WASHINGTON — Really, you'd think with all their money, vaunted organization skills and control-freak machinery, Mitt Romney's people could get someone to translate for us when he talks off the cuff.
We have to listen to this guy every single day for the next nine months, possibly the next nine months and four years. It would be much less exhausting and unnerving if we knew that when he talks about the poor, the middle-class, the rich and life in general, what he says is not necessarily what he means. (Although, apparently, it sometimes is. Ergo, that translator.)
Romney's gaffes are made-for-cable-TV staples. We know them by heart: Corporations are people, my friend; I'm not concerned about the very poor — they have an ample safety net; Care to make a $10,000 bet?; I like firing people who provide services to me; I'm running for office, for Pete's sake, I can't have illegals; There were a couple of times I wondered if I was going to get a pink slip; I'm unemployed, too.
The $200 million man is human, that we know. He says he is using his energy to run for president to improve life for the middle class. (The very poor aren't Americans?) He is running to preserve tax breaks for the rich because he doesn't believe in class warfare. He is running to get rid of regulations because corporations should make more money. But, really, he empathizes with the middle class, whoever they are.
It's all very tedious. But the White House is taking this very seriously because President Barack Obama and his people know well that once the silly GOP primary season is over, this will be a deadly fight to the finish.
If Obama has a billion to spend trying to get re-elected, Republicans ultimately will rally about Romney to make sure he has at least a billion. Once the Supreme Court ended campaign spending and disclosure restraints, assuring that multimillionaires can fund Super PACs backing candidates as fast as they can write checks, democratic elections flew out the window. There are millionaires right now signing checks for millions of dollars hoping to influence the November election.
The nastiness between Romney and Newt Gingrich will only intensify. As Iowa, South Carolina and Florida proved, negative advertising works exceedingly well. If you call Mr. X a liar, Mr. Y an incompetent boob and Mr. Z an evil traitor twice every hour, all day, week after week, voters will hate the ads but still think Mr. X is a liar, Mr. Y stupid and Mr. Z dangerous.
Karl Rove, dubbed George W. Bush's brain, is raising millions of dollars for anti-Obama TV ads. And they don't give the president credit for saving the domestic auto industry, getting rid of Osama bin Laden, helping end the tyranny of Moammar Gadhafi, ending the war in Iraq, overhauling health insurance or preventing another depression.
Rove's ads pillory Obama as solely responsible for the $15 trillion national debt, 13 million unemployed Americans and underwater houses. Obama: "The Defending Undisputed Debt King."
Obama's ads will re-spew all the anti-Romney digs that Gingrich dug up or, perish the thought, just show Romney flip-flopping off the cuff.
When the general election starts, we must demand to know how the candidates would solve our problems. Exactly how would Romney create American jobs? Exactly how would Obama balance the budget? How would Romney fix Washington?
Meanwhile, Romney is quivering in self-proclaimed "delight" at the egotistical billionaire Donald Trump's endorsement. (Remember Romney sneaking out the back door to avoid photographers while currying favor from Trump earlier in the game? Recall Trump's trashing of Romney as a "small-time" businessman who fires people?)
If anyone in America is saying, "Whoopee! Trump backing Romney is good enough for me," that person deserves the next nine months of nuttiness, nastiness and figuring out what tone-deaf Romney means all by himself.
McFeatters, a columnist for Scripps Howard News Service, has covered the White House and national politics since 1986. E-mail her at email@example.com.