Bob Franken

King Features Column

   (As usual, the syndication agreement means this column appears here a week after its newspaper release)

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       FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, FEB. 28, 2012
       It’s the Romney team’s campaign salute: the head in the hand, shaking in disgusted misery. At least it ought to be. How about that “major economic address” their guy gave in Detroit? Let me quote a longtime political advance man: “What a debacle! What awful optics!”
       By “optics,” he meant the bizarre backdrop. Empty seats … thousands upon thousands of them, in Ford Field, which is where the Detroit Lions play NFL football. Mitt was seen playing to 1,200 people, establishment types all, members of the Detroit Economic Club. They were scrunched together in a tiny corner of the surface, the TV shots making the candidate and his audience look itty-bitty when framed against row after row of unoccupied stands in a cavernous structure that packs in 65,000 people. Somehow, even with all the money his campaign has, that was the best shot his gaggle of consultants could contrive.
       With that “optic,” can anyone remember a word the candidate said? Oh wait, there was one little tidbit: In his “golly gee” kinda way, he wanted to remind everyone he had grown up in Michigan, that he was just one of them, a native-son stalwart for the U.S. auto industry. That claim of innate support seems inane to many who recall how he opposed the bailout, but never mind that. “I like the fact that most of the cars I see are Detroit-made automobiles,” he insisted. But he was just revving up: “I drive a Mustang and a Chevy pickup truck. Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually.”
       His wife drives not just one but TWO Cadillacs?! Truly head-in-the-hand material. When his consultants aren’t blowing it big-time themselves, they hover around their boss trying to make sure he doesn’t. It’s a lost cause. There have been so many unscripted bonehead moments when he’s tried to pull off that “I can relate” act, and each makes it clear he doesn’t relate: the $10,000 debate bet he wanted to make with Rick Perry; the $374,000 in one year’s speaking fees that he described as “not very much”; his assertion that he “likes to be able to fire people”; “corporations are people”; the hits keep comin’.

       It’s not a huge stretch to cite the Broadway show “Camelot,” where King Arthur and Guinevere sing “What Do the Simple Folk Do?”:
       “However do they manage to shed their weary lot; Oh what do the simple folk do, we do not.”
       The royals didn’t have a clue. And the same question seems to be a royal pain for the tone-deaf Mitt Romney. The endless song and dance about his ability to solve problems through razor-sharp management goes flat, considering all the trouble he has with mismanaged staff. There is no way in the world that experienced political professionals would have allowed that football-field fiasco to happen. Their frantic petty efforts to blame the Economic Club, Secret Service agents … ANYBODY else, worsen the embarrassment.
       Is it any wonder that Rick Santorum or even Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul could still be challenging Romney? Let’s face it, that’s a pretty weird collection. But with all his money, the massive organization, Mitt Romney hasn’t been able to crush them. Come to think of it, “organization” is the wrong word.
       Granted, the hard-liners in his party desperately want “Anybody But Mitt,” suspicious of his claims to be a “severe conservative.” Even Ann Romney was moved to say of her husband: “Maybe I should just do all the talking …”
       That might help with half the problem. There’s still a staff that also struggles, to put it mildly. So much so that large portions of his own party continue to have their own salute for his campaign. You’ll just have figure out what it is.
       © 2012 Bob Franken
       Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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