Willard the Wuss

Mitt Romney’s interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier on Tuesday was a bit of a disaster. The Republican presidential candidate, who generally goes out of his way to avoid anyone challenging him on anything, came across as combative, agitated, and overly defensive.

It’s one thing, though, to screw up a media appearance. It’s something else to whine about the questions.

Baier told Bill O’Reilly last night that Romney complained directly to Baier — twice — that the questions were “overly aggressive” and “uncalled for.”

After having seen the interview with the candidate, there’s just nothing there to complain about. Some of the questions were tough, but there were no cheap shots, and we certainly didn’t see Baier interrupting Romney the way he did with President Obama in March.

But even if Romney convinced himself that the interview was outrageous, complaining about it is, as Nate Silver put it, “Drudge-siren level stupid.”

There’s a growing sense that Mitt Romney is, for lack of a better word, a wuss. Even if voters were willing to overlook Romney’s incessant flip-flopping, his inexperience, his affinity for Wall Street elites, and his far-right platform, most Americans just don’t care for candidates who convey weakness.

And Republicans who can’t handle interviews on Fox News are, I’m afraid, just weak.

What’s more, notice how this ties into the larger concerns we’ve seen in recent months about Romney’s apparent cowardice: the former governor is afraid to lead, afraid to tell the truth, afraid of core principles, and afraid to be consistent. Now he’s afraid of tough questions, too.

Once a politician develops a reputation as a coward, it’s awfully tough to repair that image.

In the meantime, the DNC put together this video yesterday — before we learned about Romney whining to Baier — noting the reactions to Romney’s interview. It’s pretty brutal.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.