One way to get Mitt Romney to talk to the press more is yell, "WHAT ABOUT YOUR GAFFES?" as he walks to his car. Another way is to write about what a sweetie-pie his press secretary Rick Gorka is. Gorka is taking some time off after yelling "Kiss my ass. This is a holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect" at reporters at the end of Romney's trip to Poland. In Gorka's moment of professional humiliation, BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins and Zeke Miller offer comfort. Don't hate the Gorka, they say, hate the campaign.
To support this thesis, BuzzFeed offers some nice facts about Gorka. Among them:
- He's quirky in a mainstream kind of way. "[W]e found his quirks endearing, from his "Seinfeld Quote of the Day" tweets, to his Quixotic support for the perpetually-terrible Cleveland Indians."
- He's from New Jeresey.
- He has a girlfriend in New Jersey.
- He's handy to have around. "Everywhere the press has gone, he's gone, dolling out sub sandwiches at the front of the bus, ushering reporters through Secret Service sweeps, and fielding hotel requests from media members who are trying to stock up on Marriott points… On his first day on the job, he distributed Domino's pizza for the whole crew."
- He doesn't know things. "But if Gorka has seemed incapable of engaging a reporter's question that doesn't include the word 'unemployment,' it's likely by Boston's design. Firmly outside the candidate's inner-circle, Gorka is privy to little inside information, and even if he was, he wouldn't share it, since he rarely goes on the record."
- People talked about his birthday in an e-newsletter. "In Florida, some in the traveling press corps returned the favor by throwing a fake birthday party for him, an affair that occupied real estate in Politico's Playbook on two separate days."
- He can take an insult. Reuters' Sam Youngman told BuzzFeed, "I like Gorka... He can take a punch as well as he can throw one, and he knows how to clock out at the end of the day." (As The Atlantic Wire has discussed previously, we have serious doubts that any of these macho political nerds would throw, could throw, or have ever actually thrown a punch.)
We asked another reporter who's traveled with Gorka on the campaign trail if this portrait held up. For the most part, it did. Our correspondent wrote:
He always seemed like a nice enough guy in the wrong job. Kind of like a frazzled dad stuck on the world's longest road trip with 20 of the world's most annoying kids. He seemed a bit overwhelmed sometimes — not by logistics, just by us. Part of it was obviously the fact that we just kept pushing him day after day for things he had no way to deliver: access, information, etc...
The other problem is honestly the Romney campaign culture he came out of. They keep periodically realizing they've got a press crisis situation on their hands and then making the kinds of promises everyone makes when they're trying to fix a dysfunctional relationship: we've really changed, this time will be different, we want to give you what you say you need, blah blah blah spincakes. And then within a couple of weeks, it's War of the Roses bad all over again.
But nevertheless, BuzzFeed's stirring defense of Romney's press aide has stirred up some controversy. Sure, Gorka has to be "the messenger for a campaign that often has no message," Politico's Dylan Byers writes. "But presidential campaigns aren't the bush leagues, they're the Olympics." Then Byers makes a good-faith-yet-still-terrible gymnastics metaphor, sullying the most perfect sport ever with the stain of politics. His point is that one must perform when it counts.
Politico's Maggie Haberman suggests that perhaps presidential aides meet some standard of professional courtesy. "I guess I'm just not particularly compelled by the argument that he 'should be nicer' to reporters," BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins tweets. That's right! The niceness should flow the other way!