[lg policy] Attack ad shows Mitt Romney speaking French

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at GMAIL.COM
Wed Dec 14 15:33:55 UTC 2011

Attack ad shows Mitt Romney speaking French

    Sarah B. Boxer

A close association with France has never been a plus for a
politician, which explains why a liberal group is launching a new ad
framing Mitt Romney as a Francophile. The twist is that Romney,
campaigning in a must-win primary state with a significant French
population, is also talking about his personal ties with France, where
he was sent on a Mormon mission in the 1960s. The ad from American LP,
a new Super PAC, shows Romney speaking French in a promotional video
for the 2002 Winter Olympics, which he ran. As he speaks, the
subtitles mistranslate his words. While he is actually introducing
people to the Games, the subtitles have him saying "I believe that
abortion should be safe and legal in this country" and "I was an
independent during the time of Reagan/Bush."

American LP founder TJ Walker said the ad would start on cable TV
Tuesday night and would target voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.
France has been something of a scapegoat in American politics, usually
at the instigation of Republicans. They were the ones who renamed
French fries "Freedom Fries" after the French public was reluctant to
support the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Republicans also targeted the
Democrats' 2004 presidential nominee, John Kerry, over his French
ancestry, ability to speak French, and even his looks. Rush Limbaugh
often mocked Kerry for being "French-looking" and nicknamed him "Jean
Cheri" or "Jean F. Cheri."

Walker fully embraces using Romney's fluency in French against him,
given that Republicans did the same thing against Kerry in 2004. "This
is payback time for the Republicans and the conservatives who mocked
Kerry and even produced ads mocking Kerry, showing Kerry speaking
French," he said. He said the goal of the ad is to influence
conservatives in this cycle to turn against Romney, whom he called the
"only sane, rational candidate." Walker also said that "The mere fact
that we can show him speaking French fluently, we believe, is going to
irritate primary voters."

Well, maybe not in New Hampshire, which borders Quebec and where
one-quarter of the population is of French and French-Canadian
descent. Talking about his French connection is unlikely to damage
Romney in New Hampshire, and could help him. On Monday, at Chez Vachon
diner in Manchester, N.H., he found a Canadian man with a thick French
accent sitting by himself in a back booth. Romney made his way over to
the man -- Willie Bibeau, 67 -- and the two proceeded to speak affably
in French. At one point in the middle of the French conversation,
Romney switch to English, saying "Not as well as you do!" Then he
moved back to French.

Romney speaks French fluently because he spent 30 months in France on
his mission in the mid-1960s. He brought up the mission Sunday at a
town hall in Hudson, N.H., when he was asked by a voter to describe
"an event or experience that really changed your world view."

France is "not exactly a third world country," Romney said, but the
missionaries had to live off of their own savings -- about $110 per
month. That money would have to cover clothing, food, rent, and
transportation, and any other costs of living. "You're not living high
on the hog at that kind of level," Romney said. He said they lived in
apartments that didn't have bathrooms or refrigerators; they would use
buckets and hoses to clean themselves in the kitchen and shop modestly
before meals. "I said to myself, wow -- I sure am lucky to have been
born in the United States of America .... It was a wake-up experience
for me." He told the crowd that as soon as he touched down in the
United States, he proposed to his girlfriend, Ann in the back seat of
the car as they drove away from the airport. They have now been
married for 42 years.

Reporters asked Romney on Monday if there was a reason that his time
as a missionary was coming up more in recent days. He said, "I just
respond to the questions as they come."



 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com


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