WASHINGTON - The prospect of Mitt Romney as president is becoming a scary prospect as he works to convince us he'd be a disaster. The question is why? Having had one of the worst GOP conventions ever, Romney still careens from one misstep to another.
Eager to be commander in chief, he failed in his acceptance speech to mention the war in Afghanistan or pay homage to our troops, the first time a GOP presidential nominee has failed to salute the military in half a century.
As this egregious error forced conservatives and liberals to criticize Romney, he petulantly complained about being picked on for his choice of words. Actually, he forgot about Afghanistan and the military. (Perhaps because neither he nor his five healthy sons served?) Problem One: Romney is unable to admit he made a mistake.
Next, Romney was savaged by conservative pundits for not being aggressive enough on the campaign trail.
Stung, Romney saw an opening to show he's tough when anti-American protests broke out in the Middle East over the Internet posting of a 14-minute trailer for a disgustingly stupid and sophomoric anti-Islam video.
When the U.S. embassy in Cairo, alarmed at the spreading violence, denounced the filmmaker for trying to stoke anti-American sentiment on the Arab street, Romney publicly castigated the Obama administration for "apologizing" to Middle Eastern mobs.
This is the statement Romney found reprehensible: "The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims -- as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions ... Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others." Did Romney apologize? He did not and continued criticizing President Barack Obama even after four Americans were killed in Libya. Republicans who were appalled at Romney's blunder (as well as his barreling into a foreign policy crisis by violating the rule that politics stops at the water's edge) were instructed to defend Romney. They dutifully, if not credibly, went back before TV cameras to say Romney's instincts to defend America were admirable.
Problem Two. Romney reacts without knowing all the facts.
Romney's missteps may be borne of desperation. Or Romney tends to "shoot first and aim later," as Obama charged. Obama said further: "It appears that Gov. Romney didn't have his facts right; (as president) it's important for you to make sure that the statements you make are backed up by the facts, and that you've thought through the ramifications before you make them." If Romney stuck to his message that he is better able than Obama to jump start the economy, specifics could make points with undecided voters. (He chose as his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who has the most specific budget plan in Congress.) But Romney refuses to be specific because the Romney-Ryan plan would drastically cut social programs to a degree even the conservative U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops found far too harsh.
Problem Three. Instead of presenting a coherent, detailed economic plan to woo voters desperate for jobs, Romney's whole strategy is to attack Obama although the stock market just reached a five-year high.
Fair-minded Americans are tiring of false attacks on Obama as not really American. (Hawaii remains a legitimate state.) Romney's "jokes" about birth certificates and constant hints Obama is dangerous and doesn't "understand" American values border on nastiness.
Problem Four. Romney is stoking the perception he will do or say anything to get elected.
And how would he be "tough" enough that China would play fair in trade, Iran would give up its nuclear ambitions, Russia would become a true democracy and all would respect human rights? He doesn't say.
How many wars does a man who forgot to mention the current one, let alone the men and women giving their lives to fight it, intend to start? Romney himself is contributing to the perception that although he is upper class, he is not a class act.
Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986. E-mail amcfeatters(at)nationalpress.com.