Mitt Romney speaks French and he's from Massachusetts - game over
I was born and raised in the U.S. I studied politics in the states and in Canada and have worked in politics on and off for many years. In Canada, which is formally a bilingual English/French country, any politician who aspires to a national leadership role has to be able to at least get by competently in both languages.
This is true for all sorts of political, historical, cultural, and geographical reasons. But beside that, I've always assumed that most people like the idea that their leaders are sufficiently well-rounded to speak more than one language. I know it's more complicated than that, but it's certainly seen as an unequivocal plus.
I was fascinated to learn today that GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney speaks French, though my guess is that many in the conservative base would not necessarily see that as a good thing. What a thought. One of their candidates is proficient in a second language and some in his own party might think that this makes him suspect, perhaps as one susceptible to foreign ideas and ways of governing. Lest you think this is a stretch, consider this comment made during the 2004 presidential:
U.S. Sen. Trent Lott today told an enthusiastic Nashoba Country Fair crowd that Demoratic presidential nominee John Kerry is "a French-speaking socialist from Boston, Massachusetts, who is more liberal than Ted Kennedy."
It's hard to miss the implication that Kerry's ability to speak French leaves him open to charges of being a socialist. After all, why else would you want to speak French if it weren't to talk about turning America into a socialist country? Maybe to order food in a nice restaurant, but why else? Really.
It takes xenophobia to whole new level.
You can find a lovely little clip here of Mitt speaking French for a video made to introduce volunteers to the 2002 Winter Olympics. You may recall that he was the President and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.
Makes me jealous. Thirty years in Canada and I still don't speak French.
You know, it's not that I like Mitt. I don't. But he's still too good for the voters he's courting. I wonder if he realizes that?
(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)