By R.B . Scott
Boston, MA - Right about now Willard Mitt Romney’s people may be regretting their calculated if myopic decision last Spring to shut off virtually all media access to the candidate and his family. Then, poll numbers showed him with cushy leads over other possible Republican contenders, the best suited to defeat President Barack Obama. The experts at Romney’s table saw only downside risk to cooperating with journalists they could neither control nor trust.
About now some of those advisors probably would take it all back if they could. What their man desperately needs are unabashed and unrehearsed endorsements from visible and, especially, invisible regular guys at Bain & Company, client organizations, associates from Olympic Games, and church, not just from vetted and scripted business and church pals, whose testimonials often turn weepy on cue.
What Mitt desperately needs right now are a few irreverent and unscripted insiders testifying that he was indeed an incisive and sensitive leader, even the voice of restraint in the face of the excessive transactional greed that often accompanies leveraged buyouts. What he desperately needs are a few gossipy regular folk to whisper that he routinely opened his checkbook and home, and used his influence in the corporate world to assist ordinary people in need.
Right about now Romney’s best and brightest are absorbing lessons that any savvy football coach worth his sweatshirt could have told them months and months ago: no team on planet earth is capable of winning by playing prevent defense for the first three quarters of a game. The strategy is simply unsustainable in sports and in politics.
On the eve of South Carolina, where he foolishly squandered a double digit percentage lead and lost by double digits, a Romney supporter at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government snapped in frustration and disgust: “explain to me how Mitt could be caught so flat footed on the taxes?”
What twisted campaign objective was served by turning coy about releasing his tax returns, something his father pioneered in 1967, a deft move unprecedented for its time? Why not respond simply and pointedly: I will release several years on X date.” End of story. Instead you said “maybe?” Are you kidding? Romney’s phony demurrer may yet prove to be as silly and fatal as Governor Rick Perry’s celebrated “oops.”
Questions for Mitt: If you had nothing to hide, why leave the nation thinking you do? - If, as has been said, you relish “swimming around” in the numbers, can you expect voters to believe that you really don’t know precisely the percentage you pay in Federal Income taxes each year?
Ballpark estimates would have sufficed. You could have said, as the returns released last night, “Ann and I have lived off of investment income for years and years. Investment income is taxed at a lower rate. I don’t make the rules. I just live by them.”
You could have “guesstimated” that the two of you have donated 15 percent or more of your income to the Mormon Church and another 10 percent or so to many other worthwhile organizations like the United Fund, City Year, Planned Parenthood (gasp!), or The Bell Foundation, a national inner city educational organization, whose startup strategic plan and some seed money came from Bain Capital.
Six months ago I quoted the conservative public relations man Greg Mueller who said ‘they are already starting to pick away…If you don’t get on the offense a little bit, you will be defined by the other side and things will slip away.’ The question for Mitt in 2012 is as it was then (1994): Will he have the stomach to go to the mattresses? In 1994 Mitt’s answer was ‘no.” Until last night’s debate performance in Florida, it felt like “deja vous all over again.”
And, you still look and act like your running scared. Buck up. Your the man. If Republicans don't know your the only one of them who can give President Obama a run for his money, they deserve to lose and lose big in November.
Here’s some advice for Mitt. Locate Newt’s belt buckle, then swing low. Summon the brass knuckles ad team. Cue the video of you and Ann holding hands at the hospital. Here’s the copy, gratis:
“In some ways Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are a lot alike. Each had to wrestle with the bad news that his wife was afflicted with cancer and multiple sclerosis.
"Romney reacted in a Romney way. He went to the hospital with Ann, his wife of 41 years and turned over every stone to find a cure.
"Gingrich went to the hospital too and in the inimitable Gingrich way he discussed divorce with Jackie, then open marriage, and divorce with Marianne.
"Run-around Newt, serial polygamist, consummate cad!”
It is past time to let it fly. But late is better than never. Show some leadership. Tell us what is really in your heart, man! Florida, Maine, Colorado and Nevada loom. The nomination could still be yours still.
Or, maybe not!