Can we tolerate a nominee who politely declines two hours of in-flight chatter?

posted at 11:00 am on November 7, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

I’m sure that the New York Times believes this to be a deep insight into the “aloof” character of Mitt Romney, but perhaps Emmarie Huetteman just doesn’t fly very often.  When an attempt to turn a two-hour commercial flight from some down time into a debate on health care resulted in a polite demurral from Romney, it made news … at least at the Gray Lady:

As a physician who heads a financial planning company and prides herself on having read every page of President Obama’s health care reform bill, Ms. McClanahan, 47, recognized that it’s not every day you’re seated next to a presidential candidate on a two-hour flight. According to Ms. McClanahan, about an hour into the flight — which Mr. Romney mostly spent reading USA Today and using an iPad while wearing headphones — she told him her idea for improving the American health care system: slashing overhead costs by switching to an electronic billing system.

“He looked at me blankly and said, ‘I understand,’ then put his iPad headphones in and kept reading,” she said.

I don’t know about the rest of Hot Air’s readers, but my understanding of in-flight etiquette is that wearing headphones plugged into anything powered up — an iPad, a laptop, or a digital recorder — is pretty much the international sign language that translates to “I’m not interested in conversation.”  Now, I know that this is not always well understood.  I’ve had a few people ignore that with me and attempt to get into deep conversations during flights when I’m more interested in doing some work or just trying to decompress.  However, the news from those encounters are more the cluelessness of the conversers than the aloofness of those not interested in engaging in captive debates.

But the Times has more:

While Ms. McClanahan said Mr. Romney was probably exhausted, she was disappointed he showed so little interest. Even another passenger’s request for a restaurant recommendation in Boston elicited little from Mr. Romney, she said. “I can’t give you any,” he said, according to Ms. McClanahan. “You’ll have to ask someone else.”

Could Romney have shown a little patience and engaged with these two people for a few minutes?  Sure.  But does a candidate owe in-flight conversation and restaurant recommendations to every passenger who requests them?  Not at all.  A polite demurral is all that is necessary, and Romney appears to have been polite in expressing that he wasn’t interested in conversing at the moment.  Too bad more seatmates don’t take that position.

Finally, the Times explains that they ran with this before getting anyone from Team Romney to give their side, or even confirm that Romney recalled it:

The Romney campaign could not immediately be reached for comment.

Was this such a breathless scoop that the Times could not wait for a few hours to get an on-the-record response?  If they couldn’t immediately be reached, why not wait a few hours to post this trivial and insubstantial report from Mitt’s Travels?

There may be a number of reasons to oppose Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential nominee.  Claiming he’s “out of touch” because one passenger couldn’t take no for an answer is not one of them, nor is it any reason to rush to publish this “news.”

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Romney is NOT a regular guy , he’s filthy rich and running for the office of the President. If he can’t tolerate the regular folk for 2 hours then what’s the chance he’ll be about to for 4 years.

LeeSeneca on November 7, 2011 at 2:13 PM

Were you the guy in dreadlocks with the drum in NYC recently?

Bradky on November 7, 2011 at 3:02 PM

There may be a number of reasons to oppose Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential nominee.

There certainly are a number of reasons. But inability to defeat Obama is not one of them.
In fact, Mitt is the only one now running who can beat Obama, & even this is possible only if he chooses a Rubio or a Jindal for Veep to rally conservatives.
It’s painful to write this because, again, there are a number of very good reasons to oppose Mitt Romney as the nominee.

itsnotaboutme on November 7, 2011 at 3:03 PM

This is news? Holy moly– all those Amtrak rides I took with Slow Joe could have been my ticket to my fifteen minutes and I never realized it! Unhappily, Biden is unpleasant and so I never thought my brief conversations with him were newsworthy. If only Emmarie Huetteman had been there to show me how it’s done.

MTF on November 7, 2011 at 3:05 PM

He should really look into charters and/or buying the seat next to him as well on first class. It’s not like he can’t afford it. It’s baffling why he’d put himself in these situations.

kim roy on November 7, 2011 at 1:37 PM

Mitt obviously has the money to own his own G5. I would imagine his advisors told him to fly coach to in some small way fight the class warfare attacks Obama will use against him if he is the nominee.

Kataklysmic on November 7, 2011 at 1:47 PM

Soooo in other words there’s no win. He wants privacy and/or is a bad flier so acts appropriately and he gets reamed for being “rich” or flies with the “common folk” and gets reamed because he won’t “mingle”.

