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Winners and losers: Romney is Etch-ed; Newt gets sensitive; sympathy for the sergeant in Afghan case

James L. McIntire, Washington's State Treasurer

Mitt Romney continues his winner-loser ping-pong match. It’s a familiar cycle: come out of a big primary (this time, the win in Illinois), then do a face-plant during the victory lap. And yes, it is a pattern (see Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida, Michigan…). 

A Romney aide inadvertently confirmed some of the worst suspicions about the candidate by virtually promising that Romney will change his positions implying that, ideologically, the candidate was an Etch-a-Sketch, just him turn over, shake, and you have a blank slate. Run right, zag center, reboot for the fall. Nobody’s hurt, nobody remembers. So much for the GOP frontrunner as a man of convictions.

Romney’s opponents seized on the characterization and began flourishing Etch-a-Sketches on the campaign trail, their hopes, if not their delegate counts, revived. It all but squashed the news that Jeb Bush had finally come down off the fence and endorsed Romney, albeit without much enthusiasm and in the cause of putting the primary campaign out of its misery.

Etch-a-Sketch is a classic toy made by the Ohio Art Company, great for car trips. Dang, why didn’t he just give Seamus one for that trip to Canada? Etch-a-Sketch sales boomed — spiking on Amazon — as a result of the publicity. Romney should capitalize: Mitt’s creating jobs in Ohio!

Gaffes are gaffes, not scandals. Still, as the 40th anniversary of Watergate looms (June 17), one wonders if Romney shouldn’t go into damage control with operation Mitt-i-gate. All told, he’s a loser this week.

More winners and losers:

Mitt, at least, is stumbling forward. His opponents are both losing and falling behind. Santorum seems to have caught Mitt’s Disease, which must be related to Tourette’s Syndrome. You unintentionally blurt out your real beliefs. Santorum has embraced a moral values campaign, and has boldly stated, and then restated, that it’s not the economy, stupid, it’s the condoms and porn. He did this by saying he didn’t care about the unemployment rate. Not exactly a great recession strategy.

Romney doesn’t care about the poor and is inconsistent to a fault, and Santorum doesn’t care about the unemployed and is consistent to a fault. Where does that leave Newt Gingrich? He’s in back of the pack and cares about one thing consistently: himself. The demi-god of Grandiosity is going deep into campaign debt to run his losing campaign in the remote hope of being a kingmaker at the GOP convention or a cabinet appointment (Moon Secretary?). But am I missing something? Can’t he just put the campaign on his interest-free revolving credit account at Tiffany’s? Maybe he could put the national debt there too.

Newt continued his audacious act by criticizing actor Robert De Niro for what Newt says was a racially divisive comment about white First Ladies (is America ready for one? De Niro joked at a Democratic fundraiser). It’s classic Newt: The guy who referred to Barack Obama as “the food stamp president” is now worried about race, at least his race anyway. Newt is adopting the sensitivities of his overly PC enemies on the far left. He’s setting himself up to be “the foot stamp president.”

Another loser: What is it Republicans have about wasting energy? In 1964, Lyndon Johnson voluntarily decided to turn out some lights at the White House to conserve electricity. Barry Goldwater and the GOP pounced. Their slogan: “Light Bulb Johnson, Turn Him Out in November.” This year, it’s the new energy efficient light bulbs law, which has been bipartisan, signed by George W. Bush, and embraced by industry itself. But, no, according to Romney and other Republicans it’s another socialist plot by Obama to disgrace the memory of Thomas Edison! Obama is being ridiculed for suggesting that America being more energy efficient. Who took “conserve” out of “conservatism?”

Speaking of past presidents, architect Frank Gehry has stepped in it by designing what appears to be the EMP of presidential memorials. The Dwight D. Eisenhower family absolutely hates his proposed monument for the former U.S. president and great World War II general. Looking at the concept, you have to wonder: Whatever happened to making a statue of a statesman? Why eat up so much real estate? Why get so conceptual? Is there a marble shortage? And why show Eisenhower as a barefoot farm boy and not as the guy who grew up and became leader of the free world who also used his booted adult foot to kick Hitler’s ass? 

Winner: In terms of bold initiatives, the Obama administration looks to become the one that not only bagged bin Laden, but found Amelia.

On the home front, attorney John Henry Browne — fresh from the Barefoot Bandit case — is already mounting a vigorous defense of Lewis-McChord Army Sgt. Robert Bales, the soldier accused of massacring 17 Afghan civilians, including women and children, and single-handedly monkey-wrenching U.S. policy there. Our sympathies are being played to (Bales, we’re told, has brain damage, post-traumatic stress disorder, money troubles, family troubles, he saw terrible things, he was drinking…) But as Peter Callaghan pointed out in the hometown Tacoma News-Tribune this week, aren’t we risking forgetting a war crime, and forgiving an alleged war criminal? In the short term, Browne, who has been called “a pitbull on crack,” is a winner this week for getting out in front of public perception in order to fend off the death penalty.

Another winner in Olympia might be State Treasurer Jim McIntire, a steady hand on the financial tiller. McIntire has decried gimmicks in both the Democratic and GOp state budgets, but he appears to have come up with a third way: a gimmick of his own. Or a change of administrative procedure in how state sales taxes are transferred from the state to cities. One little alteration will produce up $230 million more in cash-flow for state coffers. Why hasn’t this been done before? It might be the idea that will help solve Olympia’s budget gridlock. It also suggests that not all gimmicks are equal. What others are there that have the apparent virtue of being mostly gain and no pain?

Losers include the state’s extreme greens who want to “re-wild” some of our natural areas, closing off access and eliminating infrastructure from public lands. A focal point is in the Glacier Peak Wilderness in the Cascades and a dispute over whether or not to fix washed out roads or let things return to nature. You know things have gone too far when devoted green, hiker, and nature-worshipper Joel Connelly is pissed off at environmental extremism. If people can’t get into the wilds to experience them, will they continue to exist?

Knute Berger discusses the news of the week on a KUOW Weekday roundtable led by KUOW’s Steve Scher at 10 a.m. on Fridays. Hear it at KUOW 94.9 FM or online.

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