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.”