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(Aug. 8, 2007)

          Mitt the Mormon mannequinned his way into a New Hampshire diner, looking like a Dewar’s ad come to life, and began to hold forth at one of those sanitized Candidate Meets The People pop-in photo-ops. Events that became a cliché sometime around the discovery of language.
          Ah, but Mitt was so elegant, so poised, so altar boy-polite, with his patter about “sorry to interrupt” and something about not expecting to have a politician ruin your lunch, etc.
          (Har. Har.)
          You know, it was one of those scenes where all the people stared, starry-eyed, at the Famous Politician with the (choose one) glinting teeth/hair plugs/thousand-dollar suit, or more recently, the hint of cleavage. And Katie Couric looks oh-so-grave as she brings you five seconds of it on the evening news.
          But Mitt was ambushed by a pit-bull in the form of a high-mileage waitress with the average American name of Michele Griffin. Her teeth were not glinting. One of the front ones was missing.
          Michele, it turns out, has three children: one with diabetes, one with Chron’s Disease, and one with Attention Deficit Disorder. She just returned to work after two years on disability for something probably related to having three children: one with diabetes, one with. . .
          And she was not interested in unctuous patter and  rehearsed political crap.
          “I just want to say hi to all of you,” said Mitt The Mormon, and he looked just like Mike Mercury in the old “Supercar” puppet-animation show. “I don’t want to interrupt your lunch. Some folks were just planning on having lunch! Didn’t know a politician was going to come in an ruin your whole meal! This is a very famous place. I understand Adam Sandler has been here!”
          Big yucks all around. Yup shucks I’m jess reg’lar Adam Sandler-lovin’ folk lahk you’all. . .
          Then Mitt began carrying on about health care, and here is what he said (take a deep breath, it’s a run-on sentence of, um,  Biblical proportion):
          “I do believe that one of the greatest resources we have is what I’ll call ‘health care diplomacy,’ that the nations that are (sic) moderate Islamic states as well as African states that are in dire poverty can draw closer to America and recognize our values and our goodness as a nation, in part by our sharing with them the technology we have and the medicines we have and our know-how in the area of health care, and despite what Michael Moore said, we are the envy of the world when it comes to health care technology and capabilities, and we can reach out and help other nations, uh, we’ve done so---“
          At this point, Michele, ma belle, spoke some words that go together well:
          “Excuse me!” she shouted. “What about our nation? How ‘bout the USA? Come on!”
          It should have been page one banner headlines, if newspapers were worth a damn anymore. WAITRESS TO CANDIDATE: HOW ‘BOUT THE USA?
          Boy, did Michelle have a point. And it’s a point that points to what should be the pointed point of every 2008 campaign: take care of the country. Instead of spending, say, a trillion bucks on, oh, the murderous, oil-fueled occupation of Iraq---a place that wants the U.S. there as much as Trump wants Rosie. If ever there was a metaphor for what’s happening in the USA today, it’s what happened last week in Minnesota. Sky is falling? No. Bridges are.
          What about our nation?
          But here was Mitt carrying on dreamily about making Bin Laden and Al Qaeda and maybe Jerry Colonna start to love the USA after we start doling out free health care. . .to Islamic nations! Gadzooks! That’s Allah-t of your tax dollars. And aside from glassy-eyed delusions of free-penicillin-fueled choruses of “America The Beautiful” ringing out across Africa and the Middle East, why, Mitt also. . .lied.
          I know that a politician telling lies will come as a shock, but. . .
          Michael Moore never said that the USA does not have the best health care technology and capabilities in the world. He has said over and over that the USA has. . .the best health care and capabilities in the world. It’s just that it’s not available to people with no insurance, which is his point. But it’s popular to slam Michael Moore, of course. After all, he took sick U.S. citizens to Evil Cuba and got their teeth fixed and their drug prescriptions filled for free. The dirty commie traitor!
          Mitt went on pushing warm and fuzzy demographic buttons---talking of “our values and goodness as a nation” and other feel-good junk that is not exactly borne out by Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” rap music, death-metal, Lindsay Lohan, “American Idol,” heroin-addicted U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, a scofflaw attorney general, religious right takeover of the government, and Dick Cheney.
          But this plucky waitress caught Mitt flat-footed. Oh, he tried to recover, with almost as much flare as John Kerry, citing the health care plan he got “on track” while Governor of Massachusetts. Here it is:
          Massachusetts residents making less than $54,000 have the “right to choose,” as Mitt said (slipping in that  anti-big government ruse) from three insurance carriers. It all was some sleight-of-hand involving companies that had been subsidizing a hospital fund for the uninsured to the tune of about a billion bucks---instead using that money to help low-income people buy their own insurance.
           I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t sound like much of a solution for those trying to raise families on $54,000 a year. That’s right, trying. You want a house and two cars and three kids? Try doing that on a fifty-four grand in Michele Griffin’s USA. Take away $10,000 a year for insurance (she does), and it gets about as dreamy a reality as bribing Islamic extremists with free MRI’s.
           Mitt further told Michele that he doesn’t like the government to subsidize health care, which played well until another soul in Michele’s diner got brave enough to shout, “"Who's paying for the subsidies if it's not the government of Massachusetts?" Hmm. Mitt had no answer except a few more beads of sweat on his forehead and more pre-recorded spiel.
          Okay, what was appalling here was not really the obfuscation and lying, since this is required of public servants, but how Romney played the tawdry “can I finish my statement?” game with this woman, when she dared to interrupt him during a discussion of “co-payments.” (A co-payment, if you don’t know, is money you spend to help your insurance company not provide insurance.)
          Now, understand that Mitt stayed poised, polite, controlled, but make no mistake---this was a Mitt Fit.
          "You know," he said, "if you'd like me to answer the question I will.” And. . .“Let me finish, if you will!”
          A ticky-tack charge? No, it was tacky of Mitt. Here was a millionaire many times over, a strapping example of health and good genes, embarked on an effort to essentially rule the world, being irked by a chunky waitress with three sick kids who wants to know if a President Romney might help her. Yet the Mighty Mitt chided her for. . .interrupting him!
          Didn't she have any manners?
          Of course, Mitt has been pretty touchy lately, given that reporters keep asking him about a religion that says Jesus is going to set up headquarters in Atlanta, or something, and that has adherents who espouse polygamy. (Of course, that could give him some common ground with the Arabs!)
          Mitt should have walked across the room, sat down with Michele---preferably away from the cameras---and heard her out. It would have been the compassionate, not to mention politically smart, thing to do.
          But then, we’re talking about Mitt the Mormon. Mitt the Mannequin. Mitt the Mendacious.
          Michael Moore for president!

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