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Paul Greenberg: Mitt Romney, throwback

BY PAUL GREENBERG Published: November 3, 2012

When the opposition warns that Mitt Romney is out of step with the times, they may have a point, but for those of us of a certain age and disposition, his Ivory Soap vocabulary — 99.44 percent pure! — would be a step not just back but up. That advertising slogan itself must date to Radio Days circa 1944.

No doubt Americans were just as profane back then, but not our leaders, certainly not in public. It wasn't done. But there seem to be fewer and fewer things that are just not done in our oh-so-advanced era.

What does it matter how a presidential candidate talks? It's his policies that count! But are the two, words and actions, so easily separable? For it may not be clothes but language that maketh the man.

Vanishing breed

The spiffiest of rising young lobbyists, in their thousand-dollar suits and Armani ties, come across as cheap louts when they open their mouths and start spewing out profanities. At least they do to ladies and gentlemen, if there are any left of that vanishing breed.

David Axelrod, the president's spokesperson, once dismissed Mitt Romney's dated vocabulary and his politics in general by saying he “must watch ‘Mad Men,'” the television series set in New York's advertising world of the 1960s, “and think it's the evening news.”

But the 1960s might be a decade too advanced for Romney's language. To my ear, he sounds more like the 1950s — “Ozzie and Harriet” and “Father Knows Best,” rather than “Mad Men.” If he were on “Mad Men,” he'd surely be one of those difficult clients who wouldn't condone racy language. At least in public, and among people whose respect one sought.

In some respects, like language, why not return to the past? It would be progress.