“Kiss my ass!”

As I opened the Internet screen this morning for my daily political “fix,” those were the words that greeted me. “Kiss my ass.” They were written in very, very large orange type and that last word was spelled “A$$.”

Regaining my elderly composure while adjusting the old tri-focals, I read more of the Huffington Post to find those were the very public words of a Mitt Romney staff member to the American media traveling with the candidate in Poland. Seems Romney staff people – blaming the media for reporting their bosses’ “hoof-in-mouth” statements to European leaders – have been trying to keep him and the media separated. Another ignorant Romney staff move.

A related story on political pages today had Romney surrogates all over national television and talk shows, blaming the media for reporting all the candidate’s poor grasp – and misuse – of not only the English language but the lack of diplomatic niceties required when interacting with heads of foreign governments. As if Romney had said nothing out of the ordinary.

I am not a fan of Mitt Romney. Based on his many, many miscues in this never-ending campaign, his inability to lead even in his own party, his public intransigence when it comes to revealing issues of his personal history relevant to seeking high public office and his own conflicting stories regarding his time at Bain Capital, I see almost nothing in him which suits him for the presidency. Many in his own party either rejects him outright or holds their collective nose.

That being said, Romney has to personally accept the failings of his campaign thus far. One reason: he’s surrounded himself with people who were either confidants of – or at the top of – the Bush campaigns in 2000-2004 and McCain’s 2008. Many from the neo-conservative wing. The often hawkish advice they’re giving him is wrong for the 2012 campaign. Militancy, sword-waving rhetoric is not what this campaign is – or should be – about. Times have changed. This is not 2000. Not 2004 or ‘08. But Romney has given them his ear. And he’s being poorly served.

Another failing: he has built a senior staff of seemingly the most incompetent people available to him. Many major problems he has can be traced to poor staff work. He’s been badly briefed on issues time after time. Those responsible for giving him working documents on European matters he’d surely confront failed as well. You don’t go into the Middle East – a part of the world where working solutions to centuries old problems have eluded all sides – and say the things he said. He appeared outright stupid. While he should have known better, that type of gaff can also be blamed on failure of key staff. Their job is to compile, outline and brief the candidate on all relevant issues. They failed. Or he didn’t listen.

Romney is exhibiting professional and personal character traits that are undercutting whatever his motivations may be for seeking the presidency. Rather than address the future, offering some sort of vision, putting some verbal meat on several key issues – economy, jobs, repairing national infrastructure – he’s pounding on his opponent and offering at best “I’m not him.” His opponent has a record. Some good. Some not so good. But Romney has failed to point out the “not-so-good” and offer his own ideas for improving things. That’s poor staff work. And his own poor judgment.

NBC’s Chuck Todd says this year’s political battle is one of “campaign smallness.” Instead of debating major issues which rightly differ between the parties – instead of offering solutions to our many national problems – instead of projecting some sort of more positive future for the country – we are lost in tax returns, contradictory Bain employment issues, candidate fog that displaces transparency, campaign trivia and dancing horses.

Have Democrats contributed to the problem? Certainly. The President is not without his faults. But he’s in a different place than Romney. Obama must defend a record while addressing issues still unresolved. But – his campaign is largely staffed by the same people who won in 2008 and who seem to be working just as smoothly in 2012. Like ‘em or don’t like ‘em – they’re pros.

It’s Romney who can’t clear the hurdles. His lengthy and steadfast refusal to provide his tax returns for 10 or so years is cancerous. Even some in the GOP are wondering why and speculation is replacing fact. What is he hiding? What does he mean when he says “I won’t give the opposition more ammunition to use against me?” What ammunition is in those documents? Details about what?

The European fiasco. Bad staff work. Missed opportunities to talk up both his candidacy and his country. A fast trip to Afghanistan or some other place where we have military under fire. Waving the American flag and not ballyhooing his run for office. Opportunities missed.

His basic campaign tone of negativity is costing him base support. He needs several very positive themes to repeat and repeat and repeat. He has to develop some optimistic talking points on the real issues and hammer them over and over again. He’s got to offer some solid reasons for changing horses. Dancing or otherwise. As in boxing, the challenger has to be better than the champ to take the title. At this point, he’s not.

The best thing Romney could do immediately to improve his chances in November would be to shut down the campaign for a week, clean out some of the neocons that have been giving him bad advice and fire several key members of his top staff. Talk to Republican pros – Gergen – Schmidt – Rollins – and bring in some “top guns” who know a goal line when they see it and how to get there. Put his fate in the hands of people he may not know well but who know how the game is played. And how to win. Then publish those damned returns.

But I’d bet he won’t. And the reason I’d offer is the same reason why I believe he would not be an effective president. Romney thinks of himself as his own man. He’s done what he’s done and achieved what he’s achieved being his own counsel. He thinks corporately – not politically. He’s what George Bush termed “decider-in-chief.” People of that mindset aren’t prone to relinquish control, put themselves in other people’s hands without a lengthy relationship and don’t readily accept advice from strangers.

No. I don’t think he’ll accept advice from here in the Southwest Oregon woods. No matter how sincerely offered. All I can do now is just steel myself for that impending email. The one with the very large orange letters. And those three words.

Comments are closed.