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Behind the Lines: Mitt the frog

Published February 13, 2012 10:52 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Welcome to Behind the Lines, a weekly conversation with Salt Lake Tribune cartoonist Pat Bagley and BYU economist Val Lambson.

This week's BTL guest contributor is the editorial cartoonist for the Washington, D.C.-based e-publication POLITICO (http://www.politico.com/wuerker/). Wuerker has twice been the runner-up for the Pulitzer prize and was the winner of the 2010 Herblock prize. He is the current president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.

BAGLEY: Thanks for contributing, Matt. I just want to know why Mitt Romney is so hard to warm up to. Here, in Utah, he's the Mormon golden child who saved the Olympics. But out there in the real world you just don't see the warm, funny, personable Mitt that we in Utah assume his family and very, very close friends are allowed see.

WUERKER: I love that you refer to us out here in D.C. as being in the "real world." We don't get that much.

I have to say I do think the media gets literally sophomoric about these image issues. It's as if we're in high school and the cool kids are sorting out the freaks and geeks. Mitt's getting the same scrutiny that hobbled Al Gore and John Kerry. They seem to be wooden, uncool, and not slick enough for the cool kids in the media.

I doubt the likes of Calvin Coolidge would have gotten far in the modern media age. I bet he wore mommy jeans ... .

BAGLEY: Still, there is something about Romney that a big part of the GOP just doesn't like or trust. A recent poll showed that the better they know him, the less people like him. On the other hand, Utahns adore successful LDS businessmen. So, what's wrong with you people?

WUERKER: Maybe it's that he's SO successful. The thread that does run through these wooden candidates ( Gore, Kerry and Romney ) is that they are various forms of the all-American scion. They're all different forms of the rich kid. I think they all even speak French. And if there's anything that gets you in trouble with the GOP base, it's got to be the odor of Frenchiness.

BAGLEY: What does Mormonism smell like to the GOP base?

WUERKER: There had been a lot of smarty pants around this town saying that the smell of Mormonism was going to be a really stinky problem for Mitt. But from what I've been seeing in the primaries the polls aren't bearing that out.

Oddly enough I think having the first name of Willard is proving to be a bigger issue ... and like I was saying, that French connection. It isn't that he did work as a missionary for the LDS Church, but that he did it in FRANCE! It could be like the Manchurian Candidate ... except we'd have to change it to the Moulin Rouge Candidate.

I mean, think of it ... if Mitt becomes president, before long the children in school will be forced to eat frog legs and do the can-can. ...

BAGLEY: ... and every schoolchild in America will be forced to learn how to mime. Personally, I think you're on to something with the name thing. A number of voters think his first name is Mittens.

WUERKER: That also may be the source of the geekyness. Imagine going through school with the name Willard. The cool kids would never let you live it down.

I do think that the rich guy thing is the bigger cross he has to bear in this election. It's a moment in our history and politics where the whole issue of those at the top of the economic pile getting all the breaks is front and center. People of inherited wealth and those with positions of privilege — either as insiders in Washington or on Wall Street — seem to be doing fine, while the rest of us at best tread water or lose ground. Romney has that baggage (and I bet they're Gucci bags) to drag through the campaign. At least he's not Willard Mitt Romney the Third. That would completely disqualify him.

BAGLEY: You're preaching to the choir about that. Obviously, neither one of us has any special psychological insight into Romney's inability to connect. FDR was wealthy but had a special place in the hearts of working Americans. We'll just have to live with that je ne sais quoi quality of Mitt's.

WUERKER: OMG! You're one of them, too, aren't you, monsieur?

BAGLEY: Moi?

WUERKER: ( sound of footsteps running away down hall )

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