In a June 16 New York Times piece on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, reporter (and Phoenix alum) Mark Leibovich offered a parenthetical aside on a brush with former Massachusetts governor and would-be president Mitt Romney’s security detail. “Between stops in New Hampshire,” Leibovich wrote, “this reporter found himself trailing the former governor’s S.U.V. on a back road, only to be led to the shoulder and instructed to ‘veer off’ by a man wearing an earpiece who emerged from Mr. Romney’s car. ‘We ran your license plate,’ he told the reporter, and explained that no one was permitted to follow Mr. Romney’s vehicle.”
At first the story went nowhere. But on June 20 — in an Associated Press story which noted that, under New Hampshire law, it’s illegal for a civilian to pull someone off the road or run their plates — Romney spokesman Matt Rhoades denied Leibovich’s account. “We can confirm . . . that at no time was the reporter’s license plate run through a check or was his vehicle pulled over,” said Rhoades, according to the AP.
Then things got weird. On June 21, the Herald’s Dave Wedge reported that the man Leibovich claimed had the earpiece was none other than Jay Garrity — who, as Romney’s security head in 2004, was “cited by Boston police for driving a car illegally equipped with blue-and-red flashing lights, a siren, multiple police radios and tinted windows.” (In addition, Wedge wrote, Garrity “also reportedly had a police baton and a state police patch that said ‘official business.’”)
Next, on June 22, the Globe revealed that the Massachusetts State Police are currently investigating Garrity for impersonating a state trooper. (In the wake of Leibovich’s account, the New Hampshire attorney general has also opened an investigation.) Later that same day, politico.com reported that Garrity, who’d been Romney’s “operations director,” was taking an indefinite leave of absence from the campaign to, as a spokesman put it, “resolve these complaints.”
This past Monday, Romney seemed to be standing by his man. “I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt on this and I think other people would be wise to do the same thing,” Romney said, according to the AP. “He’s a good guy and wish [sic] him the very best, but this is really now in his hands.” But after Romney made these comments, the Globe reported that Fortune magazine staffer Marcia Vickers also claims to have been stopped by Garrity and told to stop trailing Romney.
Republican-primary voters should be paying close attention to all this. Governor Romney’s decision to maintain his relationship with Garrity after the 2004 incident was troubling. But for Romney the would-be president to bring Garrity along for the ride was breathtakingly stupid. President George W. Bush is living proof that blind loyalty makes for bad governance. Romney seems to have missed this lesson.
The Bloomberg is off
When New York mayor and Medford native Michael Bloomberg announced that he was leaving the Republican Party this past week, the political media went bonkers. Would Bloomberg run for president as an independent in ’08? Could he win? And how will his still-hypothetical candidacy reshape the race? The New York Daily News offered this: “You couldn’t get a much clearer signal Michael Bloomberg is seriously considering a third-party run for president. . . . There’s little doubt that he’ll seize the opportunity if the race appears viable. Good for him. Good for us.”
Amid the hoopla, though, one media outlet demonstrated remarkable restraint: Bloomberg L.P., the financial-media behemoth that was founded by Bloomberg in 1981 and that helped him amass his $5.5 billion personal fortune. The entity includes Bloomberg News, Bloomberg Radio, and Bloomberg Television, and its majority owner is still none other than Michael Bloomberg. (Surprisingly, no legal arrangement exists mandating Bloomberg’s non-involvement with Bloomberg L.P.)
The day after Bloomberg’s announcement, for example, a Bloomberg News write-up didn’t use the word “president” until the fourth paragraph, and immediately quoted Bloomberg brusquely dismissing such speculation. Later, the story quoted two political analysts, Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg, arguing that a Bloomberg presidential run was hardly a done deal. And as NPR’s David Folkenflick subsequently noted, Bloomberg Radio’s Money & Politics program spent less than a minute on the implications of the mayor’s party switch.
Over the next few months, the journalists of Bloomberg will have plenty of opportunities to prove that they can cover Bloomberg himself — and his campaign, if it comes to that — objectively and aggressively. Which is, of course, a gentle way of saying that this problem isn’t going away. Every time Bloomberg News reports on Bloomberg the man, that coverage could help or hinder his political prospects. In fact, the quandary gets thornier: whenever Bloomberg News reports on one of the declared or potential Democratic and Republican presidential candidates — a group of more than 20, if you include Fred Thompson, Newt Gingrich, and Al Gore — Bloomberg’s own political stock could be affected.