Mitt Romney clearly wishes he could take back the line, “I like being able to fire people,” but since that’s not an option, it’s up to him, his campaign, and its surrogates to downplay the story’s significance.

There’s a perfectly sound response to this: explain the intended context and move on. But Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) appeared on MSNBC earlier and took a very different approach.

“Yesterday, [Romney] said something about firing people,” Grimm said. “I think it was a very good thing because it’s honest and it’s real.”

That’s not much of a defense. To hear the freshman Republican put it, Romney’s right to enjoy being able to fire people. Never mind the context and intended meaning, Grimm is blowing past the Romney campaign’s talking points and making the case that Americans should want a president who takes pleasure in layoffs.

It’s “real.”

Incidentally, Rush Limbaugh told his audience something similar today, arguing, “Don’t we want somebody who loves firing people” in the White House?

If Democrats are unrealistically lucky, the debate going forward will be over whether Romney is right or wrong to enjoy firing people.

Postscript: By the way, if Grimm’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the guy who based his congressional campaign on attacking health care reform, and then offered a hilarious response when asked if he’d be willing to give up government-subsidized health care for himself.

“What am I, not supposed to have health care?” Grimm said soon after getting elected. “It’s practicality. I’m not going to become a burden for the state because I don’t have health care, and God forbid I get into an accident and I can’t afford the operation. That can happen to anyone.”

Note to the Romney camp: this guy may not be the ideal surrogate for national television.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. 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.