Boston, MA.
January 18, 2008
 
Although Irish Setters have been sleeping around the family manse for years, it is apparent that Mitt Romney has failed to absorb and grasp the subtle messages and extensions of the adage “let sleeping dogs lie.”  

That may be changing.

Romney’s flare-up yesterday (1/17/2007) with the Associated Press’ Glen Johnson at a press conference in South Carolina (Johnson challenged the candidate’s claim that no lobbyists were running his campaign) accompanied by the imperious in-your-face public reprimand of the reporter by Romney press secretary Eric Fehrnstrom, kicked the tethered media dawgs into action defending one of their own.

The reaction was instantaneous and substantial.  Early the next morning, Google’s collection of links to news stories and opinion pieces about the testy encounters,filled three or four computer screens. Blogger reaction was yet to pour in. And, the sun was barely up.
 
Any press agent worth his BlackBerry knows that there are two, possibly three fundamental rules for running successful press conferences, especially cockamamie ones whose sole purpose is to thump the tub and generate publicity: Rule One) Never ever, ever scold a reporter publicly or tell him his questions are out of line; Rule Two) See Rule One. Rule Three) If you insist on ignoring #1 and #2, it is best not to browbeat a reporter while  network cameras are rolling.  
 
The arresting headline in on-line version of the leftish New Republic–  The Whole Associated Press Hates Romney —  cuts right to the heart of the matter. It is prima facie evidence that Romney ought to sack his press relations team immediately if not sooner.  Incidentally, months ago I heard similar dire assessments from reporters for National Public Radio.

But, wait. Perhaps Romney is simply the candidate everyone loves to hate. Another  Washington Post column today claims that Mitt is so despised by the other candidates – perhaps vice versa too – that none of them would pick him as a running mate nor agree to be his. This concern resurfaces so often, is it time Romney got friendlier with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who may yet emerge as the White Knight of this confounding primary season?

Rushing to reporter Johnson’s defense, the Post  quickly cooked-up a story today listing all the lobbyists working for Romney. It is clear, the little flare-up at an obscure Staples stores in South Carolina will chase Mitt for some time.  Reporters will badger him incessantly about each name on the Post’s list and then start mining the major donor rosters as well for other “interesting” industry and corporate connections (disclosure: my family has made significant contributions to both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama).

In less tangible ways, the dust-up with Johnson, will shade future coverage of Romney and, hence, the views of most voters, a few of whom are even more contemptuous and patronizing of reporters than Romney and Fehrnstrom.

Something serious ails Team Romney.  Are the advisors afraid to tell Mitt he “doesn’t have clothes on?” Can they all be sycophants?   The victory in Michigan seemed to loosen-up the candidate, energize the campaign, focus the strategy if only momentarily. But, one day later it’s Back To The Future.

Evidence continues to mount that Mitt is incapable of tempering manipulative behaviors that served him well as a cagey Bain consultant and CEO  — precisely accurate if deliberately misleading wordplay that kept alive all possible options. Instead, he has become more aggressive and unashamed than Bill Clinton ever was about defining what “is is” and insisting haughtily that he knows best!

Romney’s clever pars-e-mony, which I wrote about at length way, way back in the Fall of 2005, continues to be his ruin.  Might this suggest that the people around him are giving him terrible advice?  Or, that Romney is refusing to listen? Or, both?
 

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