-best-minds-of-my-generation.html

    Here’s an example of an outright lie, nothing figurative, poetic about it. Fromthe Boston Globe 12/21:

    Mitt Romney went a step further in a 1978 interview with the Boston Herald. Talking about the Mormon Church and racial discrimination, he said: “My father and I marched with Martin Luther King Jr. through the streets of Detroit.”

    Heh. Heh.

    Comment by R.W. Rasband — December 22, 2007 @ 2:30 pm | Reply

  9. It took the LDS church about a decade, from the mid-1960’s to 1978, to catch up to the the civil rights revolution. How many liberals were still making excuses for the Soviet Union right into the 1980’s. (And by the way, blacks were never officially described as inferior beings by the church. No one knows for sure why there was a priesthood ban. How’s that for ambiguous?) And what stupid things were you saying about yourself to impress other people thirty years ago?

    From the Washington Post May 30, 1998:

    Mormon theology added the belief that blacks embodied spirits that had fought on God’s side in a celestial battle of Good vs. Evil but had performed “less valiantly.”

    Back in 1978 I think I tried to impress a girl by saying someday I was going to have my own blog.

    Comment by R.W. Rasband — December 22, 2007 @ 7:17 pm | Reply

  10. I haven’t seen such a hysterical media tantrum since–well, when was the last time Bush opened his mouth? The important point is, Romney didn’t misrepresent his father’s legacy. No one can seriously doubt his family’s integrity on the subject of civil rights. This extraordinarily literal insistence on the word “saw” betrays a mindset (for some, not necessarily you, Ron) that is desperate to find fault with Romney, no matter how picayune the cause.

    Well, I imagine we both have better things to do than to prolong this forever. I agree that the Romney family’s commitment to civil rights is admirable, wish it had extended to advocacy within the church. Let’s agree to disagree on how important the media’s focus has been. I don’t thnk the focus on a candidates “truthiness” is misplaced, much less “hysterical” if it’s not confined to one statment but, as the Times story (above) makes clear, it’s demonstrably part of a troubling pattern. I’m willing to let readers decide on the basis of a full account of the “march” incident and its handling, such as the latest update from the Boston Phoenix by David Bernstein who has done substantial reporting on the quesion:

    Saturday, December 22, 2007

    When A Claim Becomes Offensive

    Two women contacted the Mitt Romney campaign this week, offering their memories of seeing Romney’s father march with Martin Luther King Jr., in Grosse Point Michigan in 1963. Campaign officials were well aware that the women were mistaken. Yet, they directed those women to tell their stories to a Politico reporter. The motives and memories of the two women are unknown and irrelevant; the motives of the campaign, however, were obvious — to spread information they knew to be untrue, for the good of the candidate.

    By getting this story out late on Friday afternoon, heading into the holiday weekend — good luck getting a King historian on the phone before Wednesday — the campaign was pretty well assured that it could keep alive through Christmas their claim that Mitt Romney was mistaken only about “seeing” it, not about it taking place.

    Then-governor George Romney did indeed march in Grosse Pointe, on Saturday, June 29, 1963, but Martin Luther King Jr. was not there; he was in New Brunswick, New Jersey, addressing the closing session of the annual New Jersey AFL-CIO labor institute at Rutgers University.

    Those facts are indisputable, and quite frankly, the campaign must have known the women’s story would eventually be debunked — few people’s every daily movement has been as closely tracked and documented as King’s. As I write this, I am looking at an article from page E8 of the June 30, 1963 Chicago Tribune, which discusses both events (among other civil-rights actions of the previous day), clearly placing the two men hundreds of miles apart. I also have here the June 30, 1963 San Antonio News, which carries a photo and article about Romney at the Grosse Pointe march; and an AP story about King’s speech in New Jersey.

    A King researcher editing his letters from that time has stated definitively that the two men never marched together; Michigan and Grosse Pointe historians have stated definitively that King was not at the 1963 Grosse Pointe march; Michigan civil-rights participants of the time have concurred; so have those who worked for George Romney at the time.

    All of this evidence is important to present to the general public, but it is unnecessary for the Romney campaign — it has been clear for some time that they know perfectly well that the two men never marched together.

    Bear in mind that the Romney team has a substantial research team (and vast resources for outsourcing more). Bear in mind that the campaign has compiled vast documentation about the candidate’s father, particularly his civil-rights activities, long before the Phoenix posed the question earlier this week. Bear in mind that the campaign has direct access to George Romney’s materials and documents, his family members, his friends, his former staff, etc.

    Believe me, they know the two men never marched together. This is an attempt to rewrite history. And even if it is a small rewriting, it is offensive.

    It is offensive because of people like Russell Peebles.

    Peebles is an 88-year-old man, a former resident of Grosse Pointe for 48 years, who was present at both the Grosse Pointe march in 1963, and the MLK speech in Grosse point in 1968 — the event at which the Romney campaign initially insisted Romney and King marched together.

    I tried to contact Peebles earlier this week, prior to writing the original article, but we missed each other back-and-forth. Peebles sent me an email today, attesting to the fact that George Romney was at the 1963 march, but not the 1968 speech; and that King was at the 1968 speech, but not the 1963 march.

    Peebles, and many others like him, deserve to have the history of what they did told honestly. Changing that history by mistake — which is quite possibly how this began — is unfortunate. Changing that history intentionally — which is what the campaign is doing now — is offensive.

    Comment by R.W. Rasband — December 22, 2007 @ 7:38 pm | Reply

  11. It is unsurprising to see a politician use a phrase that associates him with fame and courage. Marching with MLK in those times was a much more courageous act than it may seem to us now. If George Romney marched with him, it would have been important to Mitt. Or you or me, were it our fathers. While it is not quite the lie direct favored by Bill Clinton, it carries an emotional charge because Mitt is a Mormon.

    To be fair to Mitt, however, we must understand that he was born into the Mormon Church and born to one of the few famous Mormon families in the world. His connection to the Church is profoundly cultural and not purely religious in any sense. The Civil Rights Act, which was the first real effort by the Congress of the United States to make abolition work, came 100 years after Lincoln and, in relative terms, a mere 14 years before Mitt’s church fell in line. If there is something in Romney’s political history or in his work that reflects a racist bent, that is what we should examine. He had no more ability to change his church’s doctrine than does a Catholic or a Jew, and it would be irrational to expect him to unchurch himself in protest. That slope is far too slippery for any of us.

    Maybe he didn’t have power to change the church, but couldn’t he have said he disagreed? And doesn’t history provide us with examles of individuals who spoke out, unchurched themselves because of perceived injustices and changed things? Martin Luther?

    Comment by Mark Van Wagoner — December 22, 2007 @ 10:01 pm | Reply

  12. Actually, Ron, now that you mention it, I did see Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon.

    And, now that I think of it, it was one of the greatest achievements of my life … 🙂

    Comment by Bill Bradley — December 24, 2007 @ 3:49 pm | Reply

  13. “My father and I marched with Martin Luther King Jr. through the streets of Detroit.”

    I understand that “saw” is frequently and mundanely used figuratively. And certainly “marched” could be extended metaphorically to invoke a concrete image of abstract solidarity.

    But “streets of Detroit” begs for a contest of some sort. What is this colorful metaphor’s intended meaning? If its something like “the windmills of my mind” then I suppose Romney is off the hook. He could claim he was never lying…”In 1978 I clearly said, that I marched *in the streets of Detroit* that is, I acknowledged then that I marched only through the back alleys of my imagination.”

    Comment by Leon Crunk — December 25, 2007 @ 4:46 am | Reply


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