Romney Parses the Words â€˜Saw,â€™ â€˜March,â€™ and â€˜Withâ€™
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I had no intention of returning to Mitt Romney's Martin Luther King story yet again, but the former governor is just making this too easy. The last thing any presidential candidate needs, worse yet one with a history of dissembling, two weeks before the Iowa caucuses, is a flap that leads to embarrassing word-parsing, but that's exactly what Romney has here.
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, and historical evidence shows that Michigan's Governor George Romney and the civil rights leader never did march together.
Romney said his father had told him he had marched with King and that he had been using the word "saw" in a "figurative sense."
"If you look at the literature, if you look at the dictionary, the term 'saw' includes being aware of in the sense I've described," Romney told reporters in Iowa. "It's a figure of speech and very familiar, and it's very common. And I saw my dad march with Martin Luther King. I did not see it with my own eyes, but I saw him in the sense of being aware of his participation in that great effort."
Oh my. Consider this nine-word sentence: "I saw my father march with Martin Luther King." As of now, Romney wants to parse the words, "saw," "march," and "with."
When the questions continued yesterday, Romney added, "I'm an English literature major. When we say I saw the Patriots win the World Series*, it doesn't necessarily mean you were there."
As Josh Marshall said, "[A]fter all I've said about his strengths in the GOP nomination race, I think Mitt owes me a little more than to make a fool of himself like this."
What's striking is how unnecessary all of this. Romney could have said, "I was a young man in the 1960s and it's possible my memory, four decades later, is hazy on some of the details. The important point to remember here is that my father was a champion of civil rights, and my values on the issue are very much in line with his."
But no, Romney chose a different direction -- one that includes debating the meaning of uncomplicated words.
It even came to this.
Steve Benen is a freelance writer/researcher and creator of The Carpetbagger Report. In addition, he is the lead editor of Salon.com's Blog Report, and has been a contributor to Talking Points Memo, Washington Monthly, Crooks & Liars, The American Prospect, and the Guardian.