I do wonder if someone would have talked to him like just another person rather than as Mitt Romney, Politician, it might have been different. Might have been nice for him to give a couple of restaurant recommendations or talk about Boston, but ignore the “gotcha” BS. Then again, someone probably would have complained about his choices anyways.

It’s not hard to understand why none of them will talk after seeing this, though.

kim roy on November 7, 2011 at 3:14 PM

In fact, Mitt is the only one now running who can beat Obama
itsnotaboutme on November 7, 2011 at 3:03 PM

Why, and how will he do it?

What in Romney’s history suggests he’s equipped to take on Obama and the entire institutional left, how does he propose to handle their attacks, and what do you think is his winning strategy?

Why is not one of the others as able?

rrpjr on November 7, 2011 at 3:15 PM

Worst nightmare, trying to get some rest on a flight and some stranger wants to debate an issue.

FireBlogger on November 7, 2011 at 3:16 PM

Why, and how will he do it?
What in Romney’s history suggests he’s equipped to take on Obama and the entire institutional left, how does he propose to handle their attacks, and what do you think is his winning strategy?
Why is not one of the others as able?
rrpjr on November 7, 2011 at 3:15 PM

Soccer Moms.

Buy Danish on November 7, 2011 at 3:27 PM

Here she is on twitter:

What a self-important dweeb.

BocaJuniors on November 7, 2011 at 11:14 AM

These two sentences always go together.

James on November 7, 2011 at 3:47 PM

Soooo in other words there’s no win. He wants privacy and/or is a bad flier so acts appropriately and he gets reamed for being “rich” or flies with the “common folk” and gets reamed because he won’t “mingle”.

He is flying with people he wants to vote for him! Listening and talking with people is part of the job of president. If he doesn’t want to be with the “common folk”, take the G5. He gives me the impression that we are all the great unwashed, and is above us. Sorry, but we have one of those presidents right now, I don’t want another.

megthered on November 7, 2011 at 3:56 PM

I always see the NYT as part of the manipulation of voters -therefore- I think they did this hit piece to get sympathy from the Republican voters -hoping they’ll vote for their favorite liberal (Romney) in the primaries(insuring an Obama, or Obama-lite win – regardless of which party gets in)

Don L on November 7, 2011 at 4:14 PM

Romney tood coach to make a poltical statement. Not because First class is horrible and certainly not because he can’t afford it.

Since Romney come across as a phony EVERYTIME HE SPEAKS , then it’s no surprise to anyone that he can’t actually tolerate a person who in fact flies coach because they have to.

LeeSeneca on November 7, 2011 at 4:16 PM

Maybe it was her “I love Obama” campaign button…
Really I don’t blame him, a little down time on the plane…I don’t talk to anyone (except wife, and then I just listen) when flying, I don’t care about them, they don’t care about me, I will never see them again…and I like to relax and “get away” while on a plane.

right2bright on November 7, 2011 at 4:18 PM

we’ve watched for years the press’ worship of all things leftist…the coming year will break new ground in their sycophantic love song to the cult of the left. All things great and small have their role in defeating the un-reconstructed forces of evil

r keller on November 7, 2011 at 4:27 PM

I’m late to this thread. Has anyone questioned the timing yet? I question the timing.

Beo on November 7, 2011 at 4:37 PM

Point about airplane headphone etiquette is taken, though it’s not generally applied to people who are seeking votes for political office.

But, a better point.

If that had been Sarah Palin, would she have had the headphones on in the first place?

No, she’s not in the race. Just using her as a contrast to Mr. Aloof II. If he’s nominated, maybe he and BHO can hold debates on a yacht somewhere. Without the inconvenience of questions or an audience.

Those two take transparency to a new level, but I’m thinking not in the way they might mean the term.

IndieDogg on November 7, 2011 at 4:47 PM

At least he didn’t reach up her skirt and pull her head to his crotch.

