Sometimes it feels unfair to take a person's small moment and blow it up to Cloverfield proportions. But when that person is Mitt Romney and the small moment is him trying to endear himself to black people, it’s impossible not to.
In the first moment, Romney poses with a group of young African-Americans and says, "Who let the dogs out? Who, who." (A spokesperson says he was responding to someone saying, "Who let you out?") Later, he approaches a baby wearing a necklace: "Hey buddy! How’s it going? What’s happening? You got some bling bling here!" Fox News has the video here .
On the one hand, it’s a cringe-worthy display. George Romney may have marched with Martin Luther King Jr., but judging from this video you'd guess that was the last time a Romney interacted with an African-American. But on the other hand, it’s sort of adorable. He’s like your out-of-touch grandparent who tries to win you over by proving he knows the "Bad Boys" theme song. In the current issue of the New Republic , Jonathan Chait describes how Romney’s cluelessness can be touching:
Romney has acquired the aura of an overbearing, upper-class phony. But I see him as more of an earnest dweeb, desperately, and unsuccessfully, trying to fit in with his new crowd. I can almost picture him coming home from the Republican debates, crying his eyes out that he wants to move back to Massachusetts because all the other candidates keep laughing at him. If this image leaves you unmoved, you're made of sterner stuff than me.
Same goes for the "bling" moment. As much as I want to call Romney out for tone-deaf pandering—can you imagine him saying that to a white baby in Utah?—that would be stating the obvious. If any other candidate had said it, like Giuliani, the remarks might have sounded downright offensive. But with Romney, it’s clear he just doesn’t know any better.