‘I like being able to fire people’

Mitt Romney’s detractors in both parties are eager to point out one of the more glaring problems with the former governor’s background: he’s put thousands of Americans out of work.

And with that push in mind, Romney’s critics could hardly believe their good fortune this morning when he spoke to the Nashua Chamber of Commerce in New Hampshire. Here’s the clip from the DNC:

It’s a line I guarantee voters will be hearing again: “I like being able to fire people.”

In fairness, the context makes an enormous difference. Laura Conaway reports this morning that Romney was talking about health insurance when he said, “I want individuals to have their own insurance. That means the insurance company will have an incentive to keep you healthy. It also means if you don’t like what they do, you can fire them. I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. You know if someone doesn’t give me a good service that I need, I want to say I’m going to go get someone else to provide that service to me.”

I think I see the point Romney was trying to get at, but for a guy with an atrocious jobs record, who got very wealthy laying off American workers, “I like being able to fire people” is a seven-word phrase that may prove tough to live down.

Dems were quick to send around the above clip, but let’s not forget that Romney’s GOP rivals noticed the quote, too. Jon Huntsman said this morning, “What’s clear is he likes firing people; I like creating jobs.”

Now, I suspect Romney and his team will insist that the line is being taken out of context, and when they make their case, the argument will have merit. But let’s not forget that Romney and his campaign have already forfeited any credibility on this subject — Team Romney’s very first television ad wrenched an Obama quote from context, on purpose, and when asked for an explanation, the former governor said he just didn’t care.

Indeed, just last month, a top Romney campaign official said all campaign messages “propaganda” and “agitprop,” so there’s no point in worrying about niceties such as context.

It leaves Romney in an awkward position: he thinks it’s acceptable to take others’ words out of context, but doesn’t want to be treated the same way.