John the Libertarian on November 7, 2011 at 4:50 PM

Totally OT. The last time my husband flew, the woman next to him was having some kind of hallucination episode. She was convinced that cold water was dripping on her head from the ceiling. She paged the flight attendants about 10 times in the first hour, and then when they didn’t believe her, she started really freaking out. She demanded that my husband tell the flight attendant about the water she saw dripping on his head. When he didn’t, she started hitting him and yelling at everyone around her. So, yeah, it’s not always necessary to chat with people around you on airplanes.

bitsy on November 7, 2011 at 5:02 PM

Soccer Moms.
Buy Danish on November 7, 2011 at 3:27 PM

Touche. That certainly addresses how Romney plans to contend with what the Left will throw at him better than he did in 1994 when Ted Kennedy reduced him to a flailing wreck with a few ads about Romney’s days as a cold capitalist stripminer at Bain.

But do enjoy your fantasy that this somehow has something to do with how great Palin is in comparison./
Buy Danish on November 7, 2011 at 2:26 PM

Never said or implied this. I said as a sidebar she seemed to enjoy people as Will Rogers did, and that this quality is politically and personally winning. It would be a valuable quality for a republican in 2012.

The issue is engagement. We’re in a war. It will never be won by those who fail to see the necessity and infinite potential of human engagement at every opportunity — especially in symbolically ordinary settings like an airplane. Without engagement there can be no chance of persuasion. Without engagement, you give over to the void, where the media swarm and rule.

Hardcore Letfist activist Brandon Darby’s life changed when a New Orleans “pig” took a few minutes of time to engage him on an important issue. Darby ended up becoming an FBI informant and now speaks to conservatives about the motives and methods of the Left. How many lives may in turn be changed? We’re dealing with indocrinated people. We engage them on every front every minute or we stand no chance of undoctrinating them. There’s no luxury of “quiet time.” The time for that is long gone.

rrpjr on November 7, 2011 at 5:03 PM

The problem with arguing that Romney can’t beat Obama is that he is already beating Obama in the polls, is the only Republican who is and has already been through everything the MSM can throw at him.

If you want another horrible candidate like McCain, make Rick Perry your nominee. If Romney is already running to the center to position for the general election its a good thing. Obama is drowning in the polls and still sinking, the only thing that can save him in a general election is putting up a horrible GOP candidate or one that the media can paint as an extremist.

Kaisersoze on November 7, 2011 at 5:19 PM

Soooo in other words there’s no win. He wants privacy and/or is a bad flier so acts appropriately and he gets reamed for being “rich” or flies with the “common folk” and gets reamed because he won’t “mingle”.

He is flying with people he wants to vote for him! Listening and talking with people is part of the job of president. If he doesn’t want to be with the “common folk”, take the G5. He gives me the impression that we are all the great unwashed, and is above us. Sorry, but we have one of those presidents right now, I don’t want another.

megthered on November 7, 2011 at 3:56 PM

I can’t believe that I’m defending Romney, but there’s a difference between discussing restaurants (which I said would have been nice of him) and Obamacare. Plus, he’s a human being. Maybe he just wanted some peace and quiet without having to be “on” all the time. Maybe he doesn’t like to fly and didn’t want to chit chat. Or maybe he was just tired or in a bad mood.

IMHO, just because someone is in the public eye and/or wants our money (celeb) or our vote, doesn’t mean that they aren’t allowed some courtesy and a bit of space.

kim roy on November 7, 2011 at 5:39 PM

I don’t like Romney; I think he’s a giant flip flopping phony and I won’t vote for him. Period. That said, I don’t blame him in this case; I hate talking to people on airplanes. I have a book for a reason; I don’t want to f***ing talk. Now running for Pres, you might have to tap dance a little bit more but the end of the conversation should be the same. You didn’t win life’s lotto by sitting by me; you’re not getting an exclusive interview. Have a nice day, and shut your f***ing pie hole; I’m reading.

austinnelly on November 7, 2011 at 5:40 PM

I hate when I’m listening to earphones and some idiot tries to strike conversation with me on the plane about the book I’m reading…. I usually just feign a smile and ignore the guy.

haner on November 7, 2011 at 5:56 PM

For what it’s worth, I met Mitt in Manchester, NH on a commercial flight to Detroit. I introduced myself and he was brief, but polite. We sat near but not next to one another and dabbled in light conversation after landing. I’m not one for blather throughout a flight, so I think he and I were on the same page: friendly but pithy is the only way to fly.

