Poor timing on Romney’s ‘frugal’ habits

The New York Times has a feature piece today on Mitt Romney’s “thrifty habits.” Apparently, the guy considers himself pretty cheap.

It was a stark sign of the tug of war, still evident in Mr. Romney’s life, between an instinctive, at times comical frugality, and an embrace of the lavish lifestyle that accompanied his swelling Wall Street fortune.

Mr. Romney, 64, has poured $52 million of his own money into campaigns for the Senate and the White House, but is obsessed with scoring cheap flights on the discount airline JetBlue.

He has acquired six-figure thoroughbred horses for his wife, Ann, yet plays golf with clubs from Kmart. And he has owned a series of multimillion-dollar homes, from a lakefront compound in New Hampshire to a beach house in California, but once rented a U-Haul to move his family’s belongings himself between two of the vacation retreats.

For the record, if a guy spends $12 million on one of several luxurious mansions, and then rents a U-Haul to move belongings himself, I’m not sure “frugal” is the right adjective.

In any case, the timing of the piece is unfortunate. The article invests 2,000 words in making the case that Romney “has never become entirely comfortable with his own wealth,” and is one of those guys who just doesn’t like to open his wallet, but the article went to print just as Romney was willing to drop $10,000 on a bet over a fairly obscure point during a nationally-televised debate.

As a rule, thrifty individuals don’t throw around five-figure wagers on a whim.

There was also this tidbit:

The Romneys lived in an affluent suburb, Bloomfield Hills, with a housekeeper and two refrigerators in the kitchen. But George Romney still required his children to mow the lawn, shovel snow, rake leaves, weed the garden. “I know he worried that because my brother, sisters and I had grown up in a prosperous family, we wouldn’t understand the lessons of hard work,” Mitt Romney wrote.

I’m pretty sure this is the same guy who later hired a landscaper that relied on undocumented workers and told the company, “Look, you can’t have any illegals working on our property. I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, I can’t have illegals.”