You could, I suppose, be more clumsy with the truth than Mitt Romney was during an unguarded moment at a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in May, but it would be difficult. Guys coming home at 2 a.m. reeking of booze and cheap perfume have fared better.
It was as bad as President Barack Obama's "you didn't build that" remark or his dumb 2008 campaign slam in San Francisco about small town America's frustration with the lousy economy:
"And it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them...."
A surreptitious video with a few minutes missing was obtained by Mother Jones magazine -- imagine, just before the election -- and it shows Romney being awkward in explaining to the Florida crowd that 47 percent of the voters are going with Obama, no matter what.
They are government-dependent, Romney said, and believe they are victims; that government has a responsibility to care for them; that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing. They pay no income tax, he says, so tax reform does not resonate.
He goes on to say, "my job is not to worry" about them; that, instead, he must concentrate on thoughtful independents. You would have thought he eviscerated a kitten in front of kindergarteners. The media went bonkers.
The question is: What part of what he said is untrue? We're not talking awkward; we're talking untrue. (Granted, the tax thingy is debatable and, yes, Republicans had a hand in tax policies that got us here.)
Look at the polls. About 47 percent are dying to vote for Obama. They believe in entitlements. They believe government should do more. They love government as a growing, benevolent master. They are the people who wail, "If the government doesn't do it, who will?" Their first recourse is government. Their last? Government. Why should Romney waste time and money trying to sway them? Why not concentrate on the ones with brains?
The astounding thing about this 4-month-old tape is that anyone cares. None of it is new. Romney has said virtually the same things since without a ripple. Only now the race has narrowed, and the Left is nervous.
Compare the media's Romney reaction to this revelation of a few days ago. Obama, as a state senator, during a 1998 speech at Loyola University, ranted about "propaganda" that government does not work and said:
"[T]he trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure everybody's got a shot."
He also showed his true colors during his "spread the wealth" chat with Joe the Plumber in the last presidential election. All of that would, indeed, make him the socialist pinko that Democrats and their fellow travelers swear he is not.
Yet, not a word. Not even curiosity. No snarky New York Times columns about the downside of socialism for women and children. No Washington Post condemnation, although one of its columnists wondered: "Does Romney Dislike America?" No reciting Winston Churchill's observation: "Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy. Its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery." None of that. Nope. For the media, the game is not in telling the whole truth. It is in getting Romney.
They are desperate for Romney to talk about anything but the $16 trillion -- and growing -- national debt, jobless rates of more than 8 percent for more than 43 straight months, 47 million Americans on food stamps and nearly one in six Americans living in poverty. The nation's economy is flopping around like a fish out of water. Why would Obama talk about that? He is a failure, despite his improved golf game.
Romney will get through this latest kerfuffle. The polls remain virtually the same. But he must stay on point -- defining his presidency, hammering home that he wants all Americans to succeed; that entrepreneurship and free enterprise and capitalism are the way to improve life in this country; that tax reform is important because it frees money for investment; that Obama's government-centric approach is not the answer.
The election-turning question, after all, remains: Are you better off now than four years ago?
The answer for most remains "no."
Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com.