Live by the op-ed, die by the op-ed.
Expected Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney learned that today, when he made an apparent gaffe in what has become the favored form of communication in his carefully choreographed pre-campaign run-up: the newspaper op-ed column.
The former Massachusetts governor found that when you virtually limit your media exposure to written columns, as opposed to unrestricted media questions, you can control your message but you also leave no one else to blame when there's trouble.
In a piece for the New Hampshire Union Leader, Romney again excoriated President Obama for Standard & Poor's announcing that it was changing its long-term view for US treasuries from "stable to "negative."
While the rating agency retained the country's AAA bond rating, Romney jumped on its warning (which, incidentally, was directed at both to the White House and Congress).
"Barack Obama is facing a financial emergency on a grander scale," he wrote. "Yet his approach has been to engage in one of the biggest peacetime spending binges in American history. With its failed stimulus package, its grandiose new social programs, its fervor for more taxes and government regulations, and its hostility toward business, the administration has made the debt problem worse, hindered economic recovery and needlessly cost American workers countless jobs."
Romney's use of the word "peacetime" prompted questions in a country at war in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and which led a coalition no-fly zone over Libya. The first two actions were started by Obama's predecessor, fellow Republican President Bush; the latter was begun by the current president, a Democrat.
That inconsistency was pointed out by news organizations, as well as by the Democratic National Committee and Democrats in the lead presidential primary state of New Hampshire.
And that prompted Romney to issue a clarification this afternoon.
"He meant to say, `Since World War II,'" said spokeswoman Andrea Saul.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.