Seat-Mate-Gate? More Silly Sniping at 'Aloof...Wooden' Mitt Romney

Apparently it is politically significant, if not scandalous, that GOP candidate Mitt Romney wanted a little in-flight downtime without his attention being taken hostage by a seatmate haranguing him on health care. A Sunday evening post on the New York Times' 'Caucus' blog by Emmarie Huetteman found out-of-touch Romney's behavior troubling: " An Aloof Romney in a Plane Encounter.'

The Times has made a minor speciality of snippy, pointless little stories picking at Romney's regular-guy image, mostly from reporter Ashley Parker, including jalapeno-gate back in September.

Mitt Romney was polite as he took his seat in coach next to Carolyn McClanahan of Jacksonville, Fla., on a recent Delta flight to Boston. He thanked her when she said she appreciated his efforts to reform health care as the governor of Massachusetts and even posed for a photo with her.

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.

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.'


'I feel he's out of touch or doesn't want to be in touch or that he's afraid to be in touch,' she said. 'He's just like people describe him: just very wooden.'

Huetteman tried to flesh out this flimsy anecdote by taking a wide view.

In some ways, Ms. McClanahan's experience with Mr. Romney offers just a glimpse of a widening gulf between Americans and politicians, evident in Congress's plunging approval numbers. A recent New York Times/CBS News poll found that 84 percent disapprove of Congress.

Ms. McClanahan said that if Mr. Romney wants to improve his image with voters, he's going to have to do more than just fly coach.

'I think that one of the problems right now is that politicians aren't in touch,' she said. 'They're trying to act like they're in touch. You need to be a little more sincere about it.'