Jewish World Review Aug 3, 2012 / 13 Menachem-Av, 5772
Mitt Needs Veep to Replace Flop
By Roger Simon
It doesn't matter whom he chooses. Anybody will do. Even Sarah Palin. Hell, even Todd Palin.
Why? Because Romney needs to change the narrative, the conversation, the buzz, the impression left by his recent foreign trip that he can't chew gum and chew gum at the same time.
A few days ago, I called Romney's trip a disaster. I would like to apologize. It was a disaster wrapped in a debacle inside a calamity.
The press is now being attacked for making too much of Romney's "gaffes," but why should we ignore what actually comes out of a candidate's mouth when he is forced to think?
Should we instead cover only the speeches meticulously crafted by his staff? Or the TV ads in which every frame is painstakingly edited and often focus-grouped in advance?
A candidate's traveling press corps has the greatest knowledge of what the candidate has been saying and, as much as possible, what is going on in the campaign.
Which may be why Romney took only three questions from his traveling press corps at the very beginning of his trip and stiffed them after that.
This led some reporters to act like reporters instead of sheep. After Romney participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw at the end of his trip, reporters began shouting questions to him as he was about to climb into his limousine.
This was a point of maximum danger for Romney. He was, in campaign terms, "out of the box," and free to say whatever he wanted. His staff simply could not risk this.
So Romney's traveling press secretary, Rick Gorka, yelled to the reporters: "Kiss my ass! This is a holy site! Show some respect!"
That this made Gorka look rude and foolish was not the point. (The way to show proper respect at a holy site is to yell, "Kiss my ass"?)
The point was somebody on the staff had to take the bullet for Romney. So Gorka was forced to engage in extraordinary behavior. (After Romney was successfully tucked away from reporters, Gorka apologized.)
Barack Obama makes gaffes, too. He has said the private sector "is doing fine." He has said, "If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." While honoring a Polish resistance fighter, Obama used the term "Polish death camp" instead of "Nazi death camp." (He eventually wrote a letter of apology for that one.)
And, while on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" in 2009, the president even made a horrible joke comparing his poor bowling skills to the "Special Olympics." (He apologized even before the show aired.)
So stuff happens. Campaigners make mistakes. But Obama has never had a six-day period of mistakes like Romney just had, and especially not on foreign soil, where the stakes are always higher. ("Domestic policy can only defeat us," John F. Kennedy often said. "Foreign policy can kill us.")? Romney was appearing on the world stage, and he spent much of his time covered in flop sweat. "He certainly didn't prove to anyone that he passed the commander in chief test," said Robert Gibbs, an Obama campaign senior adviser.
But, hey, nobody expects a one-term governor to be a foreign policy expert. Romney is a business expert, an economics expert.
In a speech in Jerusalem, he compared the gross domestic product per capita of Israel to that of the Palestinians. "If you could learn anything from the economic history of the world, it's this: Culture makes all the difference," Romney said.
That statement became controversial, but less attention was paid to another part of his speech. The figures that Romney used were wildly incorrect.
Romney understated the Israeli figure by one-third and he overstated the Palestinian figure by a factor of more than six.
It didn't change his point — the Israelis live way better than the Palestinians — but I thought Romney was supposed to have a deep grasp of commerce and numbers. It wasn't like he was at a world summit where he had to keep the figures of eight or nine countries straight in his head.
All he had to do was use an accurate number for the Israeli economy and one for the Palestinian economy. And he couldn't manage it.
Yep, Romney has to change the conversation and fast. Did I say Romney could name Todd Palin as his running mate? I apologize. He could name Bristol.
True, she is currently 14 years too young for the office. But Romney isn't that good with figures.
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© 2009, Creators Syndicate