Well, actually I have a vested interest in Mitt Romney reacting immediately to news events since his responses have made every bad situation worse. But as a political observer there is a limit to how much I can watch tactical political failure before wincing in pain. Even in sports there’s a moment where rival failures cross over from delightful to sad and pathetic.
Yesterday’s release of a damaging video showing Mitt Romney tossing out disparaging comments about “47% of the country” (made up primarily of seniors and veterans…not exactly a group the GOP should trash) and some questionable comments about ethnicity created a media firestorm. Rather than ignore the crisis and wait for a shift in the news cycle, Mitt Romney opted to react immediately, scheduling a 10PM press availability where he characterized the comments as “not elegantly stated.” But much worse, in my opinion, was the image of Romney walking away from the podium with a plastic smile while a reporter loudly questions whether Romney’s comments represent, “core convictions.” (seen at around 3:30 in the video below):
This follows on the heels of Romney’s decision last week to immediately respond to the deadly attack in Libya in the hopes of stealing any potential foreign policy credibility Barack Obama might garner as commander-in-chief during the crisis rather than wait for the story to subside. This did not succeed.
Whether these knee-jerk responses are the fault of the Romney campaign or Mitt Romney himself, it is eroding his case to be the steady hand on the tiller of national policy. No one wants a leader incapable of responding to a crisis, but half-cocked responses are even less desirable.
Richard Nixon delivered the Checkers speech several days after accusations arose that he maintained a slush fund. Barack Obama took time and great care to craft his response to the Reverend Wright controversy. We remember these speeches because they artfully closed the door on negative news items and reset the news.
Romney substitutes careful judgment for rapid reaction, a valuable skill when manipulating the market, but a disastrous approach in a business where a tepid response can supercharge the original gaffe.