Daft Punk on November 7, 2011 at 7:23 PM

I’m guessing the persistently obtuse passenger was not Black or Brown, or the NY Times would be fumbling about for the race card…

locomotivebreath1901 on November 7, 2011 at 9:32 PM

I don’t know about the rest of Hot Air’s readers, but my understanding of in-flight etiquette is that wearing headphones plugged into anything powered up — an iPad, a laptop, or a digital recorder — is pretty much the international sign language that translates to “I’m not interested in conversation.” Now, I know that this is not always well understood. I’ve had a few people ignore that with me and attempt to get into deep conversations during flights when I’m more interested in doing some work or just trying to decompress. However, the news from those encounters are more the cluelessness of the conversers than the aloofness of those not interested in engaging in captive debates.

But the Times has more:

While Ms. McClanahan said Mr. Romney was probably exhausted, she was disappointed he showed so little interest. Even another passenger’s request for a restaurant recommendation in Boston elicited little from Mr. Romney, she said. “I can’t give you any,” he said, according to Ms. McClanahan. “You’ll have to ask someone else.”

Could Romney have shown a little patience and engaged with these two people for a few minutes? Sure. But does a candidate owe in-flight conversation and restaurant recommendations to every passenger who requests them? Not at all. A polite demurral is all that is necessary, and Romney appears to have been polite in expressing that he wasn’t interested in conversing at the moment. Too bad more seatmates don’t take that position.

Well, I certainly agree with you there about everyone’s privilege of denying conversation as needed, wanted and/or desired at any time, but when you’re captive as passenger, it’s even more significant a privilege (because you can’t just get up and walk away from someone who is chattering at you and failing to heed your indications that you don’t want them to continue).

This story from the NYT is so petty as to be yet another among the zillionth number of embarrassing, petty attack-posts they publish as to anyone-not-Democrat.

Lourdes on November 7, 2011 at 10:33 PM

and prides herself on having read every page of President Obama’s health care reform bill

An interesting lie because much of that “health care reform bill” still hasn’t been written, and what IS in writing is some sort of pasted-in mashup of disjointed parts from here and there that make no contextual sense to the preceding and following pages.

So the chatty-passenger reads the wind, apparently.

Lourdes on November 7, 2011 at 10:36 PM

I can think of something worse. Having Romney sit next to me when I want to rest and him wanting to convince me he really, really, really is conservative.

ray on November 7, 2011 at 11:18 PM

Now we know he’s not a career politician. If he were she’d have had to ask him to shut up.

flataffect on November 8, 2011 at 12:45 AM

For what it’s worth, I met Mitt in Manchester, NH on a commercial flight to Detroit.

Daft Punk on November 7, 2011 at 7:23 PM

Proof again that it is not uncommon for Mitt to take a commercial flight. I am thoroughly surprised at how many “conservatives” on here bash Romney about his wealth. Who cares from our side? We are the party that wants people to succeed in life not rip them because they have attained that success. I see this constantly from people on HA all the time when it comes to Romney. He’s wealthy and earned every bit of it. Get over it. Don’t give me he inherited all this money from his Dad because he didn’t. He struggled like any other businessman starting up.

As far as the flight, having flown hundreds of times, I, too do not like to talk the whole flight either. The headphones was the clue. We do not know that maybe the headphones was for a speech he was working on and had to deliver once he arrived to wherever he was headed.

The main point is consider the source of the article and it was a basic hit piece on Romney.

g2825m on November 8, 2011 at 1:21 AM

The problem with arguing that Romney can’t beat Obama is that he is already beating Obama in the polls, is the only Republican who is and has already been through everything the MSM can throw at him.

If you want another horrible candidate like McCain, make Rick Perry your nominee. If Romney is already running to the center to position for the general election its a good thing. Obama is drowning in the polls and still sinking, the only thing that can save him in a general election is putting up a horrible GOP candidate or one that the media can paint as an extremist.

Kaisersoze on November 7, 2011 at 5:19 PM

The problem with arguing that only Mitt can beat Obambi is that it is based on leftist pollsters who want Obambi to win no matter the cost. This far out from the general election, it is unwise to say that Cain, Gingrich, Perry, even Palin, or a pack of wild dogs can’t beat the most Communist, idiotic, lawless, unsuccessful, and incompetent President these United States have ever seen. A trained monkey could beat Obambi in November. The problem is the establishment RNC. Not the candidates. And the establishment wants Mitt or Huntsman. Ridiculous!

