In defense of Eric Fehrnstrom, post-Etch A Sketch gaffe
A too-casual remark by Eric Fehrnstrom, Mitt Romney’s right-hand man, went viral yesterday after he said the post-primary phase is “like a Etch A Sketch. You can shake it up and we start all over again.”
Democrats and Romney’s rivals are having a field day with Fernstrom’s blunder.
“Romney Etch A Sketch” is the first response now if you start filling in “Romney” on Google.
And it’s easy to imagine the ensuing campaign commercial: an outline of Romney gets repeatedly shaken up on an Etch A Sketch board, accompanied by a voiceover darkly painting him as someone who keeps changing shape.
But if you take out the “Etch A Sketch” mention, Fehrnstrom’s commentary would have been wholly unremarkable.
You can bet he’d like to walk back the gaffe. And sure, high-priced political handlers should bring their A-game while speaking to the media, let alone an outlet such as CNN.
But Fehrnstrom was mostly acknowledging a time-honored political truth; Democrats tend to tack to the left during primaries, and Republicans to the right, before they reach for the center during general elections.
The Etch A Sketch caper sparked a rapt reaction since it was simple, easy to understand, self-damaging, and highly impolitic. These same reasons help explain why we live in an age when most politicians remain constantly on-message, fearful of making a goofy mistake.
*Fun fact/disclosure: Fehrnstrom graduated ahead of me from Boston University. I once gave him a lift to work when he was at the Boston Herald. We haven’t talked in years.