If Mitt Romney really wants to demonstrate that he’s not simply pandering when he tells us how conservative he is, he needs to fire his campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom. On CNN, Mr. Fehrnstrom said that no matter how conservative the governor may sound on the campaign trail now, come the fall campaign he can “hit a reset button.” He went on to say, “It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”
As Yuval Levin noted on National Review’s The Corner, if you had asked what would “do the most damage to Romney’s support among conservatives, and … then strained to imagine the stupidest thing they could possibly say, [you] might well have come up with something like Eric Fehrnstrom’s comment on CNN.
By any objective measure, it’s of course unjust to fire a man for one errant remark. Politics, however, isn’t fair, and neither is the presidency. Mr. Romney’s problem is not his policies or programs; his problem is his credibility: many people just don’t believe he really believes what he is telling us. Firing Mr. Fehrnstrom would be a welcome signal that Mr. Romney is offended by any suggestion, no matter how much it might be later explained away, that he does not really believe what he says — and is ready, willing, and able to erase it away when he thinks he needs to. The worst part is that Mr. Fehrnstrom does not appear to have chosen unfortunate words that distort what he was trying to say. To the contrary, his problem is that he appears to have inadvertently expressed what he, and by extension the Romney campaign, really does think.
This is a tough decision for any candidate. We’ll learn something by Mr. Romney’s reaction.