By now, critics large and small have joined in the media firestorm ignited by statements Mitt Romney made while being secretly recorded during a dinner at a GOP fundraiser. It’s safe to say the fallout from this blow-up isn’t going anywhere fast.
But lost in the path of uncomfortably revealing truths — such as the assertion that 47 percent of Americans are dependent on the government and that the Israel-Palestine conflict is unresolvable due to Palestinians commitment to violence — therein lies the reality that Romney doesn’t seem comfortable in the public eye.
At a recent fundraising event, Romney was asked about why he wasn’t more visible in the media compared with the president. In response, Romney cited a number of appearances he has made on talk shows (see below and jump to 9-minute mark in the video below to watch his response).
But even while pointing out times he’d been on “The View” and Leno, Romney seemed unnerved by this part of campaigning, saying, “‘The View’ is fine. Although ‘The View’ is high risk, because of the five women on it only one is conservative, and four are sharp-tongued and not conservative. Whoopi Goldberg in particular.” (Sharp-tongued? Must be very painful, Mitt.)
He went on to say that wading in the late-night pool can be dramatic as well. Romney has appeared on ‘The Tonight Show with Jay Leno’ more often and because of that, ”Letterman hates me now. They’re very jealous of each other, as you know.”
Whether or not party lines are being drawn between networks or talk shows hosts is still up for debate, however President Obama did appear on the David Letterman show on Tuesday night (where he took time to point out, “One thing I’ve learned as president is that you represent the entire country,” no less).
In the final stretch of the campaign season, Team Romney and Team Obama may push their candidates into the spotlight as much as possible. But Romney’s statements, made this past May, reveal an interesting tension about his relationship with the media — namely, his uncertain role in popular culture.
In his Letterman interview, the president brings the banter. During a conversation on their similar weights, Letterman notes that the president has “never seen [him] naked.” President Obama quips quickly in reply, “We’re gonna keep it that way.”
Meanwhile, a prerecorded interview on Kelly Ripa’s show, Romney awkwardly fielded questions about his sleep attire (“as little as possible.”) In previous interviews, he’s mentioned his family’s penchant for playing pranks where “humor was involved one way or another.” The stiffness of such statements, lines like how he “lives for laughter,” seem disingenuous at best and like pandering to voters at worst. Surely someone who puts humor at such a high premium wouldn’t balk at the chance to appear on one of the nation’s most well-known political comedy programs.
And yet, Romney was invited to appear on SNL this past weekend and declined, saying it had “the potential of looking slapstick and not presidential.” (Though, in all fairness, we’ll give him that. One need look no further than Tina Fey’s impersonation of Sarah Palin during the 2008 election for evidence.)
We get it, though. Playing it cool on TV isn’t easy, and that’s without a summer of gaffes behind you. And given the pressure his campaign is under these days, it’s understandable that Romney would want to avoid any further potential PR missteps.
But Romney isn’t alone in his self-consciousness within the wide media universe. In the October issue of Vanity Fair, “Moneyball” author Michael Lewis profiled President Obama, who offered his own take on being watched (and by extension, judged) by an endless prime-time audience.
“One of the things you realize fairly quickly in this job is that there is a character people see out there called Barack Obama. That’s not you. Whether it is good or bad, it is not you.”
Tonight on “The War Room” we discuss more of how the secret video posted by Mother Jones has stirred up trouble for the Romney campaign. Guests Wayne Slater, Mark Zandi and Dan Siegel join us on topics ranging from the fiscal crisis to the latest super PAC mobile apps, and more. Tune in to Current TV at 7 p.m. PT / 10 p.m. ET.