Marcy Wheeler wrote up an astonishing little episode from the Romster’s campaign. Ann Romney was in a small private plane which had to make an emergency landing due to smoke in the cockpit, which was probably the result of an electrical fire. No one was hurt.
Marcy highlighted Mitt’s remarks at a fundraiser (emphasis mine):
“I appreciate the fact that she is on the ground, safe and sound. And I don’t think she knows just how worried some of us were,” Romney said. “When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no — and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem. So it’s very dangerous. And she was choking and rubbing her eyes. Fortunately, there was enough oxygen for the pilot and copilot to make a safe landing in Denver. But she’s safe and sound.”
OK, now maybe this remark is proof that Romney really has blood rather than machine oil running in his veins, and he was so rattled by the incident that he started babbling when the topic of the emergency landing came up. But even as free association, this isn’t very encouraging.
Read that snippet again. Romney really thinks having windows on airplanes that open is a pro-safety measure because it would help passengers breathe in the case of fires.
How can Romney not know jets are pressurized? He has to have flown on commercial airplanes for years before he was rich enough to travel only in private jets. Once every few years, there’s a dramatic account of a sudden cabin depressurization and resulting emergency measures, usually successful but not always so.
No matter how you cut and slice it, windows were NOT the answer. Readers can fill in the details: at an altitude of not much more than 10,000 feet, you depressurize the plane, which might kill the fire but can also kill passengers by sucking what air there is in the plane out, which leads objects and even people to fly about. And if the big “whoosh” doesn’t get them, the oxygen deprivation will (unless they get an oxygen mask on, pronto). At lower altitudes, you might get more fresh air in the plane, but you at least screw up its aerodynamics. And in general, planes are pretty fragile, hence you don’t want to give passengers or even pilots all that much discretion in what they can do with them?
You don’t want to have fire in a plane, period. After all, you can’t go anywhere even if there are windows. Marcy reported that Romney mainly uses an airline broker, Air Charter Team, which in turn relies on a research company to grade pilots and planes:
The CHEQ report (Charter Evaluation and Qualification report) has three major components that air charter companies use: historical safety ratings, current aircraft and pilot background checks, and on-site safety audits. Analysis of these components results in four potential levels of safety rating: DNQ, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Each level reflects analysis and ranking based on increasing amounts of detailed information on the charter operator.
If it were my spouse who had had an emergency landing on a charter my campaign was using (and presumably would use for the next six weeks), I’d want to double check this assurance. Was Ann on a Platinum graded plane? Were the reports in the plane’s historical aircraft checks accurate?
That is, I’d want to know if the subcontractors my contracted service was using were fulfilling my needs.
But let’s get to the more interesting part: how can Romney think like this? He was a consultant for a while, then an investor, and a state governor. But his remark says he has absolutely no powers of observation. How can someone have sat through umpteen airline safety presentations which mention sudden depressurization and tell you what to do with your oxygen mask? Or if you read the business media with any regularity, you’ll encounter references to cabin pressure (you see it, for instance, in discussions of how flying coach is less healthy than flying in the front of the bus because the air circulation is better in the premium classes).
Romney looks to have an advanced case of MBA Derangement Syndrome, in which suffers believe they can solve any problem no matter how little they know. In Romney’s case, it appears to be compounded by a remarkable ability to not let information in. He might have an intellectual version of tunnel vision, in which all he takes in is what is of top interest to him, and anything ancillary doesn’t penetrate.
Now there are other, more charitable interpretations of Romney’s brief foray into aerospace design. He might grasp that fixing the problem would involve regulating subcontractors. In the Republican religion, regulation is evil and subcontracting is ever and always benign. Ergo, he had to say something diversionary to avoid pointing out what was the likely real problem and he didn’t much care if what he said sounded stupid or intelligent, it just needed to be short (of course, there was no need for him to propose remedies at all, but maybe that’s his version of machismo).
But if Romney really is seriously lacking in the ability to absorb information, how has he survived? Has he always had minions and minders to filter information for him and tell him what he needs to evaluate in order to make decisions? It’s hard, for instance, to explain his repeated gaffes in London. Doesn’t everyone at his level know to have subordinates prepare briefing papers? And hasn’t he learned by now how to pleasantly deflect questions when they might expose ignorance?
I’d love to hear reader theories: how could Romney have gotten where he is given how often he demonstrates cluelessness and abject ignorance?