Not-So-Rapid Response

It seems a bit of conventional wisdom about Mitt Romney’s s-l-o-w political reflexes is beginning to form in Our Nation’s Capital, viz. this snippet from NBC’s First Read:

If there is a constant criticism about Mitt Romney and his campaign from both the left and right, it’s that they’re not nimble — especially when it comes to dealing with issues they’d prefer to ignore. And yesterday was a perfect example of this. Even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Arizona’s immigration law shouldn’t have been a surprise and even though Romney was holding a fundraiser in Arizona (of all places!!!), it took the candidate and campaign hours to finally tell the public what they thought of the decision. First came a press release that didn’t signal if Romney agreed with the decision (and which parts). Then came a seven-minute press scrum in which a Romney press secretary refused to comment on the merits of the SCOTUS decision. And finally came Romney’s remarks at the Arizona fundraiser in which he appeared to disagree with the thrust of the ruling. “I would have preferred to see the Supreme Court give more latitude to the states not less,” he said, per NBC’s Garrett Haake. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Much of a president’s job is crisis management, and the only way to succeed is being nimble. That Team Romney seems to struggle with this aspect of the job is a potential warning sign for a challenger against an incumbent president.

This assessment assumes that Team Romney would be “nimble” if it could, and is just screwing up. I hope that is the case. But I suspect that not talking about the news of the day and than talking vaguely and tardily about it is precisely what the campaign wanted to do. They could care less if that inconvenienced the media or left a bad impression with the cognoscenti, all of whom will be treating them as strategic geniuses if they win.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.