Let’s wait and see when we get closer to real primaries who will be the Republican nominee. Now all I see is infighting amongst Republicans. Once there is a nominee, stand the frick by……

Subsunk

Subsunk on November 8, 2011 at 6:14 AM

Oh please! I do not want Romney to win the nod, but this is rediculous. I spent 5 hours yesterday from Maui to Sacramento with two screaming babies and zi wish that I would have had his headphones. You do not bother people sitting next to you on a plane unless your invited to do so. Total non-story…..PERIOD!

Winebabe on November 8, 2011 at 11:32 AM

rrpjr on November 7, 2011 at 5:03 PM

Soooooh, your strategy is for candidates to engage hardcore leftists while in-flight, converting them one aisle seat at a time?

Buy Danish on November 8, 2011 at 11:56 AM

Winebabe on November 8, 2011 at 11:32 AM

Didn’t you at least compliment the parents for being pro-life?

Bradky on November 8, 2011 at 1:48 PM

Not a Mitt fan by any means but I’ll give him credit for politely declining to engage. He could have set the woman straight about being totally wrong. And/or perhaps give her a little credit for the Nit Wit Times totally simple-minding that idea about somehow improving anybody’s health care by what sounds like a one-time reduction in costs. Unless the savings go more or less directly into increasing the number of doctors nothing would improve. Times reporters need to be careful throwing around such highly technical terms-of-art such as “overhead”. It’s a capitalism thing. They wouldn’t understand.

curved space on November 8, 2011 at 6:22 PM

Dire and Schadenfreude

I chose this thread for no other reason than it was the correct time and correct day. Though one year earlier.

At somewhere between 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. 11-07-12 my Father in law died. He was the finest man I have ever had the privilege of knowing. I will spare you the details except to say it was an accident at his beloved home. As you might imagine the better half and I are devastated.

I will not be here at HA much if any in the near future. I did want however to let you know as to why I have been absent of late. The friends that I have made here will be sorely missed. I have notified by email those HA friends that I email with on a regular basis. I had no other way of telling the two of you. Hence this note. I hope to return at some point. My posting privileges are intact.

I will ask of you that no mention is made of this. I wish to keep it private. Please honor my wishes. You have been two of my best friends here and for that I thank you with all my heart. Carry on the good fight and know that I have not given up. I must be with, and rededicate myself to my family.

Your loyal friend, Bmore.

Bmore on November 15, 2012 at 8:15 PM

RIP my dear Father.

Bmore on November 15, 2012 at 10:35 PM

I need to store this thought here for a bit. I’m still not ready to submit it.

What a freaking mess our country is in. All the extra work it will take to right it’s course. I’m not completely sure I have enough left to offer up for that. Hope the young ones wake up to it soon. I’m gonna be forthright with you all here, not that I’m not normally, I am working towards withdrawing my energies from it. True I have been preparing for it for years, I may just finish it out, it may be time. I want to enjoy life unincumbered by them all a wee bit before its over. Sorry if that’s a downer. Lord knows I have typed just this into this little box before, just never hit submit, looks like this time I’m hitting the submit button. I just want to be left the heII alone from they’re neediness for a bit. I am fortunate to have the ability. Many are not. It doesn’t mean anything bad or desperate. Just life can take you places you never thought you’d go. Crap I can’t hit submit. I care too much.

Bmore on January 29, 2013 at 12:43 AM

gilled one, I know you will check back on this thread. You can’t help yourself. Do you remember the day you crossed me? It’s the day I ruined your reputation here at HA. You became the gilled one. The name stuck. I owned you from that moment forward. You have had no succes at building anything but contempt from the other commenters here. Have you ever stopped long enough to think, why? Do you even now realize what I had you do to yourself? I didn’t do this to you out of meanness, though I have certainly been mean. I did this because you needed me to. You needed to earn this. You have earned the ire of nearly every person here. You will never be able to recover from it. Your reputation is forever destroyed. I did that, you merely assisted. It is now yours. You are truly despised here, seen as a paria, one to be mocked and ridiculed. You tried desperately to have me show mercy. You mistook me for someone you could manipulate. I gladly extended you none, for you deserve and earned no respect. Not once have you ever apologized, nor will you. I would never except your feigned apologies. I ruined you. I am happy to have done this for you. Consider your debt to me paid. I will continue to mock you as I have for so very long now. Your pain, your tears, to sustain me. You are helpless to change the situation you now find yourself in. You crossed me. Big mistake. Breadball?

Bmore on February 14, 2013 at 2:15 AM

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