Romney’s Whiff-a-Thon: He and His Advisers Are on Different Pages
One would think that Dan Senor, of all of Mitt Romney’s advisers, would be the last one to get crossways with the candidate. Senor, like Romney, is a Harvard M.B.A. and a successful Wall Streeter who has nimbly straddled the world of finance and politics, and whose somewhat hawkish, neoconservative views of the world are largely in accord with Romney’s.
And Senor, the former spokesman for President Bush’s Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, has been advising Romney for the better part of a year, at least informally, especially on Israel and Iran. Indeed, according to a senior Romney aide, Senor has been instrumental in pressing Romney to make President Obama’s alleged mistakes and weakness over Iran’s nuclear program a centerpiece of the candidate’s foreign-policy critique.
So it is all the more striking that, after a gaffe-replete London trip that featured at least one big embarrassing mistake by another adviser, Romney and Senor still don’t seem to be entirely on the same page on Iran. Senor, briefing reporters on Sunday, indicated that Romney would back a unilateral strike on Iran by Israel. “If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability the governor would respect that decision,” he said. But Romney himself, speaking later to ABC News, appeared to pull back slightly from Senor’s characterization. “I think I’ll use my own terms in that regard and that is that I recognize the right of Israel to defend itself,” Romney said. Not a huge difference, but enough to be noticed.
Senor, responding to a request for comment by email, told National Journal that there was no real difference between his and Romney’s statements, and that the matter had been blown out of proportion by a “wire reporter.” Romney “effectively repeated my language in his speech,” Senor said.
Earlier this month, another adviser, Rich Williamson, building on Romney’s hard-line description of Russia as America’s “No. 1 geopolitical foe,” mistakenly referred to Russia as the “Soviet Union.”
The question is: Why does this keep happening in Romneyland? Is it evidence of a chronically disorganized campaign - or, more likely, do these mishaps reveal a candidate whose views keep evolving and are simply hard to pin down, even for his aides? Even Eric Fehrnstrom, one of Romney’s longest-serving and most loyal aides, seems to be having trouble keeping up with Morphing Mitt. After the Supreme Court upheld Obama’s health care plan in early July, Fehrnstrom flatly told MSNBC that it was “correct” to say that Romney doesn’t believe the individual mandate penalty is a “tax.” But a few days later, Romney told CBS that because the Supreme Court majority had concluded the penalty was a tax, he himself had to call it a tax, too. “They have spoken,” he said. “Therefore it is a tax.” (Even though Romney plainly said he disagreed with the majority on just about everything else.)