Mitt Romney has made a habit of following up heady Republican primary victories with foot-in-mouth comments – and this week was no exception. He ripped President Obama for spending “too much time at Harvard,” even though Romney logged even more years at the Ivy League school.
Fresh off his hat-trick of victories Tuesday in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia, Romney came to Pennsylvania riding high, but his criticism of Obama on Thursday in Harrisburg was a low blow that reflected more poorly on him than his rival.
”We have a president who I think is a nice guy, but he spent too much time at Harvard, perhaps, or maybe just not enough time actually working in the real world,” Romney said.
If the president “spent too much time at Harvard” by earning a law school degree there in three years, then what does it say about Romney, who spent four years there getting two advanced degrees as part of a JD/MBA program, donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Cambridge institution and sent three of his sons to business school there?
Maybe it says only that Romney’s math skills or memory aren’t too sharp. But it raises some questions about his campaign strategy of how best to attack Obama – and by the way, it warrants mentioning, that strategy comes from Romney’s campaign headquarters based in … Boston, across the river from Harvard. By trying to portray Obama as an elitist intellectual out of touch with everyday Americans, Romney opens himself up to questions over who has more experience in “the real world.”
That was a point made by the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent.
”The problem with Romney’s Harvard attack isn’t that it makes him look foolish,” Sargent wrote on his Plum Line blog. “Rather, the real problem is that it serves as a reminder of the contrast between the two men’s story arcs. It draws attention to something that one assumes most voters would see as a positive: That Obama, like Romney, made it to Harvard, despite growing up in rather more difficult circumstances than Romney did. This isn’t to argue that Romney’s ascension to Harvard is necessarily less of an accomplishment. Rather, the point is that it just looks weird for someone of Romney’s pedigree to be poking fun at someone like Obama over his attainment of that level of academic success. I get the whole point of the ‘Obama as elitist’ line, but is Romney really the right messenger for it?”
Those “rather more difficult circumstances” are pretty clear. Obama’s mother depended on food stamps for a time, Obama spent years living with his maternal grandparents and relied on scholarships and student loans to attend college. Romney grew up in Michigan, where his father was governor and president of American Motors Corp.
Making matters worse, this is not the first time Romney has been accused of hypocrisy when it comes to Harvard. On the campaign trail he has mocked the “Harvard faculty lounge” and praised the work of Harvard faculty members such as David Landes, a historian whose book, “The Wealth and Poverty of Nations,” Romney quoted in a speech last month.
Harvard’s motto is “Veritas,” Latin for truth – whose full meaning Romney, the former Massachusetts governor no less, seems yet to realize.
Matthew Jaffe is covering the 2012 campaign for ABC News and Univision.