Aside from his reputation for flip-flopping on issues and tailoring every speech to suit the crowd he’s speaking to, until this week Mitt Romney has run an almost flawless campaign if such a word can be used, basically making fewer mistakes than his rivals.
Until this week, when he said he “enjoys firing people.” Now in fairness, Mitt meant that you should get good service from service providers and you should replace them if they don’t provide good service.
Mitt, until he used the word “fire,” had unlike his opponents, admirably, marvelously, common-sense-ically and to a large degree, avoided using flashpoint, controversial, lightening rod words. Until this week. Mitt! Don’t use the word fire. Instead, you say, “we have to let you go.”
That’s the modern, intelligent, politically correct way to say “fire,” although that opens you up to the possibility the person being fired could say, “That’s a lie, you don’t have to let me go. You are not required to let me go. That’s a choice you made.”
Using the word “fire” establishes you as a heartless corporate bastard, which perhaps in reality you really are.
The fallout from this to Mitt is unclear as Tuesday’s primary is being held as I write this. However and whatever, what you say or don’t say, and how you say it, should be required study for all potential future candidates. You can say almost anything and not take heat for it as long as you follow two simple rules.
Either don’t say it, or if you do, use what I call “benign double speak.” In other words, you say something that sounds profound, but in doing so, you don’t really say anything.
Let me give an example. Newt Gingrich said we could save money in schools if kids became janitors. Newt! Don’t say that. Are you stupid Newt? You won’t gain anything by saying that. First of all, we know it’s not going to happen. Kids are not going to become janitors. So why say it at all? What do you have to gain by saying it? Nobody wants their kid to be a janitor at their own school. They want their kid to learn and get a good paying job. Everybody wants the janitor at the school to have the janitor job.
Not some kid.
Newt, why would you, a supposedly intelligent man, say something like that?
Instead of saying, “kids should become janitors,” say, “I would like to see children take a more active role in the day-to-day activities of their school so that education can be a meaningful and cost-effective experience.”
See Newt? Who would disagree with that? Newt! If you can’t practice restraint or common sense in what comes out of your mouth, I don’t want you in the White House. Ever!
What about Rick Santorum? In his anti-gay campaign, he said “marriage is not about affirming love for somebody else, it’s about uniting together about being open to (having) children, to further civilization.”
Really dumb Rick. How many people (voters) Rick, straight or gay, marry not for love, or at least what they think is love, but simply to procreate more ideal future conservatives like yourself? Maybe you would if you’re a Gestapo SS officer at a Nazi-run Lebensborn SS stud farm.
Instead of saying, “marriage is not for love,” use benign double speak. Say, “Marriage is uniting to produce the best that we have within us.” Don’t qualify the sexual persuasion of who is to enjoy this non-love bliss if you want gay voters to vote for you.
One of the fascinating things about conservatives like Newt and Rick and that Mitt had largely avoided during the campaign is the apparent belief that they can insult or alienate huge blocks of voters, gays, African Americans, whoever, and still be elected. They seem unable to comprehend that only a more centrist inclusionary candidate can win.
Rick Perry said in June 2011 about the economy “we are going through difficult times for a purpose.” Rick. C’mon! If you’re trying to say that poverty is good for poor people because it builds character, it’s not going to fly with all those voters out of a job.
Instead, say, “we’re going through difficult times. I can help get us out.”
How hard is it to say that?
Mitt Romney up until the “firing” remark has run a campaign of understatement reminiscent of both Tom Dewey in 1948 and Bob Dole in 1996. Dewey ran against Truman by saying little while tough little Harry barnstormed the country winning hearts. In Dole’s case it was hard to tell he was running at all. He never said anything memorable. Dewey lost to Truman. Dole to Clinton.
Mitt’s understatement campaign, acting more moderate and superior, above it all, letting his opponents tear each other up, appear like fringe lunatics, unless Mitt says something else stupid, might just work this time out.