I have a lot of sympathy for Mitt Romney. That’s because one thing I've learned over 40-plus years in Washington is that the worst wounds are self inflicted. Pedicide is the act of shooting one's self in the foot, and the shot is fired from the mouth. Mitt Romney just shot himself in both feet with both barrels and he did it all by himself without the help of his aides, consultants, advisors, surrogates or anyone else.
He can share the blame with the iPhone and all the other pocket gizmos with built-in cameras and the ability to send them worldwide via YouTube. Having it on video makes it more difficult to deny, though film clips can be edited to misrepresent what was said.
That didn’t happen to Romney with his infamous candid 47% remarks at a fundraiser in the home of a super-rich donor. But it may have happened to a video of comments made by then-State Sen. Barack Obama in 1998 about “redistribution.” An NBC News investigation suggested that the version being used by the Romney campaign had been edited and was misleading.
And you know if it wasn't on video but only a printed version the candidates would deny every word of it. “It never happened. That’s not what I said. I was taken out of context.”
But the real problem often is not so much what was said but that it becomes a distraction and voters miss the message the candidate wants to get out. That’s what happened at the GOP convention when Clint Eastwood’s performance got more attention than what was supposed to be the most important speech Mitt Romney ever made. The 47% tape did that to him again, as the Wall Street Journal headline said, "Romney Video Crowds Out Bid to Sharpen His Message"
Every politician has the problem — as GOP likes to point out with a recording of Obama four years ago saying some small town folks "cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them.'' Now it’s his 14-year-old “redistribution” line.
John Harwood has a Top Ten list of political tripping over their tongues and producing gaffes, “some obscuring their actual meaning, others accidentally revealing it.”
Take some pity on these politicians. They’re under a lot of pressure, giving a lot of speeches, trying to sound interesting and original, spending endless hours shaking hands and riding on planes and buses, speaking to hundreds of people, shaking hands and having to smile and look happy through it all.
And there’s no mercy in the age of the iPhone and YouTube.