As he was getting trounced in the second presidential debate last night, taking a pounding from President Obama on everything from his "sketchy deal" tax plan to his disdain for the 47 percent, Republican challenger Mitt Romney also got weird – on women's issues, guns, Bain Capital and more.
Here are the top five Romney moments that made us shout "WTF?!" last night:
1. "Binders Full of Women"
Romney was hoping to communicate that he was a kindly boss who hired lots of womenfolk as governor of Massachusetts. But his tale of affirmative action took an unwelcome detour when he described his staff as presenting him with "binders full women" for him to peruse. Imagine for a second had Romney said he also compiled "binders full of blacks" (or Asians, gays, Jews – whatever) and you'll realize why that's really not an acceptable way to talk about human beings.
2. Single Moms Cause Mass Gun Violence?
Romney, the noted varmint hunter, said he'd do nothing to restrict the ownership of AK-47s – leading to one of Obama's better lines of the night: "I think Governor Romney was for an assault weapons ban before he was against it."
That Romney now lines up with the NRA isn't terribly surprising. Where Romney really stepped in it was what came next – his suggestion that the root cause of tragedies like Columbine and Aurora is too many single moms. Unbidden, in the context of mass killing with assault weapons, Romney said the following: "But let me mention another thing, and that is parents. We need moms and dads helping raise kids. Wherever possible, the – the benefit of having two parents in the home."
That prompted perhaps the tweet of the night from the writer Mary Pols:
I'm a single mother and I just can't stop my 8 year-old from running around with his AK-47. I really need a husband.
3. Bain Capital Was a Small Business?
In a discussion of tax policy, Romney suggested that his own career helped him understand the plight of the hungry entrepreneur: "I came through small business," he said. "I understand how hard it is to start a small business."
One can only assume Romney means Bain Capital here, which was a start-up once, but nothing like what most Americans would classify as a small business. In fact, the leveraged buyout firm launched with millions in investment from Romney's boss, Bill Bain, who also guaranteed that Romney would have zero personal or professional risk if the venture didn't pan out.
Now, that's a tale of gutsy risk-taking. What pluck!
4. "I want to make sure we keep our Pell Grant program growing."
Romney returned to his habit of in-your-face lying on the subject of higher education funding. First he touted his days as governor of Massachusetts, when he put in place a program that allows the top quarter of every high-school class to attend a state college tuition-free. Then he claimed he'd continue to grow the Pell Grant program. That's a whopper. Not only has Romney called for an across-the-board, five percent cut to the Department of Education, his campaign has also said Romney would've signed the Ryan budget – which seeks to cut Pell Grants by 42 percent next year alone, eliminating aid for more than 1 million students.
Throughout the night, Romney had difficulty connecting with the town hall questioners. But he found one woman's name unreasonably perplexing. The transcript does the exchange justice:
MS. CROWLEY: Governor, I want to move you along . . . Lorraine Osario has a question for you about a topic we have not heard —
MR. ROMNEY: Is it Lorraina?
MR. ROMNEY: Lorraine?
Q: Yeah, Lorraine, yeah.
MR. ROMNEY: Great.
Q: President — Romney, what do you plan on doing with immigrants without their green cards that are currently living here as productive members of society?
MR. ROMNEY: Thank you, Lorraine. Did I get that right? Good.