AMATEURISHNESS FROM THE FIELD'S SUPPOSED OLD PRO, UN-SLICK WILLARD
It was only this morning that I finally watched the much-discussed confrontation Mitt Romney had with Fox's Brett Baier on Tuesday --- or at least the highlight reel...
... and now I see (from Steve Benen, Josh Marshall, and Think Progress) that Romney is being portrayed as a wuss and a whiner, after Baier went on Bill O'Reilly's show and revealed that Romney complained of "overly aggressive" questioning, saying the tough questions were "uncalled for":
It's bad for Romney that he's being attacked this way. He does come off as a petulant complainer. But the odd thing is that his reaction in the interview doesn't seem to emerge from weakness per se -- it seems of a piece with other signs of anger and control-freakery on Mitt's part. A lot of challenges get under Romney's skin, and he doesn't respond to them with grace. Paradoxically, he's coming off as a wuss because he's too hostile.
But beyond that, I'm wondering why Romney had a problem with Baier's questions at all. Isn't Romney supposed to be the one candidate who knows how to do this? Isn't he supposed to be the guy who's done this before and who's assembled a seasoned campaign staff that's prepared for anything that comes up? (I haven't ponied up the $2.99 for Politico's e-book on the campaign, but in the video promo for it, co-author Evan Thomas says repeatedly that Romney's the one candidate in the race who's doing this right, who, as he puts it, "came to play." If that's the case, why the hell wasn't Romney prepared for Baier's questions?)
First of all, why don't Romney and his staff know that Baier's role is to be the rare Foxster who's supposed to look objective, which means he's not going to give every Republican an overt tongue bath? And beyond that, if you watch the clip, isn't it obvious what Baier's doing? He's not attacking Romney -- he's feeding him straight lines. He's saying to Romney, in effect, "Look, you could win this, but to get to the winner's circle you're going to have to answer certain questions about flip-flopping. Now, you have the slickest operation in the field -- surely you have a carefully crafted, sensible-sounding answer to these flip-flop charges. Right? Right? So I'm giving you a nice opportunity in this safe space to deliver the responses you and your oh-so-professional staff have undoubtedly worked out. Do we understand each other?"
And Romney, stupidly, flubbed the opportunity. Why? Why was the guy who's supposed to be the pro at this so unprepared? And if he didn't expect such questions from a Fox interviewer, shouldn't he have an answer prepared for anyone who asks about flip-flops that's more polished than Screw you, you bastard, for asking me that?