There he goes again.
I’m sure Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom is a nice guy. Doubtless he loves dogs, cats, family and colleagues.
But for the second time in a matter of months Mr. Fehrnstrom has managed to shoot his candidate in the foot — by flatly contradicting Governor Romney’s message.
The last time, under intense scrutiny by conservatives that prompted the Governor to show up at CPAC and proclaim himself a “severe conservative” — Fehrnstrom took to the airwaves sometime later to say that well, no. Once Governor Romney was nominated he would morph into an “etch-a-sketch” candidate.
There was the inevitable rush of apologies and, predictably, the story vanished.
Now comes yet another Fehrnstrom story. Worse …infinitely worse…than the first.
There was a small matter of a Supreme Court decision. In which, infamously, Chief Justice John Roberts voted with liberals to uphold ObamaCare — by declaring the mandate a tax.
Now let’s recall the zillion times candidate Romney insisted — under withering criticism — that his views on health care (“RomneyCare”) for Massachusetts did not, would not, could not — not a thousand times ever and ever — apply to America as a whole. No sireeeeeeeeeeee Bob.
Then, literally within days of the Supreme Court decision that by a 5-4 vote say the mandate is a tax, not a penalty, there is Mr. Fehrnstrom on MSNBC to directly contradict his own boss.
Here’s the key conversation between Fehrnstrom and MSNBC’s Chuck Todd:
TODD: Okay. Which — so I guess — we’re — I think we’re talking around each other. The governor does not believe the mandate is a tax? That is what you’re saying?
FEHRNSTROM: The governor believes that what we put in place in Massachusetts was a penalty and he disagrees with the court’s ruling that the mandate was a tax.
Got it? Now the Romney campaign is not only agreeing with President Obama and Nancy Pelosi, they are saying exactly the opposite of what the Governor said in the primary. Which was that “the last thing” he would ever do was “to take what we had done for one state and impose it on the entire nation.”
Now, it seems, while the idea of the mandate was seen by Governor Romney as a penalty in Massachusetts — lo and behold — according to Mr. Fehrnstrom, Governor Romney now believes it applies in exactly the same fashion in the nation as a whole! What was a penalty in Massachusetts must now be seen as a penalty for the entire nation — not a tax!
Which is to say, either Governor Romney spent the whole season fibbing to Republicans when he said what applied in Massachusetts did not apply nationally — or… well… or?
Is this really true?
Is Team Romney suddenly being gifted with one of the greatest gifts in presidential campaign history — only to deliberately kick the ball away?
Or, was the Governor never a believer all along in his well-stated opinion that there were two rules on health care –one for states and one for the country?
Did Governor Romney really never believe that what applied to the states — in this case that the mandate was a penalty — should never be applied to the nation as a whole?
And has he now changed his mind, disagreeing with the Chief Justice who has now said, quite plainly speaking for the majority of the Court, that the mandate is a national tax.
By the grace of the Fourth of July holiday this latest Fehrnstrom contradiction may — may — vanish into the holiday ether. But it will kick around forever somewhere. As a reminder that the next time Mr. Fehrnstrom shows up on television it should be somewhere after President Romney gives his second-term farewell address.
And it’s also a reminder that:
1) Presidential nominees need to coordinate their message with the Congressional leadership of their party (leaders Boehner, McConnell and Ryan were all well out there on the tax message); and;
2) If Governor Romney has in fact moved from position (A) — that what applied at the state level doesn’t apply at the national level — to position (B) –that, well, he was just misinterpreted and that he’s now a big believer that what happened in Massachusetts shouldn’t stay in Massachusetts then there is….
A problem. A big one.
And in the public discussion of this problem, Eric Fehrnstrom should be anywhere but within reach of a television camera.