Mitt Romney sat down with The Queen of Media on Friday to talk about polygamy, illegal immigrants, jobs being shipped to Mexico, dog kennels, and the indomitable spirit of his late father.
Criticized for being even wealthier at birth than most Americans fantasize about being in their lifetimes, the Republican presidential hopeful told Oprah that he wants Americans to understand that he has "real compassion for those who struggle because of the painful sacrifices endured by my father."
Romney opened up about the man, a former Michigan governor who apparently "escaped Mexico in a kennel, strapped to the top of the family car like a dog!"
Born "Jorge," Mitt Romney's father began his life in a Mormon colony in Mexico, where they had gone to escape U.S. prosecution for polygamy. However, they were forced to flee back to the United States by the Mexican Revolution when he was just a child.
Providing for eleven wives had been no easy feat, so Mitt Romney's grandfather "was also accustomed to hard times, even before the Revolution." The family was so poor, Romney told Oprah, that his young father "was often forced to eat dog food."
And as if that wasn't enough, the presidential hopeful said, "All those extra mommies left no room for my father in the car." Which left them no choice - Jorge's stealthy passage across the Mexican border and into the U.S. would have to be made strapped to the top of the family's Nash Rambler.
At one point in the journey, frightened little Jorge was overcome with diarrhea - though admittedly he had wolfed down some rancid enchiladas he'd dug out of the trash before the journey. Not surprisingly, the incident forced "just one" unexpected stop in the state of Chihuahua where his father purchased some mitts and cleaned Romney's dog kennel.
He was so traumatized by the incident that, when the family later settled in Michigan, "George" - the American equivalent of Jorge - would pursue a career in the automotive industry. Joining Nash-Kelvinator in 1948, he became the chief executive of its successor, American Motor Company, where he advanced the development of new safety features like seat belts, then became governor of Michigan so he could champion legislation prohibiting their use on children located on the exterior of the vehicle.
At this time, the former Massachusetts governor began to weep, prompting Oprah to offer him a tissue.
He wiped his eyes, then continued bravely.
"Thank you. Please forgive me, Oprah. I'm not usually so emotional. You see," he explained, "in 2008, I wrote an opinion piece titled 'Let Detroit Go Broke' for the New York Times. If you will recall, at the time, Obama wanted to bail out the auto industry!
"My own father's auto industry!
"Well, naturally, I was opposed, but it just, well, it just broke my heart, Oprah, because even though I never talk about them, I've been sending jobs to my family in Mexico for years!"
Surprised, Oprah thanked Romney for his candidness. "This is truly unexpected. Such openness and honesty from a man who is usually so secretive, even by the standards of private equity industry firms like Bain Capital. You do seem like a genuinely decent guy, Mitt. Maybe people were wrong about you."
"You know," she continued, "in the past, some people may have even said, oh, I don't know, that maybe you don't see women as equals. How would you respond to that sort of criticism?
Finally relaxing a bit, Romney sat up straight and began to grin. He seemed almost excited, as if he was about to go somewhere. "Now, c'mon, Oprah! That is simply just not true! Sometimes I let my wife ride on top of the car, too!
"She loves it!"