I know this has been covered already but David Reinhard did a great job... Here it is.
The canned events, dog 'n' pony shows, sound bites and photo-ops — no wonder voters become desperate for authenticity, real emotion, a true look into a would-be president's heart and soul?
We turn to candidate debates hoping for a bit of spontaneity. Some candidates oblige with a seemingly spontaneous line. But most often these bloodless affairs are little more than serial press statements hurled at barely related questions, slogans in search of car bumpers. We're left asking what's this or that candidate really like when the tape's not on — or when he thinks it's not on. How does he or she react in unplanned or uncomfortable situations?
We came close to seeing that last week in Iowa with a candidate in need of letting down his perfect hair on an issue he has every right to vent on.
Enter Mitt Romney into a cramped studio in Dowling. He was there for a sit-down with talk-radio host Jan Mickelson.
Romney has two problems as a candidate. One is that he's almost too perfect. He has a stellar resume, a storybook family, movie-star looks and no hint of scandal. He speaks in crafted paragraphs and conducts himself with cheer and decency. But even if you're an admirer, you still ask: Is this guy for real?
His second problem is he's a Mormon. Some think that matters. I don't. His character, ethics and views on public issues should matter; his Mormonism should be no more significant than other candidates' religious views — but Mickelson and others do.
Not only did he want to talk about Romney's religion, but also this non-Mormon was soon telling Romney that he didn't understand his own church's strict views on abortion. "You happen to be incorrect on this," Romney said before adding, "I'm not here to discuss a religion or discuss the principles of a religion."
That was while they were on the air. The earphones came off at the break, but the talk continued — and Romney was being taped on the radio studio's video cameras. The host began by telling the candidate he was making a big mistake "distancing yourself from your faith."
It was too much for Romney. The prominent jaw jutted even farther, and there was a hint of anger in his eyes. "I'm not distancing myself from my faith," he shoots back. "I'm proud of my faith."
Romney attempting to tell Mickelson there was a critical difference between running for pastor or pope or rabbi and running for president. Still off the air, Mickelson returned to instructing Romney on Mormon doctrine. What ensued was a real-time, unscripted scrap and peek into the real Romney. (See the whole thing at www.youtube.com.)
The GOP candidate was clearly irked. He asked Mickelson to grant that I might "understand my faith better than you do." Mickelson wouldn't do that. "Well, then it's hardly worth having a discussion," Romney shot back, waving him off.
After a short return to the air to bid Romney farewell, Mickelson told Romney he'd like him to come back to expand on these issues. Don't bet on that. "I'm not running as a Mormon, and I get a little tired of coming on a show like yours and having it all about Mormon . . .," Romney said. "I'm not running to talk about Mormonism."
Exactly. Romney's obliged to clear up any confusion or misinformation about what impact his faith has on his political views. That's a legitimate area of inquiry, and it's politically prudent for Romney to address this. But he's right to take sharp exception to efforts to engage him on the particulars of the Mormon faith. That is, unless we're going to ask Catholic presidential candidates to debate the Immaculate Conception, Jews to discourse on the Levitican code or Protestants to pontificate on the Reformation.
What's was most telling about the dust-up, however, was what it revealed about Romney. There was the decency, restraint, verbal skill, steadiness and humility — "I've made other mistakes," he said when telling Mickelson he's been a faithful Mormon on abortion. But there was also a reassuring intensity, scrappiness and measured anger. Romney was not going to play patty-cake to get along at all cost. The real unscripted Romney turned out to be just like the real scripted Romney — only not too perfect.