Gov. Mitt Romney's appearance in Northeastern Pennsylvania went much
smoother than his father's visit nearly 40 years ago.
George Romney, then-President Richard M. Nixon's secretary of Housing and Urban Development, was dispatched to the region after the Agnes flood of June 1972.
He arrived in town on Aug. 7 and left the next day, but not after several clashes with then-Gov. Milton Shapp, activist Min Matheson, then-Wilkes-Barre Mayor Con Salwoski and other elected officials, and several other flood victims.
The account is detailed in the book "Appointment with Disaster," by Anthony J. Mussari, retired King's College professor.
Chapter 5 of the book is titled, "The Romney Incident."
Romney was late for a meeting with Salwoski, he was curt with residents and media representatives and dismissed the idea of the federal government making the flood victims whole again. Romney accused Shapp, a Democrat, of playing politics.
People pelted Romney with shouts of "Why don't you talk to the people?" "I have a HUDache." "The people come first." "Agnes took everything but our mortgages."
Romney responded with statements like, "My family and I were forced out of Mexico some time ago. I came out of that with only a wristwatch. We had no equity, and if you think I'm going to recommend equity in this situation, you have another thought coming."
The confrontations continued and Romney appeared annoyed, the account reads. It got the attention of national media such as The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The Washington Post, The Miami Herald and The International Herald Tribune in Paris.
"His hurried tour of the area and his reluctance to spend time with the people themselves made many believe that he, like the president, was not interested in the human side of the tragedy," Mussari wrote. Nixon was running for re-election, and Mussari noted that he was not about to jeopardize receiving Pennsylvania's electoral vote.
After Romney's visit, he filed a report with Nixon and recommended a coordinator be sent to the region -- that coordinator was Frank Carlucci, a Wyoming Seminary graduate and a confidant of Nixon's.
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